We wanted to offer a behind-the-scenes look at how we successfully fundraised for Madilyn’s school this fall so other families might be inspired to do their own take on it. What I like about creating a digital asset is there’s no money out-of-pocket. The idea came serendipitously; my daughter was playing with a new app I downloaded on our iPad for free called My Story. It allows you to create an eBook. Madilyn did a series of drawings and asked me if I could type the words in that went with it (she’s 5). The app also had the ability to record so we recorded her reading her creation. It was a priceless memento – especially to hear her as an early reader. I was so impressed by her ideas and hard work I knew I had to share it with family and friends.
Since her school’s PTO recently announced a fundraiser, asking each child’s family for $100 toward technology in the classroom, I thought perhaps we could sell copies of the download to help offset this donation for us. We would sell copies for .99/download in hopes of making $50, and we would match it. A week and $351 later, we were blown away by the generosity. We matched the initial $50 as planned, and also paid to have copies of the book printed (approx. $40) as a thank-you to those who donated $20 or more.
We had a blast seeing how far we could take this, and I was overjoyed for Madilyn to experience how fun it is to give. Below is a more detailed description of how we did this. Please contact me with any questions you might have, and let me know if you have similar success! (For instance, Madilyn’s cousin Jorah recently did a school fundraiser by selling copies of a kid-friendly cookbook she and her Nana put together. A great idea!)
1. Create an eBook with My Story App – My Story is the simplest story maker and book creator in the App Store. Children can draw, use photos, record voice, type, and then send their finished creations to family and friends.
2. Export via link or PDF – Share your story book via email to anyone with an iPhone or iPad. The format of the book (.epub) will be viewable in iBooks on the iPad or iPhone, so make sure your recipients have iBooks installed. This version will have audio if you included it. My Story will house the asset on their website, so all you have to share is a link.
3. Create a PDF version – For those who don’t use iBooks or another e-reader you might want to create a PDF version. A PDF version will be universally viewable, and can be printed. So whether or not you choose to have a hard copy printed, a PDF version will allow your recipients to print on their home computer. There might be an easier way to do this but I created screenshots of each page in the My Story app and imported them into a desktop publishing software and exported as a PDF. You could use Microsoft Word or any program similar if you don’t have Adobe Photoshop or the like. I also redid the typography, and included a page on the back “about the author” along with a photo. We used a printer I found online for the printing: http://www.mgxcopy.com/. They were super friendly, helpful, fast and did a great job printing. It cost about $40 to print 20 5.5×8.5″ copies.
4. Create a PayPal donation link – Most people already have a PayPal account, and it’s probably the easiest way to send and receive money online. However, you will get hit with PayPal fees. We chose to cover these fees ourselves to keep the donations easy to tally. But you do what’s best for you. We also accepted cash & checks. The only downfall is that these donations were not tax-deductible since they went through our hands, but because the donations are low, this didn’t seem to be a determining factor for most. To create a donation link, log on to PayPal, click “Merchant Services” in the navigation, then “Create buttons for your website.” Under “choose button for your website,” select “donations.” Write in a description of your fundraiser under organization name, then hit “create button.” Select the “email” tab and copy the link to share. You could use a link shortening service to make it shorter & email friendly: https://bitly.com/
5. Make the pitch! – I crafted a blog post to explain what we were doing and to offer the downloads. I also included three screenshots to show them what they were getting. Then I shared it like crazy over social media: email, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Facebook is proven to have a much higher donation rate than other platforms so if that’s all you use, you’ll be fine. I’ve also heard you’ll have a higher success rate if you email people directly instead of in a group email (if you’re doing a group email, people always appreciate when you BCC them instead of showing everyone your address).
6. Update like crazy. It’s important to post updates about how you’re doing as you go along. It often takes three exposures to a pitch before people respond. And, the more people get engaged with the story of what’s happening, the more they want to play a part. Make sure people feel included and appreciated in this process. Let them know exactly what they’re donating to, how your little one feels about all this, and how much time is left to donate. Some people use social media intermittently so we had some folks donating right at the end of our campaign. A side note – I think the shorter the campaign, the more urgency there is to give & the greater success you’ll have. After all, we raised 4x the amount we aimed for in a single week!
7. Deliver the goods. There are services out there that will allow you to automatically send a digital asset once someone pays for it, but to keep it simple, I personally emailed the files. I simply used the email address through which the donation was given in PayPal. I chose to email as donations came in, but it would probably be easier to do it at the end of the campaign. The printed books came in about a week after the campaign ended. Madilyn signed each copy and we covered the cost to mail them. Again, these printed books were a thank-you, but I believe having them incentivized people to give much more than the requested donation (which we never imagined at the beginning of the campaign!).
Finally, there are services popping up that are making fundraising (or “crowdfunding” as the kids call it these days) easier. Here’s a list of a few, plus I’ve had friendly successful use Fundly and IndieGoGo.
Now go raise some money! We hope we can do a fundraiser each fall for her school so we’d love additional ideas. Share them here!