Such was the case for the Sioux Falls State Theatre, a beautiful 1920s-era silent moviehouse that has been struggling to raise restoration funds since the 1990s. The theatre's executive director came to us looking for a non-Kickstarter online fundraising solution, and we happily obliged with what came to be known as the Moneybomb.
We started out by creating a Social Media Advisory Board, composed of a half-dozen key members of the Sioux Falls Twitter and Facebook community, people who had great rapport and massive networks online.
Next, we set a date for Moneybomb Day—September 28, chosen due to a number of positive factors that resonated both on- and offline. Setting just one date for collecting donations meant that we could build up hype around just one day and elevate it to an event, and establishing a 24-hour deadline created a sense of urgency.
We also decided to ask for small donations (in the $5-$10 range) for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it meant more people could participate. Not everyone has $25,000 lying around (sigh), but most people have an extra $5 in their wallet. We took a cue from President Obama's grassroots fundraising efforts on this one, and it worked out splendidly.
Our secondary goal for the Moneybomb (aside from fundraising) was community engagement—getting people excited about the prospect of having a fully fledged movie theatre downtown Sioux Falls. Asking for $5 wasn't imposing on anyone, and if people give money (in any amount) to a cause, they are more likely to remain engaged with that cause. We hoped to build a "future audience" for the theatre for when it opened its doors in 2013.
Finally, asking for a smaller donation meant that we could reach people whom the State Theatre had never considered part of its donation pool before. Before the Moneybomb, the theatre's website had listed the smallest possible donation as $25, with options to donate into the thousands. It was intimidating for many and unaffordable for others. Establishing $5 as an "acceptable" donation level made giving much more accessible.
After a month of slowly paced online buildup, Moneybomb day dawned on Friday, September 28, accompanied by local news coverage and a flurry of carefully scheduled tweets and Facebook posts from our Social Media Advisory Board members (self included).
Tweets and updates continued throughout the day, in addition to carefully directed Facebook direct messages that added a personal touch. We ordered pizza, broke out a keg (at 5:00, of course), and at midnight counted out over $13,000 in donations.
The theatre got to keep every penny of these funds, and the Sioux Falls community not only learned more about this local landmark but got to play an active role in its restoration.
The moral of the story: don't be afraid to think outside of the box for online fundraising. If Kickstarter isn't the right fit for your project or organization, there are other methods that cost practically nothing (outside of the price of a pizza or two) to try out.