By Alison Faulknor
Behind every great heritage place is a passionate group of people united by a shared conviction that their place matters.
One of the great joys of helping to organize This Place Matters, the National Trust’s new crowdfunding platform, is the opportunity to get to know these people and their projects.
Since the launch of This Place Matters in the spring of 2015, 52 project groups have used this site to raise funds for their heritage places. Along the way, my colleagues and I have shared in the successes and challenges of these brave groups who took the plunge into the world of crowdfunding.
Here are some of things I have learned.
Crowdfunding is like embarking on any other new fundraising initiative, like organizing an event or launching a donor campaign. There aren’t any magic bullets. Simply put, crowdfunding takes work. You need a team of energetic people and a solid plan. The groups that have succeeded on This Place Matters, have done so by launching with a bang, expanding their networks and sustaining the momentum of their campaign.
Ok, so it is a really good idea to have young people on your team. They bring social media savvy and fresh ideas. And, since we are renewing these places for the next generation to enjoy, their voice is essential for a sustainable plan. That said, we have seen a lot of very resourceful teams that weren’t led by millennials. Many people already use social media in their personal lives and a strong team will include members who have these skills. Even though social media is key, you can also use email and earned media to your advantage. One of our crowdfunding teams popped post cards under the doors of a local bed and breakfast and hung flyers around the community to bolster their campaign.
The most successful crowdfunding teams are seen having fun. Your project may indeed meet a significant need in the community. You don’t have to make light of your cause. But, you do need to engage people. You want them to take notice and you want them to join you in your efforts. The Potato House in Williams Lake, British Columbia launched their This Place Matters campaign with a party and adorned the roof of their building with lights spelling out “THIS PLACE MATTERS.”
Your donors and your voters (if you are taking part in a competition) are counting on you. You need the right people, a work plan and a back-up strategy, in case you don’t meet your fundraising goal. Take Gabarus Lighthouse, for example. Once they had finished their This Place Matters campaign, the team jumped into action, hired the right people and moved their lighthouse from the edge of a cliff, saving it from falling into the ocean!
Before you consider a campaign, you have to assess your project, your timeline, your team and the capacity of your networks to give.
A colleague of mine says crowdfunding is basically the social media version of fundraising. As technology changes our lives, our work and the way we interact, it is not surprising that it is transforming the way we raise funds. Although bake sales and community suppers can still be part of our fundraising toolkit, we do need to open our minds to new trends.
I can’t wait to learn from the new project teams that take up this challenge in the 2016 This Place Matters competition. I wish them all the best of luck!
Alison Faulknor is the Director of New Initiatives at the National Trust for Canada.