How to Crowdfund for Summer Camp

how to crowdfund for summer camp

Summer programs can be expensive. If you’re looking at your empty bank account and wondering how you can afford to attend a residential program like NTSA, we have one word for you: crowdfunding. NTSA has been successfully raising money for our productions via crowdfunding platforms since 2013, and we’re here to give you our top tricks and tips for crowdfunding your dream summer program!

Get Your Story Straight: Crowdfunding is all about stories. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about performing in New York City since you were a toddler onstage in your kindergarten talent show — and this experience would literally be a dream-come-true for you. Maybe you’re planning on applying to top-tier BFA directing programs — but your high school doesn’t offer any classes or assistant directing opportunities, and you need to (somehow) build an incredible portfolio by next fall. What’s your story? What about your situation do you think will motivate people to give?

Get Your Video: Crowdfunding campaigns with videos do MUCH better than those without them. In your video, you want to include some information about the summer program and why you want to attend. For best results, plan out the jist of what you’re going to say ahead of time and practice — but don’t memorize or read off a cue card. You want your response to be natural. You can just film this footage on your phone; no need to get high-tech. You may also want to include some photographs or footage of productions that you’ve previously worked on. Bonus points if those photographs or footage include YOU (even for stage managers and directors)! 

Don’t Make Campaigns Too Long: Longer campaigns signal weakness and lack of confidence, according to WIRED. The best length for a crowdfunding campaign? 30 days. That should give you enough time to get the word out amongst friends and family, as well as follow-up a few times to encourage donations. Don’t be surprised if the bulk of your donations come in during the last few days (or even hours)! 

You also don’t want your crowdfunding campaign to last too long in case it’s unsuccessful. It’s better to know that you need to try something else when you have 60 days until you need to make a course fee payment as opposed to when you only have 15 days.

Risks and Rewards: Consider offering rewards in exchange for donations. The quirkier and more creative you can get with your rewards, the better. How about $25 donations in exchange for a handmade sock puppet? $50 for a personalized answering machine theme song recorded in GarageBand? (Personal favorite: For $125, you could get a framed cartoon of you and the eldritch abomination Chthulu, skipping through a field of daisies with a rainbow in the background.) Your family and teachers will probably be kind enough to donate on their own — but if you want your friends to pitch in, give them some ridiculous stuff to invest in. Make sure that the rewards are cheap/free for you to make. You don’t want to end up spending half of the donation on the reward!

The Right Messaging: Let friends and family know that they can donate to your crowdfunding campaign in lieu of birthday or holiday presents. Many of our staff members have been doing this since they were teenagers — putting their “presents” towards experiences like training programs and travel opportunities. Think about how many times your grandparents have asked what you’d like for your birthday, only to have you shrug and say “I dunno.” Now, you can direct them to your GoFundMe site.

Increase Awareness: Make sure that everyone knows that you’re fundraising! Write down a list of family, friends, teachers, and co-workers and make sure that you reach out to them in AT LEAST three different ways. We recommend sending a personalized email to let them know that you’re fundraising, tagging them in a Facebook post, sending a quick text message, and posting constant reminders on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. If you REALLY want to get results, pick up the phone and call and/or schedule a time to meet in-person. (Meeting face-to-face is 34 times more effective for securing a donation than sending an email or texting!)

Share and Share Alike: Encourage your family, friends, teachers, and co-workers to let others know about your crowdfunding campaign — by forwarding your email or sharing on social media. The easier you can make sharing, the more likely they are to share!

One and NOT Done: So many students make the mistake of only asking once. As someone who donates regularly, I often intend to make a donation — only to get distracted and forget. It can take four or five reminders before I’m actually taking out my debit card and doing what I intended to do the first time! I’d recommend contacting your supporters when your fundraising campaign goes live (to tell them all about the program and why you want to participate), once or twice in the middle of your fundraising campaign to update them on your progress, and once or twice towards the end of your fundraising campaign to push for those last-minute donations!

Get a Sure Thing: The first 24 hours of a crowdfunding campaign matter. If you can start off strong, then you’re more likely to pick up momentum. Get a few “sure thing” donors to contribute as soon as your crowdfunding campaign goes live. I always recruit a few close family members to toss in $50-100 each on the first day, so that other prospective donors will be able to see that we’re a successful crowdfunding campaign. The more it looks like you’re going to succeed, the more likely people are to donate!

THANKS: Thank your donors! Preferably within one hour of receiving notification that they’ve donated (and definitely within 24 hours)! If you really want to set yourself apart, send an email within an hour and a handwritten thank you letter within three days. Why do I recommend sending both the email and handwritten thank you letter? We once had a donor who sent a second check DOUBLING his donation in response to our thank you letter. He was impressed that we’d taken the time to send a thoughtful, personalized, and compelling handwritten note. I’m not saying that every donor will send a second check — but chances are that they’ll remember the gesture for next time.

Updates: Consider sending weekly or bi-weekly (as in twice a week) updates to both those who’ve already donated and those who haven’t yet. Let them know how close you are to reaching your goal, shout-out those who have donated, and give your supporters a quick and easy call to action (ex. share this link with five friends). Updates can also prompt supporters who’ve already donated to give a second time, especially if you’re really close to your goal but not quite there yet.

Reach Beyond Your Network: If you have a school newspaper, see if they’d be willing to write an article on your crowdfunding campaign. If you have a local town newspaper, let them know that you’ve been accepted to a prestigious national summer program and make sure they include a sentence (and a link!) about your crowdfunding campaign. 95% of your focus should be on getting the people closest to you to donate; 5% should be on reaching generous outsiders.

Posted on Jan 31, 2018 in Financial Aid  

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