How I Raised Money for an Independent Reporting Project

courtesy: Stock Exchange

I’m scared of money. I don’t like to manage it, and I don’t like to raise it. So if I raised money for a reporting project, anyone can.
Last year, I raised $1,000 for two stories and an audio piece called “Hard Times on the Unemployment Line: Out of Prison and Out of Work.” I used Spot.us, a site dedicated to community-funded journalism. But other sites like Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo work on the same principle.

I chose Spot.us because I wouldn’t have to compete against sexier projects like independent films. I didn’t reinvent the wheel. I copied techniques from NPR and the universities I’d attended. But I did learn to think like a copywriter instead of a journalist. Every article, post or email ended with a call to action, which was a request for a donation. Much to my surprise, I actually raised the money in three months. Asking for money really does work.

Here’s How I Raised Money for a Reporting Project

  1. I researched successful pitches. Simply investigating stories helped me set my funding goal. I decided on $1,000 because it seemed like a reasonable sum to raise on the site.
  2. I submitted the pitch. At the time I applied to Spot.us, fundraising projects had to be approved. While waiting for acceptance, I drafted the fundraising plan. I stole techniques from NPR and my college alumni offices. If it worked for them, I figured the same techniques would work for me.
  3. I quietly solicited a couple of contributions. I figured potential donors would be more generous if they saw money in the pot. I thanked my first donors privately and publicly.
  4. After getting a couple of donations, I launched the main campaign. I posted appeals on Facebook and Twitter and I sent regular email blasts. I made sure all my postings had a call to action and a link that carried folks straight to my page.
  5. I thanked everyone, I mean everyone, who gave me a cent. If I couldn’t thank them personally, I mentioned them in the email I sent to other contributors. Each post ended with an appeal to give money and a plea to repost or retweet.
  6. I pulled contributors into the process. I used Facebook and Twitter to get interview questions. I also posted audio excerpts from my interviews, and blogged about information I learned from reporting. And I ended each post with the appeal.
  7. I started reporting before raising all the money. Call it faith, but I began working in earnest when I reached about 70 percent of my goal.

If these tips work for you, please send me an email, or post a comment. If you have other tips, post them as well. (By the way, you just read a call to action. See how simple this is?)