We were thrilled when Zante Strays reached their target just before Christmas, raising £1685 for a much needed new shelter for rescue dogs on the Greek island of Zykynthos. We spoke to them to find out how they did it.
A Bit of Background
Zante Strays is a no kill charity that rescues and treats abandoned, sick and injured cats and dogs on the Island of Zakynthos in Greece and finds them loving new homes in the UK. Rather than managing the population of strays through spaying and neutering poisoning is common on the island (particularly once the tourists have gone home) and whole litters of puppies are often found dumped in bins or even, on one occasion, found buried alive on the beach.
Zante Strays, which is entirely run by volunteers, has local foster carers who look after the animals until good homes can be found for them. No animal is ever turned away however old or ill.
A Rocky Start
Zante Strays registered with WildCrowd soon after we launched in October 2016, which meant that they could move quickly when a stray puppy was brought in with serious injuries inflicted by a car. The puppy needed to be transported to Athens for surgery and the total cost was in excess of £1500. Zante Strays immediately posted an appeal on WildCrowd and we, and they, shared it on Twitter that night successfully raising several hundred pounds in a matter of hours. However the next morning tragedy struck and the puppy died.
Although we explain to donors in our T&C’s and FAQ’s that donations go directly to our charities and therefore can’t be refunded, Zante Strays felt that, in the circumstances, it was only right to offer a refund to people who had donated towards the care of the puppy or ask if they were willing to transfer their donation to another project.
With this in mind they quickly uploaded a new campaign to raise money for a much needed shelter for their foster dogs and we emailed all the donors to the previous campaign to let them know what had happened and how to get a refund if they didn’t want to contribute to the shelter. It’s testimony to the kindness and generosity of Zante’s supporters that no one asked for their money back and several people even made another donation.
Getting the Word Out
Zante Strays don’t have a newsletter or a mailing list (both of which are very helpful when you are running a crowdfunding campaign) but they do have a strong following on social media. They post news about the charity and animals looking for homes every day and these posts always get a good number of likes and retweets.
Facebook and Twitter therefore played a central role in marketing the campaign. Posts were phased to avoid donor fatigue, which meant an intensive burst of activity in the first and last weeks of the 30 day campaign, but with regular reminders (at least twice weekly) in between.
As you can see from the example below, the tone of these posts was warm and personal and, by using video and pictures, they created a direct connection with the dogs that would benefit from the new shelter.
They also made a point of regularly thanking people for their support. This is a really important part of any crowdfunding campaign because you want to create a dialogue with supporters and encourage them to share your message with their networks.
They kept their campaign fresh and engaging by posting regular news updates on their page and on social media. In particular video footage of the flooding experienced by one of their foster carers after a storm prompted a lot of new donations as did news that a litter of dumped puppies had been rescued.
They also reached out to volunteers and people who had previously adopted dogs to help them spread the word. One loyal supporter even ran a mini fundraising campaign of her own.
We were in regular contact with Zante Strays throughout the campaign advising on promotion and making sure our activity was co-ordinated with theirs. Whenever we tweeted about the campaign, Zante Strays endorsed our post by retweeting, this is important because people don’t donate to crowdfunding platforms they donate to causes. We can tweet about campaigns all we like, but it won’t have any effect unless the charity picks it up and runs with it. This is true of Facebook too.
Our experience is that Facebook is more effective than Twitter at generating donations, so it’s very important to post regularly on Facebook as well and to keep the posts fresh and engaging with updates on the project and the animals or people affected by it.
It also helped that this was the only fundraising campaign Zante Strays were running at the time which meant that they were able to concentrate on it and give it the attention it needed to succeed. Juggling several fundraising campaigns at a time can confuse donors so, unless you work for a charity with a large supporter base that you can segment, it’s generally best to make your crowdfunding campaign your priority for as long as it runs.
In less than thirty days Zante Strays raised £1685 against a target of £165o. Sixty nine people donated and Zante Strays estimate that 20 -25% of donors were new, including the individual who made the largest donation. A significant number of donations also came from outside the UK.
Less successful was an appeal for toys and bedding, possibly because people were deterred by the prospect of having to post bulky items. We extended this part of the campaign beyond the initial thirty days to see if more donations would come in after Christmas when pets started to get bored with their presents!
However the most important thing is that construction of the new shelter now is underway and thanks to the success of their crowdfunding campaign Zante Strays will now be able to keep more rescued animals warm and dry this winter.
As the work progresses they are posting regular updates to keep supporters informed and when the project is complete we’ll also ask them to for a short report on the final outcome which will be emailed to everyone who donated.
Finally we asked the project manager at Zante Strays what advice she would give other charities that are thinking about running a crowdfunding campaign and this is what she said;
“Select an issue you deeply care about and commit to it emotionally, passionately, even obsessively for the duration of the campaign. Sharing it on social media, commenting on what your campaign means to your beneficiary group, be emotional in your text and replies to comments….if we give our heart, our passion and our belief to a campaign it will be contagious”
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves!
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