Top 10 Crowdfunding Tips for Pencils of Promise

(A response to a request on Quora by someone who wanted to crowdfund his brother’s education of $50,000)

In 2015, I decided to give up my birthday presents so that I could raise funds to build a school in Laos.  Little did I know that I would become such an expert on Crowdfunding Tactics!!  (Please note that this applies only for social causes and is unlikely to work for a regular, commercial campaign.)

1. “Carve out a Hook”

You must start with a really good story. Create something that you can sell

Something emotional. Something people can relate to, empathise with or feel sorry/guilty for. Make videos, pictures, any visual content that can be used to hug at heart strings.

2. “Start a Site”

Create a campaign website / blog that people can come back to.Post your cause there, along with your story. Keep posting regular and interesting updates, as well as pictures of all your supporters.  Make sure your blog is optimised for donations with clear CTAs and Donate buttons liberally placed throughout (

3. “Sell it on Social”

Milk social media and all the different channels!

Make sure you create a branded campaign hashtag, and use tools like IFTTT to ensure that all of your posts are spread over the different channels Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+. More visibility = more likely some friend you haven’t spoken to in years will see it, feel sorry and donate

4. “Anchors and Signals”

Kick off your campaign by asking a well-liked male friend to make a large and generous donation

Make sure you thank him publicly and profusely on your website and on social media. (This effectively creates a floor and anchors all future donations from other male and female friends.)

5. “Find a Female Face”

Find an attractive female friend to front your campaign and make sure she’s always smiling. It’s scientific backed by UCL research– men donate 4X more if they see a large donation by another male and if they are being asked by a smiling attractive woman. “Evolutionary biology” it’s called. Men see beauty as a signal of attractiveness whereas women see wealth. Fascinating. Make sure you feature your “generous” donors prominently on your website and thank them with gusto on social media. (Use hidden landing pages to “feature” special friends to other special friends!)

6.“Dally with Data”

In the name of data, use Campaign Analytics to dissect donations at regular intervals – including which groups contributed most or the least. Subconsciously make everyone who has not donated feel incredibly guilty. Create more visible anchors and signals that you can infuse into your various social groups.

7. “Borrow a Baby”

Convince some nice mom that you’re actually teaching her kids life skills  if she lets them join your campaign.

Make full use of their pretty young faces to make more digital content that you can poop all over social media to tug at more kind hearted strangers’ heart strings.  Bribe the kids if necessary.

8. “Freebies or FOMO”

Create a donation matching scheme. Find an individual / corporate sponsor to commit to a certain amount, and the use that to announce a $1 for $1 matching scheme. When you tell people, “this $1 for $ offer expires in 10 minutes, donate now and 2X your impact!” it becomes very effective. Note: donation matching must expire in 24 hours. Urgency is critical for this to work. 

9. “Create a Competition”

Pitch your most competitive friends against each other and get their competitive juices going by challenging them to raise the most via donation matching. After all it’s for a good cause!

10. “Extend the Generosity!”

If you still have $1 for $ left over, you can happily announce that the generous donor has decided to extend their donation matching by one more day!


After Note:

In all seriousness – this does work. In reality, my campaign was probably less orchestrated and more a consequence of a number of lucky flukes. This post might make it sound all callous and premeditated.

But this is exactly how everything panned out when I did it (with the vision of 20/20) psychoanalysing what worked and why. And this is how I would run my campaign if I had to do it all over again.

(BTW, my campaign is still short of $1,800 before I complete my third school….. if anyone feels like making a small donation, they can click here. After all, what’s a Starbucks or two or five to you when it can put a child through school for a whole entire year? Donate directly HERE)

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