A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign for Surrogacy or Adoption
1. Start networking before you begin your campaign.
Gay dads – out of financial need or anxiety to get started – often want to jump straight into a crowdfunding campaign: setting goals, crafting donor rewards, picking a site. But our dads tells us that the best campaigns don't actually start with the campaign. They start with identifying potential donors from your own family, friends and coworkers.
"The biggest takeaway from our campaign was that you don't start your journey with crowdsourcing," said Kirk and Anthony. The couple raised more than $10,000 toward the cost of surrogacy with their second campaign. "We started to realize that we already had so many awesome friends and family who wanted to support us in becoming dads."
2. Set a realistic campaign goal that targets a specific expense.
For some gay dads, setting a campaign goal can veer to extremes. Dads either shoot for the full price of their adoption or surrogacy, or they set a low goal out of modesty or uncertainty. Like most dilemmas, the best solution is somewhere in the middle. What worked for our gay dads was setting or achieving a goal that applied to a specific expense. Crowdfunding for Kirk and Anthony was used to "fill in any gaps" in their budget after accounting for loans, savings, and grants.
Ignacio and Ulises, another couple seeking surrogacy, set a crowdfunding goal for the total amount of the surrogacy. They fell short of their goal, but they used the money strategically.
"The amount that we raised was nearly the exact amount of the next payment due to the agency," the dads said. "We had just suffered two failed embryo transfers, and we were up against a financial brick wall. Luckily, we had just raised over $8,000, which was just enough to cover a third attempt."
The third time was the charm: Ignacio and Ulises embryo transfer was a success and ended up producing twins.
3. Choose a crowdfunding platform.
You've considered your immediate support network. You've picked a reasonable financial goal that tackles a particular expense. Now, you're finally ready to pick a crowdfunding site.
The top contenders are GoFundMe and IndieGoGo. These sites have high traffic rankings and allow for a wide range of campaigns. Other popular sites are Kickstarter and Generosity (by IndieGoGo). (Patreon only allows for creative projects, not personal.)
GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and Generosity all offer campaigns where, even if you don't meet your goal, you will keep the money raised. IndieGoGo also offers an all-or-nothing campaign in which you only receive the donations if you meet your goal. Most campaigns offer the option to reward donors at certain donation levels with gifts or prizes.
"GoFundMe allowed us to keep (almost) every dollar whether we hit our goal or not," explained Anthony and Dom, "Which was important because we needed every bit of financial help imaginable."
While setting up a campaign is free, crowdfunding websites do charge fees on individual donations. That's a 5 percent platform fee for both IndieGoGo and GoFundMe. There is also a processing fee for donations, which varies slightly; around 3 percent depending on the payment type.
The main difference between these two top sites often comes down to personal preference – what dads think of the marketing options, even down to which website "looks" better. If you're researching other sites, it is critical to know the platform and processing fees, what is required to receive the donations, and what marketing services are offered.
4. Come up with a marketing strategy.
In crowdfunding, getting more eyes on your campaign means more contributions. While your crowdfunding platform of choice may offer certain marketing options, you have to take your campaign into your own hands. That means a full digital and social media commitment.
"We definitely let ourselves get creative with branding," Kirk and Anthony said. "We started a blog. We also created Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts and started following others who were either potential supporters or just folks who great information and resources."
Ignacio and Ulises dipped into Ignacio's talents as a video editor to create original videos for their campaign. "We wanted our story to always be as authentic as possible, but to also be funny and lighthearted and full of joy, because that's who we are," they said.
Gays With Kids chatted with a spokesperson from GoFundMe who also shared this advice about creating a marketing strategy: "The best way for campaign organizers to get the word out about their GoFundMe is to use social media and their existing networks: friends, family, colleagues. With the power of social fundraising, GoFundMe enables people to go beyond their personal network and geographic boundaries, reaching a global audience." (Some general tips for a successful GoFundMe campaign can be found at the end of the article.)
Whoever you are, you have a story and a voice. Your marketing strategy needs to leverage what's special about you and your wish to start a family.
5. Create a schedule for updates to your donors – and keep to it.
Ask any professional YouTube or other social-media star about the key to success, and you'll always get the same answer: scheduling. Successful crowdfunding campaigns are no different. Campaigns depend on a comprehensive schedule of updates and contact with an audience of actual or potential donors.
"Momentum is key to success," Kirk and Anthony agreed. "Timing is crucial too. During the campaign we posted updates at least twice a day. We created mini-goals, like, 'Let's raise $500 by the end of the day!' And as we got closer to the mini-goals, we would update and post to the platform."
Keeping your campaign regularly populated with content keeps your story fresh and gives donors more to share in their own networks, bringing more eyes on your campaign.
6. Decide how you want to give back to donors.
Donation rewards are a common feature of crowdfunding campaigns – for example, a $10 donation could get someone a personalized mug. While many charity donors are just happy to donate and don't actually redeem the rewards, offering the rewards adds another incentive for donation and helps contribute to your authenticity.
Ignacio and Ulises made homemade gifts focused on the theme of joy – the joy they felt in realizing their dream of becoming dads.
"Our donors received a personalized thank-you card, and those that selected a perk received their perk: a Joy candle, a men's Joy t-shirt, or a women's Joy t-shirt," they said.
7. Prepare for negative comments.
Crowdfunding an adoption or surrogacy actually comes with a unique challenge: negative attacks from commenters. Many dads were surprised that these negative comments actually came from other gay dads. Most were targeted at those dads who were pursuing surrogacy, instead of adoption or foster care.
"We received unimaginable flack, even from those closest to us, who mistook our inability to drop $20K as an inability to afford the everyday costs of parenting," said Anthony and Dom. "Be prepared for that, because if you're not, it's going to sting badly."
"We were accused of begging for money, being selfish, irresponsible, and financially unprepared to become parents," Kirk and Anthony said. "Several people assumed that we had not done research, as if we were completely oblivious to the ways in which we could become parents."
While surprising, it's best not to get sucked into online debates with negative commenters. You as a hopeful dad know what's best for your family. Spend your energy on marketing your story and spreading your message – not debating about one way of raising a family over another.
Some general tips from a GoFundMe spokesperson:
5 tips to create a successful GoFundMe campaign
- For a GoFundMe to be successful, it needs to be engaging. Make sure to include a strong photo or video to help potential donors connect with your campaign.
- Write a clear, heartfelt, and detailed story in the campaign description, and be transparent about what the funds are for.
- If you have a Facebook account, be sure to connect it to your GoFundMe. It helps verify your campaign and makes it easy to share with your friends, family, and community.
- Social media, including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, email and other channels, will help you get maximum exposure and awareness. Some of our most successful GoFundMes have had a hashtag.
- Post frequent updates, additional photos, and send thank-you notes to your supporters. This will keep your donors engaged and encourage more sharing.