Crowdfunding toolkit

Welcome to VCU Igniter, Virginia Commonwealth University’s official crowdfunding platform. The platform is designed to bring together students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends to make a joint impact on VCU. Are you looking for an exciting project to support? Or do you want to submit your VCU cause to be considered for promotion? Either way, you’re in the right place to make a difference.

This toolkit will guide you through the crowdfunding process. Click here if you wish to apply to use the platform.

This section contains nothing but the essentials to help you make BIG impact in just a few minutes. Download the VCU Giving Day logo(s), pair it with the boilerplate messaging below, and you're done! Or, take a look at sample posts that you can use on your social channels.

VCU Center for Sport Leadership - Day of Giving - 3.20.19

CSL Day of Giving Logos

 

Giving Tuesday devices graphic

Social media and email samples

 

How it works

Application process

Who can apply to use VCU Igniter?

Current students, faculty and staff have the ability to use the platform. Those selected to use VCU Igniter must identify a fund held at a VCU-affiliated foundation to receive donations. If you are unsure if your group has a fund, email annualgiving@vcu.edu for assistance. All applicants must have a VCU Development and Alumni Relations team member sponsor. Currently, we are not accepting VCU Igniter applications from alumni. All projects need at least five champions who can be counted on for donations and word-of-mouth advertising.

Project principles

  • Time commitment: Four to six weeks planning, 30-45 days active execution and stewardship. View Timelines for Project Collaborators.
  • Team structure: One campaign coordinator and at least five advocates
  • Strategic goal setting: Dollar goals and overall project goals

All project teams must complete a thorough application process. After your application has been submitted, it will be reviewed by the crowdfunding committee. You will be notified of acceptance or rejection within two weeks of the application closing date. If selected, you will receive login credentials to access the Community Funded platform to begin setting up your project.

Note: To complete the crowdfunding application, you will need to identify at least five advocates for your crowdfunding project.

Is my project eligible?

Gifts made on Igniter are treated as gifts to VCU, and they are tax-deductible. Gifts go through the regular gift processing, receipting and recording protocols. Therefore, use of the platform is restricted to projects that meet certain eligibility criteria.

  • Gifts must go into a fund held at a VCU-affiliated foundation. If you do not know what fund you are eligible to use, or if you need to set up a new fund, contact annualgiving@vcu.edu.
  • Projects must have a VCU DAR employee as a sponsor.
  • Projects must have the approval of the ranking development officer of your college, school, center or unit. Not sure who this is for your area? Contact us at annualgiving@vcu.edu.
  • Certain projects to support research activities are considered sponsored programs and could be subject to additional regulations.

Projects that do not meet all of the above criteria are not eligible to use Igniter.

Project kickoff

Before you can begin a crowdfunding project using Igniter, the campaign coordinator needs to ensure that the full team (advocates, internal marketing and communications staff, etc.) is aware of the expectations of launching a crowdfunding project. This starts with a campaign kick-off meeting to set a project goal, develop a content plan and get a basic understanding of next steps. Then, you should give your team access to the platform by adding them as project collaborators — campaign coordinators will be given access to the platform after they have completed Igniter training, as conducted by the Igniter crowdfunding team.

  • Read, share and understand the expectations of a successful project (see Project Principles above)
  • Log into your project on the Igniter website
  • Fill in basic project information — title, short description, fund number, goal and advocate list; this information should come from the application you completed to apply with minimal editing.

Gathering assets

In addition to the basic project information, including goals, you will also need to create additional content:

Story page checklist

  • A full description of your project, including visuals to break up the text
  • Campaign images and video — must be hosted on YouTube or Vimeo first
  • See these tips for a guide to telling your story

Video best practices

  • Keep them short — 30-60 seconds
  • Put the who, what and why in the first 15-30 seconds
  • Ask people to first give and then to share with their networks
  • Do not overproduce — successful videos can be shot on a smartphone camera with minimal editing. (Overproduced videos could harm your project – ‘If the video looks so good, why do they need money?”)
  • See these tips for a guide to a killer pitch video.

Communications planning

The key to crowdfunding success is a solid communications plan, which includes email and social media. Your project team should have a communications plan and timeline at least two weeks before you intend to launch.

Prelaunch checklist

  • Create a communications plan outlining what will be sent prior to and during each week of the campaign
  • Recruit advocates to help support the project and carry out the communication plan and make sure all have accepted their invitations to the platform
  • Create a stewardship plan outlining how you will stay in touch with donors throughout the life of the project and three to six months after project completion
  • Identify one person on your team to send timely thank-you updates throughout the campaign
  • You must have early donors. The platform can be opened for a limited time for them; this allows for starting off the launch with donations already posted

Suggested timeline & launching the project

Crowdfunding campaigns require a minimum of four to six weeks to plan and four to six weeks to execute a successful campaign launch (total of 8-12 weeks). Project teams that take the time to craft thoughtful messaging, create a compelling campaign video and assign communication roles set themselves up to meet and surpass their crowdfunding goal.

Sample timeline

Eight weeks before launch
  • Complete training sessions
  • Begin shooting for video
  • Assign campaign roles
  • Recruit additional advocates
  • Finalize accounting information
Six weeks before launch
  • Work on your communications plan
  • Check in with advocates
  • Create email contact lists — contact your unit’s DAR professional for assistance with alumni email lists
Three weeks before launch
  • Input webpage content for final copy edit
  • Plan messaging for mid-campaign updates
  • Production of video content
Two weeks before launch
  • Send prelaunch emails
  • Prepare messaging for launch-day emails
  • Finalize accounting information
  • Confirm campaign roles and responsibilities
  • Arrange for platform to open for early donors
  • Make final edits to video and copy on story page
Best practices

Influencers and matching-gift opportunities

If a major donor is contacted and wishes to participate in a matching gift donation, you must contact Jessie Pavlidis, annual giving project coordinator, to ensure that the match is handled appropriately within the platform.

Proper collection of crowdfunding donations

Because of rules related to VCU’s nonprofit status, personal and payment information must be managed properly. To this end, donations must be made through the Igniter platform’s payment page by the donors and using either their own device or a university-owned, PCI-compliant device.

Ways people can make donations online

All Igniter donations must be made using a credit card through the Igniter giving page.

Receiving offline donations

If you have a donor who submits a donation outside the online platform, those must be submitted to Gifts and Records Management for proper processing. The Office of Annual Giving will add the donor’s information into the system so they will receive credit on your project’s donor wall (if they wish to be named).

Project updates and milestones

Updates are a critical and underutilized form of stewardship and donor engagement. You must be committed to sending updates during AND after your campaign.

Updates should enlighten, entertain and engage the donor about your cause by:

  • Showcasing your campaign’s progress
  • Featuring selected donor’s personal statements about what drew them to the issue you are trying to solve
  • Sharing interesting facts or stories about the cause you are undertaking or issue you are tackling
  • Providing special “VIP” or “behind-the-scenes” access to your process or training (featuring your laboratory, practice regime, research travels, etc.). Remember, the goal of all updates takes the donor along with you on your journey and entice them to share your mission with others who might find it compelling!
  • Use a short video, highlight someone who is either a face of the project discussing statistics about your issue, a testimonial from someone who will be impacted by the money or someone who has been impacted previously (previous scholarship recipients, those who have gone through the program you’re raising money to continue).
  • Thank donors, restate impact their money is making
  • Take compelling statistics around the issue you’re raising money to tackle/solve or quotes from those who will benefit from the money raised
  • Prime donor to share with someone they know that would be interested in the project by describing a certain aspect of the project (a certain issue within your larger mission, connection as a graduate of the school, etc.)

Milestone update(s)

  • Progress milestone: Note percentage of goal raised thus far (50 percent, 75 percent, etc.) and describe the impact that specific amount of money will have.
  • Countdown milestone: Include elements of progress milestone update and note how much time you have left.
Communications plan

The key to crowdfunding success is a solid communications plan. After your campaign application is approved, your team will work through a communications plan template. If you’re including assistance from your unit’s development team, that team’s communicator should sign off on the plan first before it’s implemented. Your communication plan should include the following:

  • Project title, short description and goal
  • 30- to 45-second campaign video
  • Full description of your project, including visuals
  • Project lead thank you message
  • Communication timeline
  • Campaign emails
  • Donor thank yous
  • Campaign updates
  • Social media platform(s) posting calendar
  • Supplemental ads (e.g., print, web ads, google ads, Hulu, etc.)

For a sample template, please contact the Office of Annual Giving.

Communications planning

The key to crowdfunding success is a solid communications plan, which includes email and social media. Your project team should have a communications plan and timeline at least two weeks before you intend to launch.

Prelaunch checklist

  • Create a communications plan outlining what will be sent prior to and during each week of the campaign
  • Recruit advocates to help support the project and carry out the communication plan and make sure all have accepted their invitations to the platform
  • Create a stewardship plan outlining how you will stay in touch with donors throughout the life of the project and three to six months after project completion
  • Identify one person on your team to send timely thank-you updates throughout the campaign
  • You must have early donors. The platform can be opened for a limited time for them; this allows for starting off the launch with donations already posted

Suggested timeline & launching the project

Crowdfunding campaigns require a minimum of four to six weeks to plan and four to six weeks to execute a successful campaign launch (total of 8-12 weeks). Project teams that take the time to craft thoughtful messaging, create a compelling campaign video and assign communication roles set themselves up to meet and surpass their crowdfunding goal.

Sample timeline

Eight weeks before launch
  • Complete training sessions
  • Begin shooting for video
  • Assign campaign roles
  • Recruit additional advocates
  • Finalize accounting information
Six weeks before launch
  • Work on your communications plan
  • Check in with advocates
  • Create email contact lists — contact your unit’s DAR professional for assistance with alumni email lists
Three weeks before launch
  • Input webpage content for final copy edit
  • Plan messaging for mid-campaign updates
  • Production of video content
Two weeks before launch
  • Send prelaunch emails
  • Prepare messaging for launch-day emails
  • Finalize accounting information
  • Confirm campaign roles and responsibilities
  • Arrange for platform to open for early donors
  • Make final edits to video and copy on story page
Troubleshooting

What tactics can I take if my project isn’t on track?

If you’re finding that you’re halfway through your fundraising campaign, and you’re not quite to 50 percent of your goal yet, there are some strategic changes you can employ:

  • If you’ve been sending emails from your group or unit at this point, try sending emails from an individual instead — personal appeals tend to elicit more donations than general appeals.
  • Have project team members send personal appeals via email and social media to their networks and talk about why the project is important to them.
  • Identify potential donors who could make the last gift to push you over your goal and personally reach out to them (work with your unit’s development team)

Can I extend my project’s timespan if I’m short of my goal?

Projects must run for their designated time span that is set when the projects start. This shorter length of time creates more urgency and will bring in more donations if the messaging emphasizes this. The Igniter team will consider approving an extension for 24-48 hours in the event that a larger donation is expected to come in to help the project meet its goal.

What can I do if I’ve exceeded my goal, and time is left?

If you still have time left on your project and are at your dollar goal, consider "stretch goals." These are things that you could accomplish in your project with additional funds. These things can be then used as marketing tools to bring in additional donors and/or encourage current donors to give more.

Can the platform take early donations before my project is live?

Yes — if you’d like to "seed" your project with donations before your project goes live, you can request to have your project opened for a few days prior to the quiet phase or those donations can be entered at support.vcu.edu/give.

How can we contact donors so we can send personal thank yous?

Campaign coordinators will have the option to send individual and/or group emails to their donors via the crowdfunding platform.

How do I receive my project’s funds once the project has ended?

Projects have designation ID numbers when they are built, bringing the funds into selected accounts during the active period of the project. Because we use a payment processor that is integrated with our CRM, it takes only a few days for the gifts to populate in the VCU CRM.