28 learnings from a month of online fundraising

The campaign known as February is Fundraising has ended. Here’s a list of 28 things I learned in making a daily video update about my online fundraising effort to support my work as a Strategy Consultant for Ambassador Network – a new church planting network of multiplying, multiethnic, missional churches. (This list is in no particular order)

djchuang-feb

  1. Fundraising is not easy. I knew that going in. Doing this month-long campaign gave me a chance to experience it first-hand. And there’s a particular challenge for any person, especially one of Asian heritage, to be asking for help. Very humbling; very hard.
  2. Fundraising takes time. A staff-worker with a campus-ministry for over 25+ years passed along this insight based on his experience: “… it really is a process with tough critical mass (8-30 months of near full-time effort) plus 4-10 hours week afterwards (forever).
  3. I’m too much of a pioneering experimenter. I love trying new things that have huge potential for breakthrough results. But, I had a small “aha” by about day 25, that for my own livelihood, and sanity, maybe I have to pull back from pushing the envelope of innovation and more of doing things that meet people where they’re at, doing what they find value in, and answers the “WIIFM” question most other people ask, “What’s In It For Me.” Gotta play to the market.
  4. Funding for innovation is elusive. Where can I find financial resources for research and development (R&D) in the Christian ministry world? This is not the world of getting research grants for trying to find the cure for cancer or HIV.
  5. I’m glad I didn’t quit. I did finish all the way through 28 days of videos. Confession: I have a habit of quitting in many parts of my life. I’m not a Type A driven kind of guy, so I’m personally quite okay not reaching goals. But I know what it means to be responsible too; this ministry is not about me. It’s sincerely my best effort to serve the next generation of multi-Asian and multi-ethnic churches.
  6. People like tangibles more than intangibles. I’ve been told this feedback on several occasions, both before and during this campaign. Goes with the territory of my unconventional profile as a strategies- and ideas- guy.
  7. Some people have a hard time finding links on a web page. Someone told me they couldn’t find the “donate” link. If 1 person told me, maybe 10 others didn’t tell me. Even though that donate link is on the top of every page here at djchuang.com, in the top navigation menu, and there on the web pages for #FebruaryisFundraising, I didn’t make it big and loud enough for some. Not sure that I would.
  8. Google+ Hangout on Air streamlined the work flow. This was the technology I found to be the fastest way to get a daily video recorded and posted. It’s not the highest quality, granted, and to do more quality, would definitely take a lot more time – post-production, converting, encoding, uploading, potentially more equipment. Made do with what I got for speed-to-publish and near-real-time content.
  9. My Android phone (HTC Inspire 4G) is unable to post and upload a video. It’s supposed to be able to. A 3-minute video I made for day 24 only had audio captured for the 1st minute. #Fail.
  10. More technology is great, reliability not so much. Yes, I tried recording-and-uploading with a wide range of equipment: a smartphone, a webcam on a MacBook Pro, webcam on an iMac desktop, on a Flipcam. I used a wired earbud headset, built-in mic on the Mac, Blue Yeti USB microphone. I tried YouTube web-based video recording, Google+ Hangout on Air recording, QuickTime recording, Photo Booth recording, iMovie recording.
  11. Stable equipment setup can yield better results. When I was out-and-about like a road warrior, finding a reliable wifi connection with good upload speed was inconsistent. And I don’t have one of those MiFi hockey pucks. (So I made do with what I had.) Yes, having a studio setup would have been extravagant.
  12. It’s okay to go live and record a video on one take. Thanks to Seth Godin for the sagely words in his blog post: Will you choose to do it live? My answer = yes.
  13. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Not having all the optimal resources doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. Or, it’s been said: scarcity brings clarity, or limited resources + willingness to fail + increasing passion = exponential innovation.
  14. Advocacy has value for the long-term rather than short-term. My approach with the messaging these daily video updates were to raise awareness for the vision, need, and opportunity, rather than to keep making asks in an infomercially / televangelistic / telethonish style. My hope is that the content in these videos will be eye-opening for future viewers, especially Freedom & healing from guilt & shame for Asian Americans, Being generous is being Godly, why pastoring is the hardest job ever.
  15. Friends and family support is so very valuable. I did not do this campaign on a whim, and having their emotional and spiritual support helped me to persevere through the month. And, thanks coach Marc Payan, for the call to do something hard every day. Done.
  16. Some people give to people; some people give to vision. In my situation with this campaign, people gave to this more because of the person than the vision, per se. The vision for planting multi-Asian/ multi-ethnic missional multiplying churches and for me to do the work of ministry as a strategist seems to be too leading-edge bleeding-edge, maybe, too intangible, abstract, mushy, risky.
  17. Online fundraising has seen a lot more success for individuals with interesting projects, a la Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Projects are more tangible and many of those creative crowd-funded projects are like pre-orders of niche products.
  18. Crowdfunding works better because lots of people can contribute smaller amounts. My tiered giving levels were probably too high as a general online ask. With a target of 43 donors, I needed a lot more viewers with the interest and the capacity to buy-in and support the strategic role I have with the Ambassador Network vision.
  19. Fundraisers were more interested in this campaign than funders. I had a good handful of people give me good feedback, cheering me on, watching the videos, liking, sharing. Appreciated!
  20. The 29 daily videos had 770 views. I know there’s only 28 days in February, this year; I made a bonus video on Day 1, with Kevin Nguyen, Campus Pastor of Saddleback Church Irvine, that’s why there was one more.
  21. The #FebruaryisFundraising playlist had 115 views, with a total duration of over 4 hours and 20 minutes. That’s a lot of content. Maybe it could be repurposed into an e-Book or seminar.
  22. Landing page for “Donate Now” had 300+ views. Feedback I heard was that it was clear. But not enough specifics on results.
  23. Results? $2,320 of $90,000 raised. From a total of 4 donors. I’ll keep the thermometer updated at my ministry_support page and continue fundraising efforts offline via one-on-one meetings and personal outreach. I accounted for how the $90,000 goal was arrived at as the sum of the average Asian American family median income of $66,000 + ministry expenses + network infrastructure costs. [cf. see current funding status]
  24. Social capital doesn’t automatically convert into financial donations. I’m told I have a substantial network of relationships, and I’m grateful that I’ve had favor with many people who are church and ministry leaders. That doesn’t translate into funders, since many of them live on the generosity of those who support their ministry-based work.
  25. Too much talk about faith and not enough help about fiscal reality is not helpful. There’s this whole hidden business side of ministry life that doesn’t get much air-time. Having a theological training and credentialed with a degree didn’t give me the financial street-savvy necessary to run a non-profit enterprise. And my being much more interested in meaning over money doesn’t help.
  26. I’m too much of an idealist and impractical, not so much practical nor pragmatic. Not to be redundant and not to be beating myself up over coming up short. Money is such a pragmatic kind of thing, where the rubber meets the road, as the saying goes. Ouch. I’m much more skilled at finding and developing creative solutions and new ways of how things could be done.
  27. There might be a fine line between living by faith and living foolishly.
  28. I’m going to be bi-vocational for a while — months, years, or maybe the rest of my life. I’m available for hire as a freelance strategy consultant. Contact me.

There is much more to learn in this part of life in fundraising, and I’ll share it along the way as I journey on. Thanks for reading.

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