Read our success stories:
StartSomeGood.com exists to support changemakers working on diverse issues around the world. These stories illustrate some of the entrepreneurs and organizations who have used StartSomeGood to mobilize their community and raise the funds they need to make a difference. We hope we can help you do the same.
How a group of students used crowdfunding to spark change in Ghana’s largest slum
When David Boyd travelled to Ghana on a legal human rights placement, he saw first hand the problems faced by the 80,000 people living in the slums of Old Fadama. In particular, he saw how the lack of safe electricity was causing devastation for the community, with life threatening electrical fires routinely destroying thousands of homes. Upon his return home, Boyd set out to work on a solution. He began rallying a team of fellow students and Energy for Old Fadama was born.
Two years later, with the £17,000 raised through a crowdfunding on StartSomeGood, and the subsequent funds raised from investors, the student-led team at Energy for Old Fadama are well on their way to achieving their vision of powering up Ghana's largest slum.
“We are providing employment to women within the community, selling solar products to homes and businesses. By using micro finance schemes to make the products affordable for everyone, we hope to be able to provide widespread electrification. This means safety, a reduced carbon footprint, reliability, legality and money saved for those who become involved.”
While Energy for Old Fadama had some success with offline fundraising methods, the global exposure of online crowdfunding was key in allowing them to tap into an even bigger network of supporters.
“That’s the beauty of crowdfunding. We had the opportunity to show the project off to people all over the world... We have a very diverse team, with people from a lot of different backgrounds from lots of different countries which meant we had a big range of exposure."
This exposure also helped turbocharge their fundraising efforts beyond the crowdfunding project and was a crucial part of their success in gaining corporate sponsorship.
“The crowdfunding campaign allowed us to demonstrate to potential investors that we had a cause that the public could get behind and took an interest in.”
So what advice do the team at Energy for Old Fadama have for other changemakers considering crowdfunding?
“Having a good idea isn’t enough - how you present it and who you present it to can be equally important. Networking is key, build contacts and find people who can help you, chances are if it is a good idea people will be enthusiastic to get involved.”
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How a civil rights champion raised over $75,000 to spread the message of free speech
When Mary Beth Tinker was 13 years old, she and a group of fellow students made history after being suspended for wearing black armbands to school to mourn the loss of life in the Vietnam war. What followed was the landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker vs Des Moines that still protects the First Amendment rights for students today. Almost four decades later Mary Beth wanted to embark on a free speech and civics education tour across the United States to speak with young people about the power and promise of youth voices. She joined forces with Mike Hiestand, an award winning attorney with the Student Press Law Center and, two crowdfunding campaigns later, Tinker Tour was born.
The Tinker Tour kicked things off with their first crowdfunding campaign raising $50,000 to buy their tour bus “Gabby” and launch the tour on the East coast. The first journey made 58 stops in Gabby, speaking with over 20,000 people at middle schools, high schools, colleges, a youth detention facility, churches, and even a stop at the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, there was more to be done. Mary Beth and Mike had their sights set on bringing their free-speech message to the West coast. Building on the momentum of their initial crowdfunding success, the Tinker team ran a second campaign raising a further $25,000. It wasn’t long before the Tinker Tour was continuing its tour across the West coast, with news crews following and the University of Oregon working on a documentary.
“Because the StartSomeGood campaign succeeded, it gave momentum to our whole project. We felt that we could then succeed in our mission of inspiring young people to know and use the First Amendment, and our supporters felt that way as well," said Mary Beth.
"Without the StartSomeGood Campaign, our Tinker Tour would have been terrible instead of terrific! In fact, it might not have taken off at all.”
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Australian non-profit raise over $153,000 to aid asylum seekers
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is Australia’s leading asylum seeker assistance organisation, delivering services to over 1,300 asylum seekers through programs such as material aid, health, legal, counseling, casework and food bank.
The ASRC’s new initiative, the Food Justice Truck, is a social enterprise food truck that will sell food to the public at market prices and subsidise the cost of groceries for refugees and asylum seekers.
On StartSomeGood, the ASRC Food Justice Truck campaign successfully raised $153,412 from 970 backers, making the campaign the largest run by an Australian non-profit on a crowdfunding platform. Funds will be used to purchase the truck and employ a full-time staff member, allowing the Justice Truck to reach 2,000 asylum seekers a month.
“Our first crowd funding campaign was quite a ride. A lot of effort went in, a lot of sleep was lost, but achieving our ultimate goal made it all worthwhile,” stated Patrick Lawrence from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
The ASRC’s Food Justice Truck campaign is part of a growing movement of social impact organisations responding to recent funding cuts by turning to crowdfunding.
Another crucial factor in the shift towards crowdfunding as an alternative source of funding has been the expanding use of social media.
“Twitter was very important to the process, but Facebook was crucial,” said Lawrence.
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the ASRC's existing support base to the success of the program, for whom I hope this was an exciting and enjoyable process to be part of.”
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Creative project shines a light on aid worker trauma
Working abroad as an experienced humanitarian and aid worker for almost a decade, Amy Brathwaite observed the psychosocial struggles faced among herself and fellow aid workers during disaster response. In particular, she noticed the emotional stress, negative coping strategies, and suppressed anxiety of fellow aid workers. In June 2013, while working in the Haiti earthquake response, Brathwaite set out to work on a solution. She planned to create a photo-essay documentary, capturing the psychosocial impact of humanitarian response on aid workers in Haiti and Kick at the Darkness - A Photographic Journey was born.
A year later, with the $6,502 raised through a crowdfunding campaign on StartSomeGood, Amy Brathwaite's original vision of a photo-essay transformed into a short documentary entitled “Kick at the Darkness - An exploration of the psychosocial impact of humanitarian aid work”. Now as a calmer development situation, she hopes this will help to increase dialogue within the humanitarian community and help aid workers heal and share. The documentary has since been presented, plus a screening, featuring photographs and interviews from aid workers and journalists from the Haiti response to Sudan and Iraq.
“My crowdfunding experience surpassed anything I could've hoped for. So much of this started with a small vision, a plane ticket and a cart before the horse scenario. But I spoke to enough trusted friends and received substantial guidance and direction from the team at StartSomeGood that I believed if I was vulnerable and shared my story that it would work. And it did.”
Amy Braithwaite had major success with hands on, offline fundraising methods and direct outreach, from screenings and presentations, personalizing the project to supporters ultimately exposed Kick at the Darkness to a bigger network of donors and positive feedback from the humanitarian community.
“I feel very lucky that it seemed to have a momentum of it's own and I credit reaching out on an individual level to my friends and community and asking for their support directly or by sharing it to help me to achieve my goal.
“My project discussed a sensitive issue, so I think people need to feel that I was authentic with my intention and if they sense it, they will connect and support.”
So what advice does Amy Brathwaite have for other changemakers considering crowdfunding?
“Talking about your idea. Asking for what you want and being transparent. It's such a simple thing. I nurtured my campaign, sought feedback, did research and most importantly employed the advice given to me.”
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How Sock Monkeys Against Cancer raised $35,000 for a social enterprise to SMAC! cancer
SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer raised $35,000, and $5,000 of that poured through on the first day alone.
Colour, courage, and a social media strategy that just wouldn't quit – this campaign had it all, and with the first cancer-fighting monkeys rolling off the production line and entering arms across the world, we're already seeing the impact.
Jennifer Windrum, whose mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer six years ago, wanted to find a way to provide a tangible symbol of love, support and good cheer for her mom to hold onto when she was not around. SMAC! was born, and grew into a plan for a social enterprise aimed at promoting the spirit of giving and advancing cancer research.
The StartSomeGood campaign funded initial startup costs for Jennifer’s enterprise, along with the production, packaging and shipping of the first 500 SMAC! monkeys.
The monkeys will ultimately be sold on a Buy One, Give One basis (as popularized by TOMS shoes), where for every monkey purchased, a second monkey will go to someone with cancer. SMAC! also plan to donate a portion of future revenue to cancer research organizations.
“Crowdfunding was such a natural and appropriate way to fund this venture,” Jennifer says. “Everything about the SMAC! monkeys, from the inspiration behind their creation, to development of the prototype, to naming of the monkeys, was community driven through social media.”
Part of the winning strategy included building a private group of ambassadors on Facebook who were involved in the development of the campaign from the very beginning – they watched the making of the prototypes, followed as the SMAC! team searched for a manufacturer and knew all the details it took to bring the SMAC! monkeys and the campaign to launch. Once the campaign kicked-off, this group had an emotional connection to these little monkeys and worked to help make them a reality.
For us at StartSomeGood, SMAC! was a beautiful example of how crowdfunding can rally a community of supporters around a vision for social impact. The tenacity of Jennifer and her supporters was also a real tribute to Jennifer's mom Leslie Lehrman, who passed away during the campaign.
“I was able to tell her the campaign hit its tipping point on Thanksgiving Day,” remembers Jennifer. “She was so very happy.”
So if you're considering giving crowdfunding a go, take some advice from Jennifer: “Just start. I didn't know the first thing about making a sock monkey prototype. I don't sew. I didn't know the first thing about manufacturing. There is so much more I still don't know, but that's part of the entrepreneurial journey. Just start making calls, connect online, ask questions - lots of them. You will find your way!”
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How Who’s Who Wiki raised over $9,000 to drive corporate transparency in Latin America
Who’s Who Wiki is the first corporate transparency tool of its kind - an innovative open data website that holds Latin American companies and corporate elites accountable.
The brain child of PODER's Ben Cokelet, the purpose of the Wiki is to protect human rights, fair labor and the environment from unethical corporate actions, and hold such corporations accountable.
On StartSomeGood, PODER raised $9,350 from 66 backers to build an alpha for Who’s Who Wiki. The campaign reached its $5,000 tipping point within just one week of launching.
The campaign team reached out extensively through social media, but found their strongest successes lay in a more personal, narrative approach.
“We sent multiple personalized emails to first- and second-degree contacts that were tailored to their interests,” says Ben.
“We were promoting ourselves and marketing our brand on a regular basis. If you take the time to build a narrative, people start to feel like they are part of something and want to contribute.”
Impressed by Ben's successful campaign, the Hewlett Foundation joined the party, bolstering PODER's transparency efforts with a significant financial grant.
The Who's Who Wiki success story demonstrates that crowdfunding and traditional philanthropy don't play a zero sum game. By creating a successful crowdfunding campaign you can demonstrate that your project is relevant and important to your community. Tell traditional grant bodies how hundreds of people believed in your idea enough to put money behind it, and they might too.
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How The Do Good Bus raised $100,000 to take altruistic adventurism on the road
The Do Good Bus raised $100,000 and created impact right across the United States in the name of altruistic adventurism.
The team behind this Los Angeles non-profit had a big vision. They wanted to take their bus on the road with the band Foster The People, visiting 22 cities and involving thousands of young people in active citizenship. They would support local non-profits. They would help with programs for at-risk youth, music education, gardening, and soup kitchens. And they would fill their bus with local do-gooders, again and again, to foster community everywhere they went.
When Rebecca Pontius first made the agreement to go on tour with Foster the People, she and the Do Good Bus team had just over a month to raise their funds. At first, Rebecca thought raising the funds would be a no-brainer. A brilliant idea plus Foster the People's fanbase would equal instant corporate sponsorship. She'd go visit Coke, then cash the cheque.
But as Rebecca discovered, corporate giving can involve huge amounts of delay and red tape, two things her team didn't have time for. Enter StartSomeGood.
While these guys had ambitious targets, their campaign also packed some seriously covetable rewards. But it wasn't just the exclusive Foster the People swag that drew backers. In fact, the most popular reward was having your photo printed on the bus. With an idea this cool, people just wanted to be a part of it.
And like most of our largest successful campaigns, the Do Good Bus remembered to take their efforts offline, combining real world events (in their case, gigs) with social media outreach.
With contributions from 680 backers ranging from $1 to over $10,000 the Do Good Bus reached their goal with just a few hours to spare. And they hit the road.
Inspired? Take some advice from Rebecca. “For me it was very much about taking that first step. A lot of people have big ideas and they kind of put them on a shelf. If you really believe in your idea and have the courage – whether that means putting the blinders on and focusing on the end goal or taking a friend's hand to get you across that line and not giving up - it works, and we're proof of that. Take that firs step.”
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How Melodime raised $39,000 to make an album that would change lives
One day, a poor kid from a small town heard a knock at his door. When he went to answer it, no one was there, but a bunch of musical instruments had been left – he never knew by whom.
Thanks to those instruments, the kid and his brothers grew up with a passion for music that gave direction to their lives and eventually supported and elevated their whole family.
Now his great grandsons are in a band too, a popular roots-rock group called Melodime. They wanted to take that beautiful, anonymous act their great grandfather had received, multiply it and pay it forward.
Melodime launched a campaign on StartSomeGood to fund their next album. All the proceeds from the album would then go to providing free instruments and music education to kids with the same passion for music as they and their great-grandfather felt – kids that might never have been able to afford an instrument of their own.
They soared past their $30,000 tipping point goal on the wings of that great story, and raised a total of $39,235 to fund an inspirational album and provide hundreds of instruments.
These guys shared their story with a simple, personal video, which was critical to their success:
They continued to connect with their supporters over social media, traditional press and in person at home town shows.
“We didn't want to just create music,” says vocalist Brad, “we want to give people the opportunity to have music. It’s such an outlet. It’s such an amazing thing.”
We all have a story that moves us, that underlies our desire to create change. As Melodime demonstrated, successful crowdfunding is about identifying your story, connecting with the communities that care, and telling that story in a simple, human way.
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How Mikey Leung raised $15,000 to show the world Bangladesh in a new light
Sometimes crowdfunding is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But as Mikey Leung demonstrated, it's a tool you can put to work again to fund new projects as your enterprise grows.
Mikey is a Sydney-based designer, videographer and storyteller who has a deep love for the people and country of Bangladesh. He was frustrated that all you ever hear about Bangladesh is negative stories, like poverty and flooding. He wanted to share the Bangladesh he knows, a country of colour and art, of natural beauty and incredibly friendly people. He is driven to share this more positive story so he can inspire more people to visit Bangladesh, creating jobs and opportunities
“We saw that there was really an opportunity here for travel to be used as a tool to create economic opportunities for people and to create change in Bangladesh. We didn’t really have a name for it at first, but later on it became Crowdsourced Travel because we saw that we needed to make it an open source effort, a way for people to come together and work on this problem with whatever resources or ideas they wanted to bring to the table.” – Mikey Leung.
Mikey launched Crowdsourced Travel Bangladesh on StartSomeGood and received $15,000 contributed by 57 supporters to back his first project, Positive Light, a crowdsourced photography exhibition and print-on-demand book. He promoted his campaign extensively through YouTube with regular update videos drawing many interested people over to his campaign page. The exhibition was a huge success, with more than 600 submissions.
The photos they received were so good, Mikey decided to create a hard-cover coffee table book. To fund this next stage and distribute the book, Mikey returned to StartSomeGood and is ran a second campaign, raising a further, impact-boosting $10,000.
How Kinyei raised 1.8 times more money on StartSomeGood than on Kickstarter to create employment, opportunity and great coffee in Cambodia
Kinyei are a social enterprise based in Battabang, Cambodia. Comprised of a coffee shop, bike tourism business and employment training, they were originally founded by two Australians and an American but are now in the process of handing over ownership to locals. But to do this they needed additional funding to see them through the transition period and to allow them to upgrade the coffee-making facilities of the café.
Kinyei had previously run a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter but decided for their second go round to work with StartSomeGood due to our unique focus on social impact initiatives. And the metrics proved their decision right. Not only did they attract more donors on StartSomeGood (147 to 116) but the average pledge was 44% higher than during their previous campaign, allowing them to raise over $18,000 to fund this crucial transition period.
The founders had this to say about the next steps: “Our focus for 2013 is to support Kinyei's local management as they launch into their first year of independent operation, and we're excited to see how the projects evolve as they take the reins and really make the projects their own.” – Katherine Hallaran, Melina Chan and Justin Lorenzo, co-founders, Kinyei.
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