Spotlight: SoulCycle CrowdFUNders

Left to right: Kathleen Steele, Ian Goldberg, Evan Harwood, Sarah Berman, Julia Pei

Left to right: Kathleen Steele, Ian Goldberg, Evan Harwood, Sarah Berman, Julia Pei

Kathleen has been a member of A Better Chicago’s leadership council for three years. In that time, she’s helped review organizations for A Better Chicago’s Venture Fund, played beer pong at the annual gala and tried on jewels at charity receptions at Harry Winston. This September, she participated in a new endeavor to show her support for A Better Chicago: co-hosting and taking part in a SoulCycle charity ride. SoulCycle is the country’s premier indoor cycling studio. They describe the class as a 45-minute cardio party.

Kathleen promoted the event and her fundraising efforts by getting her coworkers involved. Four of her colleagues signed up for the event and ran their own crowdfunding pages to raise almost $2,500 in support of A Better Chicago and greater educational opportunities in Chicago. One of her coworkers, Evan, received her e-mail and saw an opportunity to leverage his sense of humor and create competition for a good cause. His way of getting involved was not only to register for the event, but to good-humoredly try to one-up Kathleen’s own involvement by raising more dollars and involving more friends.

Check out their fundraising pages here:

We sat down with Kathleen and Evan to get their perspectives on crowdfunding:

How did you get the word out about your crowdfunding campaign?

Evan: I had not previously been involved with A Better Chicago when I decided to create a campaign, so I took more of a casual tone and targeted specific friends. There’s a lot of noise with friends and family asking for contributions to support a charity or buy a table or donate to a walk for a certain cause, so it is increasingly difficult as a fundraiser to generate significant support - therefore, I tried to make my ask more refreshing. I emphasized humor in every aspect of the reach out: my campaign name (Hwood up to no good – Gimme money please), my campaign goal ($100 million), reaching out through e-mail, G-chat and Facebook to ask friends to contribute a few dollars to help me raise more money than my colleague. And I had a 100% response rate with people donating anywhere from $25 to $180 to my campaign.

Kathleen: Beyond sharing with my coworkers, I reached out to my friends and family through Facebook. I tried to build off of Evan’s funny tone to encourage more people to get involved. I posted the event link and also tagged people who I thought might be interested to try to spread the word, too.

What surprised you?

Evan: How sweaty I got from SoulCycle.

Kathleen: How many people were willing to get involved by donating or participating in the event. I’ve always associated crowdfunding with larger endeavors like running a marathon or climbing a mountain, so I was excited to see how many people just went for it and wanted to contribute.

What advice would you give to others starting a fundraising campaign?

Kathleen: Get some friends or family or colleagues involved to help make the fundraising a bit competitive. The rivalry aspect drives others to contribute and sets a fun tone for the campaign.

Evan: Everything today is about transparency. The social media accounts with the biggest followings are the ones that have personality, honesty and transparency. People who share their worries, hopes, fears, etc. – the full human experience – draw others in and make themselves relatable. Likewise, if you are more open about why you’re doing a campaign, whether that’s to out-fundraise a colleague or because a cause is really meaningful for you, that will drive success for your crowdfunding, too. Try to channel the spirit of this potato salad Kickstarter campaign.

Feeling inspired? Click here to start your own fundraising campaign.