Lessons in Crowdfunding from San Miguel School

San Miguel School is a small Lasallian middle school dedicated to transforming Latino lives and breaking the cycle of poverty for low-income students in Washington D.C. With only two people in the development office, the school has raised over $19,000 USD in three separate campaigns on HIPGive: it’s clear they know a thing or two about crowdfunding! Moreover, they’ve successfully navigated the HIPGive contests, securing a large proportion of matching funds, and winning prizes along the way.

Fortunately, in the spirit of open education, they were willing to share their insights. Here are San Miguel’s top three lessons on how to best use HIPGive’s contests to your advantage.


1. Plan ahead

Even though you CAN put together a campaign quickly, it doesn’t mean you should. “San Miguel is a small school,” says María-Rose Cain, who leads Marketing and Donor Relations. “We don’t have a big development staff, so planning ahead to build campaigns around contests and getting the campaign up ahead of time is really helpful.”

She also recommends you take the time to put your campaign materials together thoughtfully, and build in extra time to have someone else proofread your materials before you upload them. “You often copy/paste texts from other projects. You’re so familiar with it that your eye skims over it and you miss things that don’t flow.” An extra pair of eyes will help you polish the text and make sure it resonates with potential donors.


2. Divide and conquer

Donor segmentation has been a strong feature of San Miguel’s strategy. With campaigns running over several weeks, the team used each week to send emails and call different groups. In addition:

– Current donors were encouraged to give, even if they had already fulfilled their commitment for that year. Since the ask was low and for a specific item (ipads for STEM subjects), donors responded positively and there was a net rise in their annual contribution.

– Potential donors were identified from carefully-kept records of people who had come into contact with the school but had not contributed financially. The San Miguel team sent polite emails beginning, “You’ve expressed an interest in supporting the school…” and highlighting the value of the campaign and the matching funds. In many cases, this gave individuals the extra boost they needed to complete their donation, as opposed to waiting for them to eventually do so in their own time.


3. Share matching funds times effectively

HIPGive releases matching funds in bursts throughout the day and many organizations struggle to align donations with matching fund availability. María Rose recognizes that it’s hard to get people to notice the importance of timing with email, so they prioritized phone calls, asking people to donate at specific times and using the on-screen gauge to find out how many funds were available at any given time, and when it was better to wait.

“We also found it successful to say the name of the organization that was giving the [matching] money”, she says, as donors responded positively to this concrete information, knowing that a big-name foundation was helping as well.

All in all, San Miguel has used HIPGive to great success, but they’re still expecting to use crowdfunding in even more ways. They hope to open future campaigns to parents in the school, marshaling donations of $5, $10, and $20, using the power of matching funds to involve new groups of people.