Sunshine House Shines Light On Community
The Sunshine House project titled ‘Like That’ began this past December in an effort to provide a space where people can explore their gender and/or sexual identity while engaging in fun, recreational, and skill-building activities. Their initial government grant of $5000 was intended to carry the program from December until April, with the program running only twice per month.
‘Like That’ was an immediate hit and they were able to increase the program to once a week, in order to better support participants. The team at the Sunshine House needs help to keep the program running. They started a crowdfunding campaign to raise another $5000 which will allow them to make ‘Like That’ a weekly program, and extend it through June, so participants can build and enter their own float in the Pride parade.
I spoke with Sunshine House team member Benjamin Simcoe on how they promote their campaign, and the value of creative perks and media content on their fundraiser.
1. Why did you decide to turn to crowdfunding?
“The idea originally came about because the initial grant we were offered to start the program was in danger of not coming through. We began taking steps to start our FundRazr in the event we needed it as a solution to save the program.
Ultimately we did receive that funding, which was a pilot grant of $5000, but this money would only allow us to run the program twice a month for four months. The program was an immediate hit when it began in December—participants loved it, and we quickly realized a four-month pilot wasn’t enough. We needed a way to continue it for a longer period of time, so we decided to use crowdfunding as a way to ask our supporters for help. ”
2. How did you initially promote your campaign?
“We initially promoted our campaign on Facebook, and through some of our existing community partners and supporters. We expanded to advertising a bit on YouTube and Twitter, but Facebook and external community support have been the biggest promotional tools.”
3. Was it important for you to have an already established online community of support?
“Having an established online community was critical; we couldn’t have promoted it nearly as effectively without it. We had about 250 very committed followers on Facebook who really came through for us. Interestingly, the campaign has garnered us a number of new Facebook followers since it began!”
4. Can you tell us a bit about your use of Perks in exchange for donations?
“Perks mean a lot for our campaign! Making our perks became a fun crafting activity for the program. Our participants made buttons, great handmade cards, t-shirts, and did some fun video shout-outs for our highest donors. So we’re ending up with some really personal perks for our supporters, which I know they’ll appreciate.”
5. How have you been able to incorporate visual media to your campaign?
“The video is a great representation of how organically things have come together for our program. We originally wanted create one for this campaign, and it turned into this great, and very accurate representation of our program. Everyone was on-board with it, and it came together brilliantly. We’re going to continue to use it as a promotional video after the campaign ends. The video gives people a very good idea of what happens during Like That, and I think getting a peek into the program was invaluable to some people in deciding whether to donate.”
6. What has been a challenge faced while crowdfunding so far?
“Keeping the campaign from plateauing has been our biggest challenge. We knew we would get a rush of donations from our supporters at the beginning, but things slowed down as we approached the 50% mark. We are a small organization, so we don’t have a lot of human resources to put into this, but fortunately when we do spend time promoting the campaign, we see results.”
7. What has been the highlight of your crowdfunding experience so far?
“We always knew we had great support from the community, but putting this campaign out there, and seeing the rally of support has been incredibly moving. People are actively promoting the campaign on our behalf because they believe in the program so much! Crowdfunding showed us just how much support we have, which was an unexpected and wonderful side-effect of this endeavor.”
8. Do you have any advice for others who want to start crowdfunding?
“We have a number of different programs at Sunshine House, but I don’t know that crowdfunding would work for all of them. We knew crowdfunding could work for Like That because there was a great community already standing behind it. So you can’t go into it blind, you really need to know your community, and you need to know the support will be there if you ask for it.
Also, video cannot be underestimated. Our video does a much better job demonstrating what we do than any written description, and it personalizes the campaign by giving people a peek inside. They can immediately get the essence of the program, and gain some understanding as to why it’s so important.”
9. What are you most excited about now?
“We’re realizing that we don’t always have to always vie for grant money—crowdfunding gives us another option. We know this is a great program, but traditional funding options aren’t always available, so having another funding tool makes us feel more secure. Importantly, if we raise the money ourselves, we do not have to work within the restrictions that often accompany grant-based funding.
Crowdfunding turned out to be a great expression of community! It’s been a lot of fun, and it has given us some freedom to do things our way. I’m sure we will turn to crowdfunding again in the future if something appropriate comes about.”