The Quest to Volunteer In The Dominican
During a trip to the Dominican Republic in November 2014, Quest Atkinson witnessed first-hand some of the most saddening situations the destitute communities in Puerto Plata are faced with. Yet in the midst of such darkness, she also saw the positive impact that Dove Missions has had on many lives. Quest returned from her vacation months ago and felt compelled to do more; to not be a bystander or a silent observer.
Quest teamed up with Dove to volunteer her time and skills for one month in next March. She focused on helping with curriculum redesign, leading workshops, and various community outreach activities in Puerto Plata. Quest decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to cover the costs of travel, accommodation and other expenses. I spoke to Quest about how she used FundRazr in conjunction with social media to promote her cause and reach her funding goal.
1. Why did you decide to turn to crowdfunding?
“At first, the thought of crowdfunding seemed so daunting to me. How could I ask the people around me to make a donation when they generally don’t contribute to any causes? How could I ask the many friends and family that I know are struggling financially? I was never cut out for sales and I felt like I needed to have a sales sort of attitude to try to ‘convince’ people to donate. Though the thought of being used car sales kind of pushy was scary and distasteful.
When I was preparing for a similar volunteer trip last year to Uganda, I realized that I was actually robbing others of something. I was stealing the opportunity for others to show their love and support. Though the generous outpouring of support that first time proved my initial inclinations wrong, I felt reluctant that people would be as generous this time, especially considering it’s only been six months since the last charity trip. Yet, it was undeniable that I would not be able to incur the costs volunteering for one month in the Dominican alone. I once heard someone say that the best way to give is to receive. For me, crowdfunding allows people to bless me so that I might be a blessing to others.”
2. How did you promote your campaign and create a community of support?
“Long before plane tickets were booked and rental arrangements made, before I even talked to Dove about my hopes, this all was merely a dream. I have a close group of family and friends who I share almost every detail of my life with. So this dream, as most of my millions of other dreams do, came up casually in many conversations. At first it was kind of said in passing, “The weather here in Toronto is so bad. I want to go to the Dominican!” But I couldn’t shake the burning desire to return to volunteer again so inevitably it lead to more serious discussions about my dream.”
Once my project had been set up on Fundrazr, I used the vast number of tools available to me to get the word out. The first steps I took were posting to the Facebook group and LinkedIn group I created. I then prepared a list of people that I knew might have an interest in what I’d be doing. I wrote each of them a personalized email explaining what I’d be doing, asking for their support, and outlining the ways that they could help.”
3. What FundRazr features have you found useful in your efforts?
“FundRazr has a very comprehensive arsenal of tools available which I’ve quite enjoyed using. I love the ability to spread the word about my project not only by using Facebook, LinkedIn, and G+ tools, but also by assigning manager and promoter roles to friends and family. Also, people can subscribe to your page to automatically receive updates and so far I’ve had a few followers. Additionally, I’ve used the text message feature that allows me to text my FundRazr link to anyone and I’ve tried the email campaign option that enabled me to create and send personalized emails with a link to my FundRazr page.
Being able to send direct and personal messages to my donors has been a really sweet touch. Though I haven’t yet used it, I love the option to add an array of pictures and videos and I hope to post some more media soon. I’ve found the offline contribution tool tremendously helpful. FundRazr understands that we don’t always receive funds online and they try to make it as easy as possible to receive funds in multiple ways and have your funding progress updated. Best of all, having, my very own FundRazr coach assigned to me personally has been amazing. I frequently receive tips about how to make my campaign better and the team has always been very responsive and quick to help when I ask a question.”
4. What was a challenge you faced while crowdfunding?
“When I first posted my project, there was a lot of interest. I quickly met a major milestone – the halfway point. After that, it seems that much of the hype had begun to fizzle and keeping momentum has been a major challenge.”
5. What has been the highlight of your crowdfunding experience so far?
“Most certainly, I’d say the biggest highlight so far has been reaching half of my financial goal in just 4 days. Seeing that my sweet supporters were so quick to act and show love has been such a tremendous blessing.”
6. Do you have any advice for others who want to start crowdfunding?
“Firstly, only crowdfund for a project that you truly believe in. If you’re not 100% invested in the work you’re doing, it’ll be hard for others to be invested too. Make things as personal as possible. Whether it’s writing a personal letter to someone or you being transparent about your goals for the project and how the costs are broken down. People always appreciate truthfulness and can relate to you if you share what’s really on your heart. Also, start with people you know you can count on and build a team of advocates to help you spread the word. FundRazr has a useful tool to help you with this under ‘Team’.
If you’re chasing after a dream, your excitement is bound to get others excited too. Often, pursuing our dreams involves us getting outside a lot of our comfort zones. There’s always a risk of failure but the risk of reward is just the same. I find that people are compelled to support others especially if the work that is being done is helping those in need. Don’t take away the opportunity for people to support you and love you. Asking for help is always hard but you may be pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming amounts of kind words and support you receive. Remember my mantra, “Generosity begets generosity.”
Click Here to Learn more about Quest’s journey.