#PassItOn Crowdfunding Campaign: behind the scenes
Elena Vardon was a part of the team which pushed the crowdfunder effort. She writes about her experience.
After a successful series of webinars, masterclasses, mentoring sessions and one-on-one CV and pitch clinics during the first wave of the pandemic, PressPad decided to organise another season of #PressPadRemote. To do so, PressPad turned to its community to crowdfunder for Season 2 in 2021. In Mid-November, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Crowdfunder site, with a target of £15000. This amount meticulously calculated to cover the monthly costs of running #PressPadRemote: paying a programme manager, social and administrative teams and software costs. Fundraising was preferred over charging per virtual event to keep the programme free and accessible to everyone and lower the barriers to the media industry.
To take on this challenge, founder Olivia Crellin enlisted the help of five interns who had benefited from #PressPadRemote: Lydia, Eloise, Amy, Nicole and I, Elena. Five shy faces joined a Zoom call on a November morning and put to work to raise £15000 in 28 days through an organic social media campaign. Scattered across the UK, France and Spain, we agreed on an almost daily 2 hour shift rotation schedule, and task calendar. As young journalists at different stages of our careers, Olivia repeatedly told us: “You are all our target audience.” And over the course of many Zoom meetings, we strategised how to uphold the momentum of the campaign through posting on social media, messaging people directly, preparing and publishing content, sending emails and pitches, and preparing for #PressPadRemote Season 2.
In 2019, PressPad ran the #DiversifyTheMedia crowdfunding campaign to raise money to set up its host-mentor platform. Fast forward to the present day, with coronavirus factored in and the audience of #PressPadRemote being early-career journalists and students, the target demography and campaigning were different. We were limited to campaigning virtually on social media. We put out our pink campaigning graphics front and centre and flooded our socials with them. During five weeks, alongside our classes and other responsibilities, we shouted from the virtual rooftops that PressPad was crowdfunding and needed your help!
Beyond the fundraising, we also focused on a community building and strengthening exercise. We aimed to encourage engagement and conversation, namely through our #PassItOn Twitter chat in which we asked journalists to share their advice. As the weeks went by, the rhythm of the campaign was readjusted depending on the reception of our efforts, the learnings we drew from them and ideas to optimise our outreach and hopefully gain more donors.
Asking people for money is never a comfortable experience. During a global pandemic and economic crisis, it is even more awkward. We quickly received responses from people unable to donate due to financial hardship. Students and graduates, who are our target audience, are also struggling to find a job during the pandemic. It seems like a self-fulfilling cycle: we want to help them through #PressPadRemote, but to put it on we need the money to cover the running costs. Personally, there were times in which asking strangers for money online felt embarrassing due to not knowing how people were going to respond. But this prompted us as interns to start conversations and establish connections with people in the journalism industry and beyond.
For most of us on the team, it was our first time running a crowdfunding campaign. We saw the boosts at the beginning and towards the end of the campaign, but the most stressful part was the middle slump because our targeting efforts didn’t stop but donations did slow down. The hardest part was trying to grasp the mindset of potential donors and motivate them to add their name to the supporters’ list. Personal connections were easier to convince, but when those started to exhaust, mild panic set in. So we widened our net into industry contacts and #DiversityTheMedia donors with varying degrees of success. A certain fatigue was beginning to be felt: on social media, our posts were everywhere, I was just seeing pink (the colour of the campaign graphics), and people were getting used to our presence. We pivoted to a less is more approach on social media and put emphasis on personal messages.
The Friday before the end of the campaign, Olivia called an emergency lunchtime meeting to tell us the good news: Dolly Alderton agreed to be the guest for our virtual celebration event! On Saturday we announced it on our social media and on Sunday, Dolly herself retweeted us and we started seeing donations coming in from her endorsement. The gauge which had seemed to be moving painfully slow started speeding up and the finish line was in sight.
When we reached the target on Tuesday afternoon, relief didn’t sink in right away. I still felt on the rollercoaster we had been carrying for five weeks since the launch of the campaign. Then satisfaction sank in: a second season of #PressPadRemote is going to go ahead. Our exhausted team is extremely grateful for the generosity of our supporters.
Five weeks on, I can conclude that fundraising is a lot of work. Even for a team of five interns led by Olivia and supported by the rest of the PressPad team. The campaign did not sleep. It did become all-consuming to keep up with the progress, refresh the donation page and engage with PressPad’s posts on social media while spreading the word informally. Looking back on the campaign during our last meeting, we discussed our takeaways from this wild experience: manning Twitter, making graphic cards on Canva, liaising with supporters, confidence to pitch, and to be shameless and resourceful.