Crowdfunding “2 Bikes & 300 Miles” for Outdoor Education & College Access

Our fundraiser is unique because we are raising money for two important causes related to education: outdoor education (via the Bridging the Watershed Program) and college access (via AdmitLink Consulting). We are biking 300 miles of the Potomac River in Maryland & Washington, D.C. because of our passion for two unique causes that are changing the lives of D.C.-area youth. Zoe Unruh & Outdoor Education with Bridging the Watershed Every school year, more than 5,000 students have the opportunity to participate in curriculum-based outdoor science education in National Parks, and the vast majority of them arrive on buses. At Bridging the Watershed, we are privileged to see those students discover the joys of learning science in a very real, hands-on way, and of making connections to National Parks and the outdoors that simply cannot happen within the confines of four walls. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, a number of low-income schools are located in districts that cannot afford to pay for buses. Nearly 5,000 high-school students have participated in BTW field studies at National Parks since 2010 thanks in part to money allocated specifically for bus transportation for the county. When government cutbacks hit the NPS hard last spring, this bus money evaporated. Over 30 field studies for more than 1,000 students from low-income school districts have been canceled. While every field study is valuable and important to the students and their communities, outdoor education should not be limited to those who can afford it. Low-income students should not lose the opportunity simply because of a lack of transportation funds. Jaimie McFarlin & College Access with AdmitLink Consulting When Zoe told me about a fundraising idea of a bike ride, I was extremely excited for the adventure. We planned it so that I would take the trip in lieu of my spring break for law school. Both Zoe and I are so passionate about our causes, and I immediately knew that I wanted to raise funds to expand the programming of my college access non-profit, AdmitLink, into the Washington, DC area. AdmitLink is a non-profit, college and graduate school admissions consulting firm. In Washington, DC, we are looking to implement our college access curriculum into the programming of non-profits in the area, helping underserved high school students with the college application process. We use a teach-the-teacher method of educating mentors, athletic coaches, and other involved adults about the college admissions process and how they can assist their high school student through the college admissions process. AdmitLink partners with other non-profits, after school programs, mentoring programs, and organizations serving low-income communities to deliver professional development, materials, and programming regarding the college application process. We are very new to the crowdfunding experience, and the simplicity of RocketHub made the platform a great fit. Zoe has fundraised for several other causes before, but with crowdfunding and our small gifts for donors, such as customized postcards and calendars, Rockethub allows our supporters to be part of the adventure in some way. The small tokens of appreciation created with photographs from the trip will build a sense of community and hopefully will be a uniting force. Generally, we believe that crowdfunding for social ventures really allows for donors to support entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. Rockethub definitely hits that sweet spot. So far, the support has been phenomenal and were are so close to reaching our goal! Fundraising for a non-profit is a humbling experience. Don’t be afraid to talk about your cause all day every day. Some of our donations came from unexpected places and people. Also, be sure to plan enough time to put marketing support behind your project, and you will really show potential donors just how passionate and dedicated you are to your cause. - Jaimie McFarlin

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  • March 26, 2014

Old Guys and Their Airplanes - Two Former Foes Meet Again

My inspiration? Seeking Wisdom for myself and sharing it with others. When people who are older and more experienced share what they’ve learned, there is much to gain. By interviewing combat veterans in their senior years, an even greater gamut of life experiences are presented! The chance to bring USAF pilot John Stiles to meet his former foe (NVAF pilot Nguyen Hong My) was too important to pass up. Both men are in their 70s and have moved on with their life. They are at peace with their roles as enemies in a past war. But the process of reconciling their differences, their values, their beliefs against each each others is a basic human situation that confronts everyone, everywhere, every day. It makes me wonder how it’s done and how to communicate it to others. Of course, I am an “artist” who draws airplanes. The drawings, however, are simply an excuse to get people talking. It is “the story” that is of highest value and I am excited to bring that to a bigger audience. For the most part, my supporters are people who are passionate about history and the idea of a personal “legacy” to be left to the world at large. They are at points in their lives where they are either forced-to or want-to, ask the challenging questions of life: “What am I accomplishing by being alive?” “What is important to an individual? A family? A nation?” “Can I affect real change and is change really necessary?” So, of course, they look at my work and find immediate connection! But the idea of CROWDFUNDING as a method is seen as peculiar and abstract. I think “they” need to warm up to the idea. The idea of such open-discussion and involvement is new. Most of my supporters feel like they’re taking a small risk in using Crowdfunding, but once they do, they “Get it.” Crowdfunding is a brilliant idea! It is a wonderful new channel to expand audience, perfect a message and, in the process, improve one’s craft/vocation. However, it is crucial that the Crowdfunder think-through how their work will be valuable to others. People invest in like-minded causes and communicating this “like-mindedness” is essential. I know that the process of using RocketHub has helped me become a better communicator and also understand what other people see as worthwhile. What is that old saying… “If one has no followers, that person is only taking a walk.” To the first-timer, Crowdfunding is expected to be a solution, but be prepared that it is also a process that will reward multiple attempts (just like life). So, start with a group of people who would fund you regardless. Yeah, yeah…it may cost you money in the short term in terms of commissions. That’s just the cost of doing business. The future benefit of learning how to sell and how to engage is worth the price. RocketHub has some pretty cool creation tools and as a platform, is sweet! But in the end, it is up to me and me alone to make my project successful. I am just grateful for the chance. - John Mollison, Artist, Writer, Historian, Builder, Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • March 19, 2014

Second Life Bikes - Changing the Destiny of People and Bicycles

The inspiration for our campaign was our desire to make the current space in which the organization operates a permanent home. Second Life Bikes is a youth earn-a-bike program and community bike shop; the bike shop is the primary source of funding for the youth program. When the bike shop moved to the current location in 2010, which is highly visible and accessible to the communities SPB serves, the revenue from the shop increased ten-fold which allowed Kerri Martin, the Executive Director of SLB, to expand the program offerings. The building came up for sale in 2013 and it caused the Board of Trustees to pause and consider whether we could buy it. The owner – who has been incredibly supportive of SLB – agreed to hold the mortgage provided we could provide a substantial down payment, so we went for it! Crowdfunding is one aspect of our fundraising plan and it is a critical component. What Kerri created with SLB was a grass-roots movement, so it makes sense that we would employ crowdfunding as one of a variety of financial instruments we are using to acquire the property. Our community has been incredibly supportive. Kerri has a way of rallying people to help her cause without even trying; the mission alone and the momentum she has created is enough to get people in our area excited about SLB. We are so pleased by the response the campaign has gotten from our fans. Where we have struggled a bit is in getting support from beyond the local community who already knows the organization. It makes sense that this would be the hard part, which is to find those people who have never heard of you but would be interested to participate and contribute to the cause. No matter how much support you already have for your organization or business, you have to adopt a mindset of “Relentless pressure, gently applied.” People are busy and of course our campaign isn’t always top of their mind, so it is important to keep a steady stream of information about the campaign flowing through social media and formal press. I believe this is what gets supporters to keep spreading the word. We saw donations peak and level off based on how actively we were speaking about and promoting the campaign. Also, I suggest treating the campaign launch like a product launch…if I had to do it over again I would do a bit more pre-campaign promotions. - Jennifer Crews, Kerri Martin, and Second Life Bikes Team

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  • February 27, 2014

Music + Awareness: Water Water Everywhere

I began this project last fall when we were invited (the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation) to write music that responded to issues around climate change. I thought, let’s make a project about water by considering the interplay of contemporary musical sensibilities with Baroque by embracing Handel’s Water Music Suites. I then proceeded to have conversations with every climate scientist I could find to get the inspiration for the song lyrics and concepts. I asked the New York Foundation to fiscally sponsor Water Water Everywhere so we could apply for grants and raise money. RocketHub partners with them. I was very reluctant to launch a crowdfunding campaign, I thought, has it come to this! But I was really mistaken. I have been so moved by the response of my fans and friends. We have had everyone from a Hollywood actors and producer to artists. For success, trust your friend s and fans will support you. See what happens. I found my attitude change for the better! - Nora York, Performer, Writer, Artist

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  • February 21, 2014

U-Jam Fitness Crowdfunds Wider Reach with Workout DVD

Susy and I have been building U-Jam Fitness over the last 4 years via our expertise in music, choreography, and fitness. We have received an unbelievable amount of support, which is estimated at 40,000 people per week dancing to U-Jam Fitness. Since the start of U-Jam Fitness, people have been asking for workout DVDs to take home, because they love this format so much. We finally found the avenues we needed to secure hot radio hits, all legally licensed through the right network. We knew there had to be a way for current and old school artists to let us use their music to help motivate people in the group exercise rooms. It is a win-win for everyone: from students, to instructors to the music industry. So far, the experience has been very humbling, as we are receiving funding every day for this project. We are so happy to see our friends, families, students and instructors all involved in helping make this campaign a successful one. U-Jam is seeing supporters responding with gratitude and happiness to help, thus we recognize how much our supporters have, as far as a vested, personal interest in the growth of this campaign. This is a great way to connect with your current base and bond a bit more in whatever it is you are doing. You will find a great deal of enthusiasm from your supporters. The most difficult part is reaching beyond your current support group. RocketHub shares suggestions on how to do so. Some suggestions are fruitful and some may not be. Do not get discouraged, because this campaign has its highs and lows. Keep your spirit and drive alive every day and think how to reach your product to the outside world. Enjoy the ride…it’s a fun one! - Matt Marks, U-Jam Fitness

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  • February 12, 2014

Babysitting Monkeys Provide Clues About Human Evolution

I began studying tamarins in Bolivia for my PhD thesis in 1997. My initial projects were focused around the diet and ranging behavior of the tamarins. However, the research question that always intrigued me the most was, why do group members help each other, and specifically why do they help each other extensively with infant care? With the help of another primatologist, Wendy Erb, and a primatologist and geneticist Anthony Di Fiore, we developed a research project to test 10 different hypotheses about “why helpers help.” It was amazing to see how many people responded in the first few days of launching our campaign. We raised more money than we thought we would very quickly. Although we know most of our sponsors, some of our donors are friends of friends, so the network is expanding. I think our success is due to several factors. First, we needed only a small amount of money for a very specific purpose with the potential for big results. Second, we set a narrow window of time - we really do need the money quickly in order to keep our research going. I think this urgency inspires some people to act quickly rather than postpone and forget about the campaign. Third, as this is the first time we have attempted to fund a project in this way, no one is tired of us yet! - Dr. Leila Porter, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University, and Dr. Wendy Erb, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology at Rutgers University

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  • January 30, 2014

My Baba’s Kitchen - Crowdfunding a Film About Culture, Food, and Music

There were several inspirations for this project. First, of course, were my grandparents. Many people don’t take a moment to sit down with their grandparents to hear their life story. What were they doing when they were your age? In my grandparents’ case, all 4 had come to Canada searching for a new and better life.They met and fell in love in an unknown land because of their cultural connections. I wanted to share their amazing story through a different medium than I’m used to; I think it will be more powerful and emotional through a short animated film. I was also inspired by many young artists and musicians in my community that have created amazing independent and collaborative projects. It made me realize that everyone has a story worth telling, and that there are people in the world that actually want to hear them and will support you! It has been an extremely exciting process! It is my first time doing any project of this sort, but friends, family and complete strangers have been extremely supportive and curious. Everyday I receive new funders or messages of support. I truly believe that we are living in an amazing time. The internet and specifically social media has connected us even more than before. It is so much easier for creative minds to share their ideas and gather supporters from local to global communities. I am thrilled to be a pioneer in this new form of sponsorship called crowdfunding because it is not only beneficial for me to create my film, but also my funders get something in return! YOU CAN DO IT! It took my a while to realize that this project was possible. I had made a RocketHub account and it sat for a year untouched because I wasn’t sure of myself. I kept talking about my project and how much it meant to me until one day I decided that it was time to actually start. If you have an idea and a team of people willing to support you, go with it! RocketHub is a wonderful website that collects all your information, videos and of course, fundings in one simple and easy to use place. My project wouldn’t be doing so well if I wasn’t using this crowndfunding platform. People like seeing and hearing about progress and with RocketHub, it’s easy to post updates, new images, videos and thank-you’s. - Stephanie Turenko, Filmmaker, Photographer, Multi-Cultural Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • January 22, 2014

Venture for America Fellows Crowdfund Awesome Ventures

Venture for America empowers talented graduates to spend two years within exciting entrepreneurial organizations across the United States. VFA has taken this mission even further through its crowdfunding partnership with RocketHub - helping fellows raise funds for their own ventures. The second wave of VFA crowdfunding projects on RocketHub show an incredible level of imagination and passion. From beautiful and modern furniture to a new and healthy pasta to a music-creation startup to much more - the VFA fellows present a diverse set of ideas. In addition to total funds collected via crowdfunding, Venture for America will provide financial support to selected projects. The funding phase of the VFA on RocketHub Crowdfunding Round 2 ends on January 20th, and nearly $20,000 has already been fundraised! - The RocketHub Team

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  • January 16, 2014

Good Karma Sails to Crowdfunding Success

Good Karma Racing is a Paralympic class sailing team - skipper Sarah Everhart Skeels and crewman Gerry Tiernan - that promotes independence and human potential through competitive sport. We strive for excellence in the highly competitive arena of international disabled sailing. We are heading to the ISAF Sailing World Cup - Miami regatta January 25th - February 1st to try to qualify for the 2014 US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider, and need your help! Accommodations, travel, new seats and boat maintenance will cost $12,000, and we can’t get there without YOU on our support team. Our experience has been extremely positive. We are receiving strong support from our expected base and are surprised by the interest and financial backing of people we did not consider as funders for our project. To achieve success: go for it! In researching crowdfunding we found that RocketHub was the best fit for our funding project. They provided great support and an organized format to reach our supporters in the most concise format. What we have been the most energized by is the concrete feeling of support for our cause. Not only by the people we expected to support us, but as exciting the people we did not. - Good Karma Racing, skipper Sarah Everhart Skeels and crewman Gerry Tiernan

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  • January 8, 2014

Toilets4Lima - Crowdfunding Innovative Sanitation Solutions

The main inspiration to tackle the sanitation issue has always come from numbers: There are 2.5 billion people worldwide who do not have access to improved sanitation. Around 1 billion people today live in urban slums and the majority cannot have safe sanitation. Lack of sanitation has many severe consequences whereby the contracting and spreading of diseases such as diarrhea and cholera are clearly the deadliest. Slums pose us very particular challenges when it comes to sanitation because they usually are very densely populated, there is little money and mostly there is no clean water or no water at all. At x-runner we wanted to take these challenges and turn them into opportunities. So we created a system that covers all three stages of a sanitation system: the toilet, the treatment and the transport to the treatment plant. All those stages should work without using water and cost as little as possible: Our toilet separates urine and feces and by this, minimizes bad odors and gases. The urine is either drained into the ground or collected in a jar – the solids are stored in a container below the toilet seat. Once a week our poop-pick-up service goes by our customers’ homes and removes the feces container. Our service truck then transports the container to our facility hub where we treat the feces and turn it into compost. We operate in Lima, Peru – the second driest capital in the world and the third most affected city by climate change in the future. Right now there are at least 3 million people in Lima living in slums and who cannot have a regular toilets. So another important source of inspirations is for the team and me the families we serve. They are incredible catalysts for new ideas and for improvements in our system. They are our motivators and our judges. That’s why they are the center of our attention. We work very hard in delivering them the most high quality and professional sanitation service possible. We see our crowdfunding campaign not only as an opportunity to raise funds, but also to really engage individuals in our project and in the cause. The reaction is very positive and we receive many personal e-mails from people that just learned about the issue through us. Our bestseller reward is to have a toilet in Lima named after the funder. We even offer now a Christmas special where you can fund a toilet and name it after a person of your choice. This has been a great hit and we had several supporters having up to 4 toilets named after family members! In our crowdfunding approach, we had the experience that people on Facebook and Twitter did not engage in the funding – pressing the Like button seemed always enough to support our cause for Social media users. We could see more results through sending e-mails and asking friends to forward the message for us! We also did a lot of offline engagement – we hosted events in Lima and in Vienna where we presented our project and the campaign. We handed out flyers and brochures on world toilet day and had very positive reactions! - Jessica Altenburger, Founder and Head of Research and Development, X-Runner

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  • January 3, 2014