From Baltimore, A Cool New Sound from a Family Band

Five Smooth Stones is a family band from northern Baltimore County, Maryland (aka The Hereford Zone).  Andrew, Colvin and Tom Franklin and Kathryn Clarke blend diverse musical influences, such as Jars of Clay, newsboys, Switchfoot, Audio Adrenaline, Third Day, Mute Math, Dave Matthews Band, David Crowder Band and more. I had the pleasure of chatting with Tom, aka Fu Manchuman, of Five Smooth Stones about their very successful crowdfunding campaign: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The band, Five Smooth Stones, is a great blessing in my life- it is comprised of myself (real name Tom) on guitar & vocals, my daughter Kathryn on guitar & vocals, my son Andrew on drums & vocals and my nephew Colvin on bass and vocals. The band, formed several years ago, has been performing regionally and created a CD project in 2009 called Life From Dust. Over the next couple years, we were writing more personal songs and the music we were making developed and matured, and so it came time to get to recording a new project. We determined that we have an opportunity to create a top-notch album musically, and we want to match the packaging to that. So, after spending time in a cabin in Pennsylvania recording the basic tracks, we contacted a great designer to begin work on the packaging. We also researched the costs and options for producing the packaging, as well as put together a plan to market/promote the project. At that point we saw that we could make a really nice package for the fans with a little more cash- we had some funds earmarked for the project which had been accumulated from CD & t-shirt sales and gigging income- and we had heard about crowd-funding from several sources, so we checked out several sites. We chose RocketHub based on several factors, the most important being the feeling that RH was really focused on helping the artists and providing added opportunities for us. We have built a small base of loyal fans and we want to give them a great album to listen to, look at and enjoy. The songs are about the struggles of this life and the hope we have for better days, both now and in eternity, and we have a strong desire to share the message of hope with as many as we can. We love family bands from Baltimore :) How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music - how are your supporters responding? It’s been fun and challenging. The process of setting up the RocketHub project was simple, making the video was fun as well as deciding on the rewards for our fuelers. Our friends & fans have been very receptive and we are thankful for their support. It has been a great, added opportunity to connect with them and has opened some additional doors for the band as well. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Have a plan for getting the word out and make sure you tell everyone. Our biggest contribution came from an unexpected source, and if we hadn’t spread the word around we might end up short. Also, don’t be afraid to remind people and follow-up… people mean well and want to help, but this is a fast-paced world and they get distracted or it slips their mind. In fact, I’m need to call some folks right now… Thank you Five Smooth Stones for your refreshing sound and rockin’ campaign. You can still join the fun, here. -Vlad

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  • May 10, 2011

Rufus Khan: Not Just Another Improv Troupe

Rufus Khan is an innovative improv comedy troupe based in Brooklyn, New York. They keep the audience laughing with bizarre scenarios, memorable characters, and, of course, the occasional one-liner. The Rufus Khan team consists of Brendan Collins, Daniel Klein, Cem Uyanik, Jamie Rosler, Eric Austin, and Laura Darrell. They are leveraging the power of crowdfunding in order to fund future shows and development. We spoke with them about their campaign and about their creative process: What was the inspiration behind the improv theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? First and foremost, laughter. Our deep desire to laugh and to make others laugh by playfully humiliating ourselves in front of a bunch of strangers. Some people call it unhealthy; we call it fun. We’ve also been influenced by subway panhandlers. Clearly, begging is funny, and gives you a great opportunity to perfect your sign writing skills. Living and working in New York City can drain you of your energy, your time, and your money, as well as making you wonder if all people are just innately awful. We hope that a RocketHub campaign will restore our faith and confidence in the general goodness of humanity, and also help provide us with more opportunities to challenge ourselves, inspire our friends and fans, and supply that much needed escape for anyone who’s just looking to have some good, usually clean, fun. Awesome! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of improv theatre - how are your supporters responding? Our experience has been great, especially when we can get people’s attention. They all think they’re so important and busy with their lives and jobs and children.  After our most recent show, we received literally tons of positive feedback; our backs are just now getting over the aches and pains of carrying it all. People asked about our next performance, having videos made for people who missed the show, and just generally stroked our fragile egos. Monetary donations are always a harder animal to catch, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. We’ve made big strides, though, and are steadily making our way to the goal we set. You’ve caught our attention :) You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Nagging and stalking have been our main routes to success. Pretend to be interested in other people’s lives, and don’t be afraid to hide in someone’s bushes or linen closet. Think of all the internet and social media attack strategies at your disposal and just go for it. Be playful, witty, and fun when seeking support so that you’re always bringing people entertainment. Even crack dealers know that the first hit should always be free. After that, don’t be afraid to prod; if you don’t seek out donations, no one’s going to do it for you. Most importantly, have confidence that you deserve what you’re asking for, and that if it’s what you really want, you can make it happen. For us, it comes down to honesty, heart, and that slightly offensive joke about nuns that you overheard in the elevator last week. Thank you Rufus Khan team for your funny work and refreshing campaign. Check them out here. -Vlad

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  • May 9, 2011

The Crowdfunding Chocolateers

Chocolate and crowdfunding go together like chocolate and…peanut butter. Crowdfunding is the new peanut butter? Michael Sacco thinks so. This renaissance man is successfully taking his chocolaty aspirations to the crowd. Michael is looking to fund the construction of two machines that are integral to his up-and-coming chocolate factory! I spoke to Michael about his endeavor: What was the inspiration behind the cool invention project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? ChocoSol was started as a research project at the grassroots in Oaxaca Mexico. Our goal is to create an ecological production model for making chocolate that is accessible to people with lots of initiative and only a little capital. Moreover, it is designed to be an example of alternatives to destructive development. The idea is to create beacons of change that utilize ecological agriculture and production methods, and in sharing the delicious and nutritious food products thereby produced to educate and engage people. It is similar to the trade, not aid philosophy of RocketHub, and in this sense we see ourselves as a learning community social enterprise. Experimentation is keep to good crowdfunding. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Honestly, I think we have kind of tapered off. The key to a good crowdfunding is consistantly promoting it. However, some of the cashflow constraints make this difficult. Perhaps a monthly payout would be helpful for small enterprises like ChocoSol. However, I have to say that the site and the idea are fantastic, and the infrastructure and design are very attractive and communicative. Successful crowdfunding takes work - keep at it and you will be successful. Check out this tasty project, here. -Vlad

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  • May 6, 2011

From Argentina with Love and Care

Crowdfunding can be a powerful source of pro-social good. The Por el Barrio Libertad team is proving that social support can be galvanized from across the world. Through RocketHub, this passionate team is helping children in impoverished area of Buenos Aires. Here is how they see it: What was the inspiration behind the international education and support project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Our main motivation in the project is the Barrio Libertad´s children and their ability to access to better opportunities in the present and future through education, art and recreation. Barrio Libertad is a very humble neighborhood of the Buenos Aires province. Nearly seventy families are living there in an unhygienic situation. The homes are dilapidated and without access to key public services. In major cases, the vital needs are not fulfilled. Children face very difficult conditions for development. After an intensive 2010 we are focusing the project on the district’s children. The project mainly aims to set up a place for the children between five and twelve years old, in which they could receive school support, entertainment and supervision. We believe that these first years of life are fundamental. It is critical for them to get tools that allow them to interact and integrate in the society and in an increasingly complex world – a complex world which for sure is difficult, but that also offers new opportunities. RocketHub is one of these opportunities. It is an innovative way that enables us to share our project, to find support, and to make it visible to the world. Something that was impossible to achieve some years ago. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social work in Argentina - how are your supporters responding? Many social projects exist in Argentina, but we believe our project “Por el Barrio Libertad” is innovative. It aims to integrate the physical space with the web space to generate concrete actions that impact children´s life quality. We use social networks to go near more collaborators. We receive support from donors who are part of our circles of contacts, but also from the USA, France and England.  In Argentina, we are pioneers in this area. We confront difficulties with strategy; because in our country people are reluctant to use their credit card online. This use is emerging, for that reason we designed a video explaining how to use the platform. Experiences of this nature will be more frequent in a few years, gradually people will know and trust the system. We invite all Argentines to dare projects!  Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? The platform is not only a presence online, it is a dynamic thing. Design the page on RocketHub to let people know that both the project and the Internet site are transparent and sure - is a first step. Then you have to update the content permanently, to answer and to try to anticipate the reactions you receive. Do not expect donors to come, but go and find them with an active broadcast of the page and the project. Internet allows everyone a fast and easy access to a lot of information. But information must be innovatively clear to be understood and well received. We endeavor to give visibility to projects, and so to realize our dreams! Thank you for taking this brave approach to Argentina. Get involved, here. -Vlad

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  • May 4, 2011

From Italy: Gallo & The Roosters Make a New Sound

Danilo Gallo is looking to make his third record by leveraging the power of a global crowd. He comes to RocketHub all the way from Italy and I had the pleasure to quickly learn a bit more about his campaign: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The music project I’m running on rockethub is basically the band which I lead and for which I write, I compose and arrange everything. So on one hand it is a challenge, on the other hand, it is the natural evolution of my musical point of view, as I’ve already made two albums with this band, and this project will help to make the third one. So it’s very important for my musical growth. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music in Italy - how are your supporters responding? I heard about RocketHub from friends, musicians, and so I was very curious and I find this way of crowdfunding very innovative and “fresh”. The response is quite good, I don’t know if I’m a pioneer, but after me many other musicians and collegues got interested with RocketHub and will try to do the same with their projects. Thanks Danilo for flying with team RocketHub. Check out Danilo’s great music here. -Vlad

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  • April 28, 2011

Skating with a Crowd - A New Way to Fund an Athletic Career

Michelle is a 13-year-old skating talent. Kate is her dedicated, passionate, and supportive mom. Together they have taken the best parts of crowdfunding in order to support Michelle’s career. From Fox Television to prominent figure skating blogs, Michelle and Kate have captured the attention of many new fans and have built incredible momentum. I had the pleasure of chatting with Kate about their awesome campaign: What was the inspiration behind the ice skating project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? I desperately needed to find a way to fund my daughter’s skating career. It is a very expensive sport, and we have very modest means. I was considering more traditional methods of fundraising like a dinner and silent auction, but I had done that before and it is a very labor intensive way to raise money. Then I caught a story on the morning news about crowdfunding, and I decided to do some research. I looked at a number of crowdfunding sites, and settled on RocketHub.I liked the format, the easy to follow directions and the fact that it was not ‘all or nothing’. Plus, it seemed a little more welcoming to diverse projects like our sports oriented one. This project is crucial to keeping my daughter on the ice this year. There may possibly be more money available from sponsors, scholarships and grants as she moves higher in the sport, but at this level there is not a lot of those options.  We’re proud to have you on RocketHub :) How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of sports and in support of your daughter - how are your supporters responding? My experience, and I think I can speak for my daughter as well, has been life changing. I have been profoundly moved by the support we have received from family, friends, and total strangers. We have received money from across the entire country, and support from people in Asia and Europe. How cool is that? I have connected in new ways with relatives and old friends, and made some wonderful new ones. Plus we have shared Michelle’s story with so many people, and now they will be able to follow her career in the coming competitive season. We have amazing supporters. 1100 people have viewed her YouTube video. 63 people have shared her RocketHub page on Facebook, and another 43 have recommended her Fox9 news story. Countless others have shared her page with their email lists, and 4 blogs have connected to her RocketHub page. One friend connected us with the local news, another posted Michelle’s story on a Chinese community forum. We have received donations from $5.00 to $1000, and they are all important to us. We are very grateful for all the help we have received. You have a great story and you’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I think the most important thing to realize is that this is also a lot of work. It cannot happen by itself. It has to be nurtured and continually fed. Every avenue you can think of must be explored and you have to be ready to stretch yourself and step outside your comfort zone. I spend time at least every other day reaching out to more people, updating the page, thanking people, and trying to think of ways to keep it fresh. Just try and remember that your job is to get your story out, far and wide. Everyone who encounters it is free to help or walk away. The more encounters there are, the more yeses there will be. I encourage Creatives to research and reach out to blogs in your area of interest. They can be invaluable. We have recently been contacted by a Korean figure skating blogger who learned about Michelle’s story through another blog that posted about our efforts. He posted a story about her today. So the connections continue to grow. The news story was a big boon to our efforts, also. Even that was a direct result of crowdfunding. A friend of ours is a reporter in Washington, DC. She read our initial posts on FB and thought it made a compelling story so she shared our story with a reporter here in the Twin Cities. That reporter contacted us, and did a great job in telling our story. I am not sure how many people saw the initial airing of our story, but we were able to share it far and wide. It convinced a number of people to give a second time, which completely took me by surprise. Lastly, I would like to say that if I can do this, than just about anyone can. I am 51 years old and while I am not technologically illiterate, this is all new to me. But I was able to take the tools RocketHub offered and use them successfully. You’ve done everything right and worked very intelligently. Thank you Michelle and thank you Kate. Support this project here. -Vlad

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  • April 25, 2011

Vickie Raye Hits the Radio

Vickie Raye has a passion for making good music. Now she is engaging her fans and creating a new record and radio release through the power of the crowd. We caught up with her to get the scoop behind the music. What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? After so many years of putting my music career on hold, for one reason or another, I finally really focused my efforts the last 5 years 100% on my music, initially as a songwriter in Nashville, and now as an artist. It took a lot of time and dedication as a songwriter to really earn the respect of some of the writers I respected and once I started to achieve that someone beckoned the question “why aren’t you an artist? You have a great voice.” Well after some thought, I returned to my “artist” roots and really started attacking the industry with artistry as my focus. I believe that I have something to say and breaking the stereotypical norms of the business became a catalyst for me. So finishing THIS project is different than the rest because it’s totally deliberate. Every song, every production. I didn’t want to just throw  bunch of songs onto a CD and sell it….I realy want to make a statement with this next album. I am older than a lot of artists that people will find now a days and it’s important for me to show that dreams are possible at any age and music has no age limits…Good music is good music, and a great song is a great song….It’s about being REAL…. I am so excited to see what the future holds for me and others like myself; and RocketHub has provided a phenomenal launching pad to really get out there and flying. Rock on! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music in Nashville - how are your supporters responding? Ha ha! I don’t know if anyone can call ME a “pioneer”….but the crowdfunding concept that RocketHub provides is such a unique opportunity I couldn’t pass it up. Many here in town use some of the other companies out there, but something really spoke to me when I discovered RocketHub. I think my supporters are responding well to the “soft launch” so far….we’re getting ready soon to really rev things up and hopefully exceed our goal. Very nice - thank you! Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Great question. My only advice, for what it’s worth, is 1.) to really take the time to THINK about the rewards you’re offering and give possible supporters something that they can’t get anywhere else, 2.) Don’t be scared to just take the chance and see what happens (you have nothing to lose with RocketHub) 3.) You have to believe in your project 150% and trust that your passion will translate and be contagious to the possible supporters. and lastly, enjoy the whole ride no matter where it takes you! Thank you Vickie for your music and inspirational campaign. Check out her songs here. -Vlad

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  • April 22, 2011

Summer Schlock: Where 1977 is Here Again

Summer Schlock is a seven-chacacter, ensemble-driven, backstage musical comedy set during one wild week at a summer stock theatre in that glorious year – 1977. Wow! Kevin Carter has led an outstanding crowdfunding campaign to bring Summer Schlock to an NYC staged reading. We caught up with him and chatted about his partnership with director Andy Sandberg (Tony Award: HAIR) and the journey that’s brought them to RocketHub. What was the inspiration behind the musical theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Summer Schlock is important to me because it is the first show where I’m writing the whole thing from scratch. There is no source material, it’s not based on a movie, so it will all succeed or fail on my shoulders. This is also the first time I’m doing a reading without a theatre company (Ergo Theatre company produced the readings of my first two shows.) and I want to prove I can do it on my own and get the right people in to see it. It’s amazing when I’m the one putting the money together, I’m so much more gung-ho about making sure this reading succeeds and leads to the next step! Of course, I also have the talented (and Tony-winning) Andy Sandberg on board as director and he has such an amazing eye and gets the feel of the piece (even though I do have to explain some of the 70’s references from time to time…which doesn’t make me feel old at all!). The inspiration behind the show was severalfold (if that’s even a word). After my last show, which was a big 19 actor, full orchestra, lots of sets, lots of kids, flying, etc, after all that, I wanted to scale it back. I’ve always loved backstage comedies. Noises Off, the first time I saw it, literally exhausted me from laughing so hard.  So I wanted to do something like that. I love and grew up musically in the 70’s (my first concert was Captain & Tennille) and a cast member once coined a word to describe my ‘sound’, “Kevinties”. And I love big, brassy broads and hunky shirtless men. So, put that all together and, voila! That sounds like a wild ride. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of theatre - how are your supporters responding? This is my first time ever doing anything like this and I’m really amazed at the response. The people from my distant past that just see it on Facebook and donate, people I didn’t even reach out to personally! And the size of the donations floors me. I was expecting lots of $20 and $50, but those are in the minority. I had to get over feeling like I was ‘begging’, and as you say on your site, make it feel like it’s giving people the opportunity to be part of something fun. Crowdfunding is a very powerful mechanism. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Well, I have to give credit to my amazing friends and family first. And a big shout-out to my former co-workers and employers, they make up about half the contributors. But to start, I just followed the advice on your site. I reached out to the most likely supporters first and broke the emails up into groups; ‘co-workers’, ‘former co-workers’, ‘family’, ‘former cast members’, ‘friends’ and sent out tailored emails to each group gradually over the course of about 5 days. Then I’d thank the contributors on Facebook with a link to the site. Then about a week in, I sent a ‘progress report’ to all those groups, not asking for more money, just saying ‘hey look where we are’. I also changed the song link on the site so there’d be something new to come to the site for. Thank you Kevin! We can’t wait to see this hit the stage - get involved here. -Vlad

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  • April 20, 2011

Community-Based Web Design Comes To Life in Philadelphia

The dream is to design and build (along with its partner Shopify site) all in one 10-hour Site Nite work session. The event will be brought to life by PhilaMade’s amazing community of volunteer members, video and photo archived, and tweeted/blogged to give onlookers a live peak into a grand experiment. The man behind the plan and uber-successful crowdfunding campaign is Philadelphia-native, Joe Rinaldi. PhilaMade is dedicated to to celebrating, inspiring and cultivating creative brilliance in the Philadelphia community and we spoke to Joe about his process: What was the inspiration behind the community programming project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Our RocketHub project was inspired by the grassroots creative organization I’ve been fortunate enough to help launch over the past two years, PhilaMade. PhilaMade is an organization dedicated to celebrating, inspiring and cultivating creative brilliance in the Philadelphia community. Our membership consists of designers, developers, writers and other folks from the advertising and design community in the Philadelphia area. We host a full slate of programming, ranging from happy hours, to professional development events including town hall meetings, Show & Tell, and round table discussions to karaoke. While our organization has grown tremendously over the last 18 months, and we enjoy an amazing online dialog via Twitter  (@PhilaMade) and Facebook, we have no web presence of our own to date. We’ve been our own worst client… It seemed anticlimactic to merely launch a site after all this time, so we raised the stakes creating a grand experiment. Site Nite was born.  On Site Nite, a handful of designers, developers, UX, project management and content folks, all hailing from a variety of creative teams, are going to walk into a room. After one full 8 hour work session, hopefully all of those same folks will walk out again (some limping I’m sure) along with a freshly minted PhilaMade web site. We’re going to document the experience in a variety of ways and publish those accounts to the site.  What can some seriously talented folks, working collaboratively, accomplish in one fell swoop? We’ll soon see. You’ve built a whole community around this project. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of web development in the Philly area - how are your supporters responding? The response from the RocketHub team, from our membership, and from the larger audience RocketHub delivered, has been overwhelming. We shattered our goal within two days of launch, and continue to be fueled by generous supporters as we pass the halfway mark of our project. RocketHub gave us a platform to communicate both directly with our group’s constituency, as well as a larger, interested audience.   As a result of this groundswell of support, we’ve started to identify additional functionality for the site that will go live in subsequent phases, as well as begun investigating other opportunities for PhilaMade to fund future events and projects, all fueled by our growing RocketHub funds. Every penny collected over our goal will be put to good use. Thank you for your kind words. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I think it is important to identify a well defined project goal that will by its nature, excite your audience. I’m going to do ‘something’ awesome, is a pretty hollow promise. Awesome gifts are a good enticement, but creating a goal people are passionate about is more helpful. Creating excitement about the acheivability of this goal raises the stakes, and exponentially increases engagement.  When designing a crowdfunding community based project, make sure it is something your community wants, and present it to them in an exciting way. Thank you Joe for bringing your inspired community to RocketHub. Check out this successful project, here. -Vlad

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  • April 18, 2011

Crowdfunding Neighborly Love in Seattle

Crowdfunding can be a powerful force for social good. Whether its entire communities or particular individuals, the RocketHub process moves people to act, support, and spread the love. Berit Anderson is the Managing Editor of, a Seattle area arts, opinion and lifestyle blogging hub for local writers. But she is fundraising support for her talented neighbor. We’ll let Berit tell the story: What was the inspiration behind the cool philanthropy project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? My neighbor Mike has always been what one would call a “good neighbor”— lending his truck for moving projects, dropping by with a pint of blueberries on a summer day, sprawling on his stomach on our living room floor in an attempt to help us fix our faulty furnace — so when he fell out of a tree this winter, breaking two vertebrae in his back and both his wrists, I knew I wanted to help. He’s a pruner, and winter is his slow season anyway, so he was already low on cash when the accident happened.  At the time, he was in a hospice program, so I figured the most helpful thing I could do was to raise money for his rent when he got out. His doctors said he probably wouldn’t be able to work again until July. I had used crowdsourcing to finance a rather exorbitant Christmas present for my boyfriend in just a few hours, so I knew it could be really effective.  I grew up on a small island in Washington State, so I’m a big believer in the power of community. My childhood was dotted with fundraisers for sick or injured islanders, or for those who had lost their homes or belongings in fires. Living in the city, it’s harder to organize those kinds of events, but sites like RocketHub make it easy to mobilize a large group of people around a common problem or goal.  Sounds like you’re a good neighbor :) How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the name of neighborly love - how are your supporters responding? Most of Mike’s immediate neighbors donated at a fundraising pizza party, so this site is targeted towards other supporters in the neighborhood or friends and clients of Mikes, who might not have been able to make the party. Which is a much tougher group to market to.  Response was initially very good, with several funders popping up right away, but has since dropped off. So my biggest challenge as I go ahead will be keeping the site in the public eye and making sure new people are learning about it.  Keeping momentum is key and can be tricky. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Use outside sources to spread the word. Simply setting up a project won’t necessarily get you much response. We invited the editor of our local neighborhood blog to the benefit pizza party. The next week, the blog ran a story about Mike with a link to our RocketHub page. Instant publicity.  Make sure you communicate the importance of giving to your project in any amount. You don’t want potential donors to feel their smaller gifts won’t make a difference. In the end, they add up! Thank you for your public support and neighborly love. Check out Berit’s benevolent project here. -Vlad

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  • April 15, 2011