Now that Holly has convinced you that you should be thinking about an ad campaign for your good cause, you’re probably asking yourself: How do I do it? To follow up on her recent post, I wanted to share some lessons we learned from the LoudSauce campaign I ran for Uniting NC last fall.

The campaign was a big boost to Uniting NC’s profile. We raised $3500 for a statewide billboard campaign that reminded North Carolinians of the values they share with their immigrant neighbors. The billboards themselves attracted a huge amount of media attention, with dozens of stories in local, regional, and even national outlets like The Huffington Post.

If you’re considering your own crowdfunded ads, here are three things to think about:

  1. Shorter campaigns have more momentum. Campaigns raise most of their money at the beginning, when there’s a new story to tell, or at the end, when the pressure of the funding deadline creates a sense of urgency. There’s not as much to talk about in the middle of a campaign, so why not shorten it? We ran a three-week campaign (based on the advice of a guy named Craig Mod, who wrote a great case study of his own Kickstarter project), and it worked well for us.
  2. Don’t ask for anything less than $25. Almost half of the donations to the campaign came in the form of $25 donations—we offered everyone who donated that amount a poster of one of the ads. Asking for anything less from your supporters is setting the bar too low. Another quarter of our donations came in the form of $100 pledges, so it’s probably worth including that as an option in your campaign as well, and higher pledge levels (we used $250), will make $100 seem more doable for your supporters.
  3. The money raised isn’t the most important thing. It might not even be the second most important thing—that’s probably the media attention that the billboards earned. The most important thing is the chance to connect with new supporters willing to amplify your message—and who are ready to put their money where their mouths are. Uniting NC saw a 5% bump in their email list through the campaign, and more than half of the donations to the campaign came from new supporters.

That’s the big lesson of the Uniting NC campaign: the ads are only a means to an end. Sure, it’s nice to have a way to share your messages directly with a wider audience, but that’s only the beginning. A smart earned media strategy can leverage even a small ad buy into a much bigger story.  Even better, a good ad funded through LoudSauce can attract new support for your cause from people who want to publicly associate themselves with your message. That’s the kind of support that money just can’t buy.

For more lessons learned from the Uniting NC campaign, check out the full case study.

(Image courtesy Flickr user elycefeliz)

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HeathHeath Wickline is a raconteur at LightBox Collaborative and hopes your crowd finds you.