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Best birthday ever: Raise $1,350 for charity by crowdfunding

Best birthday ever: Raise $1,350 for charity by crowdfunding
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I stumbled across Joe Nelson’s birthday freebie trek while scouring the internet to see what others had done for their birthdays. Just like him, I wanted to celebrate my birthday in a more meaningful way to make a positive impact in someone’s life.

A couple weeks before my big 2-8, I ran a crowdfund campaign called Soap & Soup Drive raising $1,350 from contributors in 6 different states. At the same time, I networked with non-profit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Auburn Food Bank along with for-profit companies, Choice Hotels and Aveda.

Utilizing the contributions and network together, I donated close to 13,000 hygiene products, 35,000 disposable utensils, 576 rolls of toilet paper, and 270 pounds of food to 3 local food banks serving 3,000 needy individuals.

The cost per hygiene item averaged out to 8 cents and overall cost per item to 3 cents. Not only did the donations help the needy, but the contributors also received tax deductions for their contributions to my crowdfund.

I did ask for product donations, which was only 3% of the acquired hygiene items, but my primary approach to acquire thousands of items was through negotiations and finding bargain deals. My goal was to maximize donation quantity by minimizing costs to reach out to as many needy individuals.

Here’s how I focused on cost savings with my Soap & Soup Drive…

Crowdfunding: What is it?

Crowdfunding is a way of raising funds by asking numerous people online for their contributions. I’ve seen various crowdfunds campaigns raising money for everything from making potato salad to building restaurants. There are a many crowdfund sites that you can use for fundraising purposes, but be aware of their fee structures.  Here are just a few crowdfund sites with their fees:

  • Kickstarter – 5% + 3~5% processing fee (No personal fundraising allowed)
  • Indiegogo – 9% if goal isn’t reached, 5% if goal reached + 3% processing fee.
  • Startsomegood – 5% + payment processing fee 3%
  • Crowdrise – 5% + 5% processing fee
  • Tilt – 2.5% + 2.5% processing fee
  • Gofundme – 5% + 2.9% processing fee + $0.30 fee

I chose Tilt for 2 reasons. First, they presented the lowest fees compared to their competitors. Second, when I reached out to them, they sent a promo code “TILTDOWNFORWHAT” that eliminated their 2.5% commission fee. They sent me a free stylish T-shirt too! Overall, Tilt had by far the lowest cost structure.

Just by conducting a bit of research before selecting my crowdfund platform and contacting the crowdfund site via social network (i.e. Facebook or Twitter), I saved at least $67.60 (5% of $1350). Don’t hesitate to ask if there are any promo codes, because it can save you a few bucks and only takes a few minutes of your time to ask.

Also, I partnered with my local food bank, the Auburn Food Bank so that the contributors can claim tax deductions. In order to qualify for tax deductions, the donations must be sent to a legal organized charity. IRS Publication 526 on Charitable Contributions states that contributions to a specific individual cannot be deducted for tax purposes. All contributions made to my crowdfund were directly deposited to the Auburn Food Bank while I maintained discretion over the funds.

Networking/Partnering for charity

I asked for hygiene item donations from countless companies, and out of all them, Aveda and Choice Hotels gladly contributed a few hundred hygiene products to the drive. Don’t be afraid to ask for donations and don’t take each “No” as a defeat, rather take it as a step that will lead you to a “Yes.”

Partnering with Seattle’s Habitat for Humanity (HFH) mutually benefit our causes. HFH’s network led me to find additional supplies at favorable prices for the Soap & Soup Drive, and in return I contributed to their mission.

Negotiating and finding bargain deals

When my crowdfund initially raised only a few hundred dollars, I was worried that I wouldn’t hit my 3,000 hygiene item donation goal. But as the donations rolled in reaching over $1,000, bulk purchasing gradually became my strategy since I knew that I would comfortably hit my initial goal. Instead of solely focusing on a quantity goal, I shifted my attention toward cost per unit. The thought was, “How far can we stretch a dollar?”

If you go to your local retail store, the average price of travel size soap, toothpaste, or toothbrush is about $1. If you buy in bulk, you can shave 25% or up to 50% off that price. However, you must buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of goods and be aware of exorbitant shipping charges that are added during checkout.

Bulk shipping within the contiguous states can cost more than $50 depending on the weight of the cargo, but I was fortunate to find free shipping promotions. Subscribe to wholesalers’ newsletters and use the search functions on auction sites to show only free shipping items. I saved over $80 (+15% of purchase price) from one purchase just by inquiring about their promotion on the wholesaler’s newsletter.

Always ask to see if you can negotiate the price before purchasing. I negotiated a $45 discount (+10% of purchase price) before finalizing a transaction on a batch of hygiene goods. There will be times where the seller won’t budge, but it’s better to simply ask than to not even try.

Use substitutes to your advantage. One of the food banks had requested sporks, but I found that a local wholesaler had spoons and forks on sale. There was a 20% price difference and I used that to our advantage. If I bought the sporks, I would have had only donated 27,000 utensils, but having found the sale items, I increased the quantity to 35,000 — a 30% increase in quantity.

All in all, by negotiating, networking, and searching for deals, I saved around $300 (+20%) of the crowdfund donations and minimized my costs per unit well below bulk prices. As a result, the remaining funds were used to donate 576 rolls of toilet paper, utensils, and about 100 jars of peanut butter that were requested by the food banks.

Joe Nelson’s deed inspired me to do something on my birthday. I challenge those out there to do something good on your birthday to make a difference for someone else and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

About the author: Ryan Kim is the founder of Soap & Soup Drive. He is also an amateur travel hacker.