How to Write a Successful Microproject

How to Write a Successful Microproject

Marc Serna is a current GlobalGiving Ambassador for Cameroon. Our amazing Ambassadors are individuals working on our nonprofit partners’ teams that apply to represent GlobalGiving in their respective countries for a year. They foster and grow their nonprofit community through activities such as hosting workshops, meet-ups of local GlobalGiving partners, and conducting visits. Marc shared the following insights with us. 

In late 2014, Reach Out Cameroon gave our first try of the microproject tool. We wanted to pay for the special education of a little child, Thelma, the daughter of one of the young entrepreneurs whom we support. Thelma happens to be deaf and her education was too expensive for her mother. Today she is on her second year, and Reach Out has written and funded more than 10 microprojects. We want to share what we learned while doing it.

What is good about microprojects? Microprojects have a special status; they quickly rise to top positions of GlobalGiving’s ranking. Thelma’s own project was #25 when we submitted it. If you go to GlobalGiving and go to “find a project” and “most popular” you will open a page with 20 projects on it. Any organization, no matter how small, can now make it to the first page, several of our microprojects have been ranked number #1.

Why is it good to make it to the first page? It gives you access to what we call “passer-by donors”, people that browse on GlobalGiving, see your microproject and decide to give, without previously knowing your organization at all. This is radically different to our traditional source:  former volunteers who had been in the field and went back to her country promoting our projects among friends and relatives. I hope you are seeing the potential; microprojects allow you to quickly and easily expand your donor base beyond your previous limits.

Quick and easy does not mean  effortless, there are a few guidelines we follow based on our experience. We can say that Thelma started a revolution in Reach Out. We hope giving out these tips will extend that revolution further on.

1. PLAN YOUR MICROPROJECT: Create a nice project to upload. You can always put more effort in fundraising but if the project is bad from the root it will be hard to change.

2/3 rule. Projects that are (1) personal, (2)sustainable and can get (3) high impact are funded way more quickly. Sometimes you cannot have everything, but should at least have 2 of these 3 aspects. Thelma’s project for example was highly personal and full of impact, but not that sustainable, so we mentioned a compromise to empower the mother and gradually make her contribute more to her schooling costs.

Don’t be negative: Just don’t, there’s always another side to any story, if you don’t see it you are not looking hard enough. Drama won’t increase donations, although a well-composed sense of urgency will. Find what is positive about the people you work for, and how they can do so much with just a bit of help.

Tie it well with your main project: This will help a lot during implementation. For example, we empower women with one project and our microprojects tend to be about a particular individual we want to help more, in the same location. We just take time to tell her story better. This connects with our normal activities without adding us too much work, which can be critical if you have limited staff or if you only obtain half of your funding goal. (You have only 90 days!)

2. GETTING TO THE FIRST PAGE: Rankings are influenced by 5 factors: Responsiveness to donors, number of donations, volume of donations, closeness to goal, and bonus if you have a microproject.

Secure initial donations: Projects are more attractive if people see that someone else has already trusted you with their money, and they also rank higher. Before you upload the project, it is good to have a friend of the organization already agreeing to donate a small quantity of money. You should aim to have at least something between 40 dollars and 100 dollars coming from your mobilizing efforts, the rest will come out of visibility. Many small donors are better than one single big donation, so small is good.

Be clever when asking for these donations, explain the details, you are asking for a donation that will multiply! If someone gives you 10 dollars to secure your microproject he is actually allowing you to access the other hundreds of dollars that will come from unknown donors, these are high-impact donations.

Besides reaching to friends you can also write articles to share in websites and blogs, sometimes the different nature of your project will help you find unusual friends. Thelma’s story, for example, has been published in a site specialized in deaf news.

You can definitely use social media but you don’t need to do massive emails to your donor list, you don’t want to tire them, your main project still needs support.

Small money: Big budgets score lower and are not as attractive. You should be able to spot opportunities for your supported communities ranging from $200 to $800, microprojects are not for everything. You could update the project once a bit of money is secured, but it should make sense and you must also update the description explaining how you are increasing the scope of the project (number of people assisted, extra help..).

Wait: Microproject ranking bonuses go from 0 to 50% and it’s our experience that they don’t really go to their full potential till some time has passed. If by the first month you have a few donations, you will see how exactly at day 30 the project jumps dramatically.

ONCE YOU ARE IN THE FIRST PAGE: Congratulations. Now you have visibility, but if you have been in the first ranks for weeks and no donation has come it means that people are seeing your project and choosing to not click on it, or reading it and choosing to not donate. Maybe…

A) The people have spoken; your project is not that good. Is it sustainable, personal and high-impact? Try to spin your microproject, maybe it’s actually all those things but the write up does not show it

B) The project is fine but the writing and pictures can be improved. Work on it more, get better pictures, and have someone else read it and give you inputs. Don’t be afraid of changing even the title.

C) Seasonality. There are periods where people give less. If you are in a “dry” period practice your patience, don’t be changing your project write up every 4 days. (If you are on an experimenting mood allow at least weeks, and be checking the analytics page in your dashboard to see your number of visitors)

We hope these tips are useful and encourage organizations to try it out. Thanks for reading!

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