Success Story: Harvard undergrads raise $34k with Freedom Fundraiser on Givebutter to combat racial injustice

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Success Story: Harvard undergrads raise $34k with Freedom Fundraiser on Givebutter to combat racial injustice

In this video, Jasi from the Freedom Fundraiser Collective shares how a team of Harvard undergrads came together to raise over $34k through student art-making and faculty gift-matching. She also explains what inspired them to host a variety show on Givebutter Livestream to showcase student artists and support organizations combating racial injustice across America. Plus, Jasi reveals:

  • Why they used Givebutter not only as fundraising platform, but as a hub for community
  • How surprisingly easy it was to get started with Givebutter
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for creating campaign pages and setting up team fundraising
“I think something that I personally like about Givebutter is that it's very easy to understand… Compared to GoFundMe and other websites I found, there seems to be a slightly overwhelming amount of information, whereas this felt very simple and straightforward.”

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everybody, Rachel here with Givebutter. Thank you for joining for another Success Story that is sure to inspire. We are featuring Freedom Fundraiser today which was originally crafted by Harvard undergrads, and they were able to raise–in their first campaign–over $14,000 on a creative Livestream that we're going to hear more about. They raised that to benefit ongoing protests and organizations that are combating racial and gender injustice. Afterwards, students challenged Harvard faculty to gift-match and all together, they were able to raise over $34,000. Since then, it has evolved into something equally as inspiring and beautiful. I have here with me Jasi, who is going to share more about what is Freedom Fundraiser today: their message and mission and all the exciting events that they're putting on. She's also going to share what made them turn to Givebutter for their fundraising efforts, tips, tricks, and lessons learned. So if you are fundraising and you're watching this and you are looking for inspiration, you are going to find it and be able to put it right to good use, especially if you're a student. So Jasi, thank you so much for representing and joining us today.

Jasi: Yeah! Thank you for having me. I guess I'll just start by talking about Freedom Fundraiser, a little bit. So the Freedom Fundraiser Collective is now like our official name and we are sort of honestly figuring things out as we go. But we have kind of determined that what our mission is, is to sort of bring together artists and activists to sort of use art-making as a tool that empowers people to make change. I think a large part of our mission is invested in fundraising. Ultimately, we're not really interested in, creating art as much as we are in using art to raise money for important causes that we believe in: causes that are invested in Black liberation and causes that are just ultimately working hard on the ground to invest in and save and support communities across America. So in that sense, that's kind of where we started off and where we're growing to. I think we began by using our own collegiate network to kind of just tap into people's pockets honestly. People that we know people who maybe aren't certain about where specifically to donate and kind of helping being that middleman between people who have resources and want to help but maybe don't quite have the information or knowledge to help and the people that need those resources. We kind of see ourselves as a bit of a bridge in that sense.

Rachel: So walk us back to about a month ago when you were launching your first Freedom Fundraiser. I want to know the backstory, you know, where were you sitting when you had that moment of inspiration? Let's start this Freedom Fundraiser. How did it all start?

Jasi: Yeah, well, truthfully, two other members of our team, Freddie Shanel and Sabrina Wu, were having a conversation and they kind of came to this conclusion of wanting to host a variety show online. It's something they had experience with as stand-up comics. They've done, you know in this Zoom era we’ve all been doing new things, but they had done this a little bit before. They reached out to an arts group that a lot of our now members are a part of and asked if anyone was interested in helping organize a show around raising money for Black Lives Matter. So this was like the day after I think Trump's tweet about shooting and looting, and people were feeling… everyone was feeling just stressed and concerned. I personally remember thinking I just don't really know what to do anymore as someone who is basically quarantining at home and didn't really know what my role could be in sort of supporting movements like this. I was very interested in putting on a show. I thought it would be helpful. We decided to do kind of like a blitz show moment and we put it together in 24 hours, we texted a bunch of people we knew to perform. Like pub, pub, pub endlessly on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. We ended up having a really good turnout. We had around 300 people in our Zoom; we actually capped out our Zoom capacity. And then we had about 175 people watching on Facebook live, so it was like a nice large community effort. We were able to raise $10,000 during the call and over the course of the rest of the night in the following days we made an additional $4000. But yeah, that was kind of how that initially started. It was a very cool moment of collaboration and being able to use our skills as artists. I think most of our team is comprised of art-makers, whether they're writers or actors or singers, I myself am a filmmaker. Being able to use that talent for good I think was a huge part of why we were able to be so successful.

Rachel: It's just so inspiring to me that you were all able to come together and do that so quickly. It just sounds like it was a really beautiful first night of many that were to come, probably little did you know that the 24 hours before. So why don't you tell our community some of the organizations that you were supporting in that first fundraiser.

Jasi: Yeah, for sure! The first fundraiser we initially were going to give to four organizations but we ended up giving only to three because the Minnesota Freedom Fund was requesting that people stop donating; they had made so much money from online campaigns. There was a Twitter campaign–I don’t know, you may have seen this–but people were basically screenshotting their donations asking people to match, so that campaign was really helpful for them. But the other groups that we chose to donate to were the Louisville Bail Fund, which is another bail fund for freeing people who have been arrested during protests. Then we also gave to a group called Reclaim the Block, which is an organization that is sort of dedicated to reframing communities’ ideas around policing and is invested in sort of reorganizing people's understanding of what it means to have a community that supports itself, rather than a community that is sort of being policed and arrested. So the “reclaim the block” I think, is a metaphor referring to like reclaiming our community. Then the final, the fourth group we were donating to was the Black Visions Collective, which is a group that's invested in supporting and inspiring the next generation of political leaders and helping people come into their own communities and work on creating local activist movements.

Rachel: Very cool. For all those who are watching or reading along, we're definitely going to link to all those charities. If you still want to give or follow along or learn more about them we will definitely link to those. So what inspired the gift-match because that just made me smile when you launched that campaign - this is awesome. Why have other students not thought of this? It's brilliant! So what inspired that challenge to Harvard faculty?

Jasi: Well again, what I think works really well for Freedom Fundraiser is just sort of the team effort that we have. So another member of our team, Emily Orr, she had watched the initial show and she reached out to us and had a brilliant idea of just like expanding this to the greater Harvard network. I think, truthfully, in hindsight it makes a lot of sense because something about being in our age group of relatively young, like college-age students makes people kind of react more directly to our actions. I think there's something inherently inspiring about young people being able to do this kind of work. And so by basically using our story we essentially just were like, “Hey, if we can do this, if we can raise $14k in a day, you also can.” The average donation of our initial campaign was like $16 a person. So essentially we were asking the faculty to do the same, and if they all did it, we would probably be able to make another $10,000. And they ended up obviously exceeding that; they raised like $19,000–almost $20,000 on their own. By just giving what they could and they were a lot of really generous donations, and I think people were passing it around to their fellow coworkers. It was just nice on Givebutter to track and see which of my professors had donated. It was just really thoughtful, and I thought it was a really good moment from them.

Rachel: Yeah! So I just pulled up your campaign for everybody to get a visual of what it looks like when you invited the faculty to participate. When I was looking, I noticed on your donor scroll the messages that were left by some of the faculty. You could tell that people were really engaged and moved by the students and wanted to follow suit, which is really beautiful. So for those who are following along, again, you can click and read all these messages and feel really hopeful and inspired by what's going on and link to all these different charities as well. So speaking of your Givebutter page, what made your team turn to Givebutter specifically?

Jasi: Truthfully, we were just unsure of the most legal way to raise money. Like I said, the first one was done in 24 hours, and we were sort of scrambling about how long it would take to set up certain types of accounts, or did we need to hire someone–we were pretty stressed. Then someone mentioned Givebutter as a platform that they had used before. We thought that because they knew how to set it up we would kind of just leave it into their hands. Carissa Chen is her name, and yeah it worked out great! I think something that I personally like about Givebutter is that it's very easy to understand. It's pretty straightforward that you can just click the donate button. Compared to like GoFundMe and other sort of websites I found, there to be like a slightly overwhelming amount of information, whereas this felt very just simple and straightforward. I also like that you have the option to use a lot of different payment methods on Givebutter. So it felt like a way to sort of be the most kind of catch-all for anyone who wanted to donate and give.

Rachel: Did you find that some of your supporters utilized those digital wallets? (Google Pay, Apple Pay, Venmo?)

Jasi: I think most people probably used card. I haven't actually studied the analytics that much, but I do believe that just having a central link with like a really easy URL was certainly helpful for people to do it on their phones or do it from their computers. Probably some people did use Apple Pay and Google Pay because just having the option to.

Rachel: Yeah, it's just nice to have that option for people. Make it easy, right? Let's make it easy - what's the quickest way that we can get this up and running? So it sounds like [with] Givebutter, you knew someone that used it and they had a good experience, but also you needed something that could get up and running quickly and easily. And it did that for you, which I'm glad to hear. So how was your experience actually using Givebutter? Once you got it up and running, how was that for you?

Jasi: It was great. I mean, I love being able to copy paste the link. It’s a link that I can memorize, so it's really easy to say to people, text to people. You know, I can put it on Twitter, we can put it in bios and I like that. Our campaign uses both Venmo and Givebutter, and it was nice that even if the Venmo’s close that Givebutter can live on. People can still trickle in donations, even if they find your campaign late. After like three days after the show, they can still type in the address. Also I think it makes people feel sort of secure, like it's just nice to be able to track progress in this way, and also feels kind of just like a little hub for this community to sort of gather.

Rachel: Right, one easy place. You mentioned hub, and since this first fundraiser you've gone on to create other beautiful campaign pages as well, and they're able to be housed in one place. And I noticed that you're taking full use of that. Is there one of these campaigns that you want me to click on and maybe you can share a little bit more about?

Jasi: Sure, if you want to click on the Pride one I guess. What kind of things should I highlight?

Rachel: I would love to hear, you know, as you're going into – was this your second campaign that you used Givebutter for?

Jasi: Pride yeah, Pride was like our second live show that we personally hosted.

Rachel: So I'm wondering for your second one, you know, what were your lessons learned? What did you do differently or the same when you went to create your second campaign?

Jasi: I mean obviously we changed the picture. I think it was honestly pretty much the same as the first process. I think it was just a matter of picking a hash–not hashtag, a URL that's more relevant to the show. This show was particularly in benefit for Pride Month, and so we used Givebutter.com/Pride. To me I’ve always found that I love when a name matches the theme. I think we also worked a little bit harder on our story this time because it felt like we had just a space to sort of flesh things out. And in this case, we really wanted to highlight the deaths of Black trans individuals. I think that makes people just remember what the point of all of this is, ultimately. One thing about Freedom Fundraiser that I think is important is that we always are emphasizing everything that we're doing and everything we’re creating is ultimately in service of real causes and real orgs that are supporting real people. And it's not just a cute thing the college kids are up to. So I think it's nice to be able to have the story space to kind of emphasize that for people.

Rachel: Right, yeah, it's making a real difference and it adds, like you said, kind of a sense of credibility maybe. When you go to the page, you get to share the whole story. It's not just a link with a donate button, but there's more to it. People can really connect with your message and what you're about. I also noticed that I think GLITS also has a Givebutter fundraiser as well that is really beautiful. So if you go to Givebutter.com/Explore you will be able to see that campaign as well. So for those that are also following along, I'm wondering for them, let's say they are new to Givebutter. What would you say are some of your tips, tricks, lessons learned, words of wisdom for them if they're, where do I get started? What would you say to them?

Jasi: I would initially say that it's just easier than you think. I was initially hesitant. I really put all the work into someone else's hands, like I can't handle this. I don't know how to do accounting. But as soon as she kind of walked me through it, I was like, “Oh!” You just name your campaign and then you click what type of fundraising you want to be doing, either a couple options, I believe. Then that's kind of it. Everything else that gets added, whether it's like adding a photo or changing a URL, is optional. You could even just start from just making a campaign, as long as it has a name, you could go. Then I think another thing that we hope to utilize in our next campaign is that you can also have certain team members listed on the bottom of different campaigns, so that you can kind of keep track. In our case, we want to give artists the power to choose the organizations that they are donating to, whether it's like a local cause they believe in or something that reflects their identity in a powerful way. But in order to do that all under one campaign, we were sort of confused about the best way to organize that. But then we realized that Givebutter has the option to do “I'm donating specifically to this team members campaign,” or in this case to this artist’s campaign, so that that money can be automatically divided and sorted and then properly donated to the orgs as specified by the artists.

Rachel: Right, yeah. It's a lot of coordinating but it seems like you've made that process pretty seamless. So, to close, what is the future of the Freedom Fundraiser Collective?

Jasi: Yeah! We're just trying to go big. We are really excited about continuing to do this sort of work and continue building this community of artists. We have another show on on July 11th,  it's going to be an IG live sort of format, so it'll be a little bit different than the previous shows we've done, but just continuing to use this virtual space that we have right now, continuing to perform and showcase work by artists, and that work is dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement. Yeah that's kind of where we're headed. We'll just try to see how much money we can make ultimately.

Rachel: That’s amazing, I mean what you've already been able to do is incredible. It's exciting to think about the future for what your collective will do, and on behalf of the Givebutter community I just want to say thank you again for joining us, for inspiring us with the incredible work that you're doing. We cannot wait to keep following and supporting you and cheering you on the whole way.

Jasi: Yeah, of course! And again, thank you again for inviting me. And thank you for doing what you're doing, keeping this platform open for people to do good in the world.

Rachel: Thank you!

View campaign: Freedom Fundraiser

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Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.