A Thank You, and Thoughts on Raising Money in the Pagan Community

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 26, 2013 — 6 Comments

We did it. On Friday morning, I awoke to the emails that told me that our Fall Funding Drive had raised its goal, and even surpassed it a little bit. That means this site is funded for another year, and we can pay our columnists and contributors in the process. It’s a principle that I think is very important in our community, one that I feel is necessary if we’re going to build professional-level media organizations within our diverse and broad-based movement. My ultimate hope is that our success here points towards others replicating it. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, I crave the emergence of a real Pagan news ecosystem, because it is only within such an ecosystem that a larger ethos of journalism and commentary can emerge.

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Sites like Pam Grossman’s Phantasmaphile, Sarah Veale’s Invocatio, Carl Neal’s Pent O’clock News, and the eponymous A Bad Witch’s Blog in the UK, along with seasoned journalistic campaigners like PNC-Minnesota, show that there are many topics and areas of focus that need coverage, that explore areas I can only skim the surface of. Commentary and debate, especially within a religious movement, is easy to come by, but for those conversations to progress, for us to move ourselves forward on any number of important (and contentious) issues requires basic informational reporting. Journalism is the launchpad of discourse, bother internally, and externally. Which is why other religions have devoted a lot of time and resources to journalistic vehicles that serve their own communities. To put it simply, journalism shapes how we interact with the world, and ultimately, how the world interacts with us.

So again, my deepest thanks to the individuals and groups who donated to make this happen. Not knowing how long it would take us to raise the needed money, I gave our site the full allotted amount of time, 45 days, which means the campaign will remain open for nearly a month to come. I’ll won’t plug the campaign any longer, but I will leave the links and side-banner up so that folks who haven’t had a chance to donate can still participate if they wish. Once the campaign officially ends I will enact all the “perks,” including the links. I will also remove all the links and underwriters who didn’t renew (once their year is up). So again, if you want to be a part of this campaign, please do so during this window so we can work on an orderly schedule. We will, of course, be open to organizational ads and underwriters throughout the year, and we thank the amazing groups and companies who have pledged their support in previous months.

Before I close out this post, I want to touch quickly on raising money within the Pagan community. Over the past few years, as the rise of crowdfunding sites made the process of raising money easier, many Pagan individuals and organizations have tried their hand at raising funds. Everything from libraries, to plays, to albums, to tarot decks. Some have been wildly successful, and others not so much so. Under the aegis of The Wild Hunt, I have run several funding campaigns now, and I’d like to share some brief “tips” that perhaps go outside the general advice given to those embarking on a crowdfunding campaign.

Hell Money, the kind burned at The Ghost Festival. Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

Money! Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

  • Expect a very small percentage of your followers/readers/members to donate. The Wild Hunt has a lot of readers, and a lot of traffic. Since leaving Patheos, my traffic has grown to a point where I’ve had to upgrade our hosting package, or else risk overage fees. On Facebook, we have over 16,000 “likes.” You would think, with a huge profile like that, raising $10,000 dollars would be a day’s work. A small amount from a tiny fraction of my readers. However, our campaign was successful because fewer than 300 groups and individuals decided to donate. Many of those donors gave above lower perk levels, and the last 10-15% came predominately from bigger donors. This is not to say that the $5 donations weren’t appreciated, they were, but they weren’t coming in large enough numbers to ensure a successful campaign. So when you plan a campaign, ask yourself, would it succeed if less than 10% of your readership/membership donated? If you are going to rely on small-dollar donations, will you have the stamina, donor perks, and engagement to reach them?
  • Utilize social media. Practically everyone is using social media these days, and you need to have an active social footprint if you’re going to engage with your broader readership. If you haven’t already, start building a Facebook page, and an official Twitter account. Use them, grow them, and once you do, stay engaged with them. You may not like Facebook, but ignoring it severely limits your ability to do outreach with millions of people. Also,  plan to spend money to make money. Social media these days is tweaked to make you pay to reach your full potential audience. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and more, all have pay options that will bring you more “eyeballs” to your campaign pitch. If you’re looking to raise a lot of money, you need to reach past your core engaged readership, and to the folks who maybe only check in with you on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Stay positive, always. I know that other campaign advice sites will tell you this, but I need to reiterate. Never, ever, ever, go negative on your readers. Don’t guilt them, don’t make them feel bad, don’t get snarky, or start to make asides about how folks are enjoying your product/content but aren’t supporting you. Don’t decide to publish your rant about Pagans who buy expensive wands but won’t support infrastructure/teachers/charity projects during your campaign. Take an attitude of gratitude. People are giving you money, their money, that they earned. Even if you only raise ten bucks, you thank whoever it was who gave it to you, stay positive, and redouble your efforts. Focus on what you do, focus on the positive impact that their money will bring. Again, don’t guilt people, because it doesn’t work. Running a campaign can be very stressful, and very tiring, you’re going to be tempted to complain. Don’t. Not ever.
  • Consistently announce your campaign, don’t feel guilty to ask for money. Many subcultural groups, and many religious communities, have some complex attitudes towards asking for money. As a consequence, many Pagans get bashful, they undersell their campaign, they feel weird about asking for money. Don’t. If you are providing a resource, or a service, there is no shame in asking for people to support it. You aren’t forcing them to donate, and if they support your project, they won’t mind if you ask. In fact, many of my donors thanked me for reminding them, as they hadn’t seen the previous announcements. People have stuff going on their lives, and sometimes it doesn’t revolve around what you’re doing. So don’t be afraid to be consistent. Mention it every day, pitch it on your social networks. Do you think people stop listening to NPR because they have pledge drives? Most individuals understand that this is part and parcel of “free’ resources. The money has to come from somewhere.
  • Respect the power of your supporters, and ask them for their help. Fundraising is the art of causing change in conformity with your Will, or is that magick? Fundraising is a spell. One that you don’t cast alone. You mobilize the spell of fundraising by making it a group effort. By asking people you know to be your supporters to help you. Asking for help is powerful magic, and you can never tell what it will bring you. I have been blessed in the people and groups who have chosen to help me, and I try to pay that back by sharing and supporting other fundraising drives. In fact, while this fundraising drive was going on, I donated to two others. That reciprocity is important, because it builds community, and it is through community that you will find enough people to help you in your goal.
  • Finally, be reasonable in your expectations and your ask. The Wild Hunt asked for $10,000 dollars because that’s how much we really needed. I broke that number down, and told people directly what I was going to spend it on. When people give, they know they are paying our columnists, our hosting bill, and yes, they are putting a little bit of that into my pocket. I would not ask for $50,000 at this point, as I know the Internet is not a magic wishing machine, and the magic of fundraising only works if you’ve built the network to sustain that kind of ask. Conversely, don’t ask for too little, or else people won’t think it’s a big deal. There won’t be a sense of urgency in what you’re doing. Ask for enough, and think hard about what that means.

That’s it, and I hope that advice helps some folks considering a fundraiser in our community out. My deepest thanks to everyone who has donated, and to everyone who might still donate. I truly appreciate it, and I hope that this success will continue my goal to build The Wild Hunt into a media entity that perseveres, even beyond my own participation.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Kathy

    This is such good news. Thanks for the great work that you continue to do!

  • Brendan Myers

    Congratulations Jason and your team!

  • Stacey Lawless

    Two thumbs up!

  • http://www.infinite-beyond.com/ Chris Orapello

    Glad you were able to meet your goal and thank you for sharing your insights about fundraising in the Pagan community.

  • Cat C-B

    I’m going to share this with both my spiritual communities… Quakers need fundraising, too, and I think asking for money is always going to be hard within a spiritual context. But it’s vital that real leadership include thoughts around stewardship, and if what we build is not sustainable, we’ve failed at that.

    Money is a spell we need to cast sometimes. Thanks for reminding us (and, by the way, for setting up such an easy interface for doing so. It was a delight to find it easy to give, at least in terms of the mechanics).

  • Jason Hatter

    Congratulations. I’m glad you made it, and I’m glad I was able to help.