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How to raise money on the Web

A guy named Geoff Shell is trying to raise $50,000 on to stage a musical about Clara Peller, the lady from the “Where’s the Beef Commercials.”

I’m going to bet he does it, too.

Crowdfunding websites have made it a breeze to raise money for everything from medical bills to band camp.

To maximize your crowdfunding campaign, here are some tips from payment application WePay.

Do the math first. Don’t just pick a fundraising goal out of the air. Really sit down and crunch the numbers. Are there fees, taxes or other expenses you’re not taking into account?

Pick the right site. Research each website to figure out which one works best for what you’re doing. Some specialize in charity fundraising, some specialize in commercial ventures, some have very strict requirements about what kinds of causes you can collect money for.

You’ll also want to compare each site’s commission rates and processing fees, read online reviews, look them up on the Better Business Bureau website at Read the site’s rules and fine print. Can you take money out before you’ve met your goal? If you don’t meet your goal can you keep what you raise and, if so, are there extra fees?

Reach out to donors before you go live. Let them know what you’re doing and how they can help. Those who have a solid donor base in the beginning have a greater success rate than those who just throw together a website and start soliciting the community.

Keep the description short, direct, clear and impactful. Explain what you’re raising funds for, why it’s important and how the donor’s money will make a difference. Revise it until it’s as concise and meaningful as possible. Have several people proofread it.

Add pictures – the more the better. Choose visually appealing ones that best highlight your cause. Create a showcase for your mission, and don’t be afraid to tug heartstrings if it’s appropriate.

Make the first donation yourself and set the bar high. People have no idea how much to give, and might not know how much is appropriate. They will look to other donations for context, so nudge them in the right direction. Of course, every bit counts, so let people know that any amount is gratefully accepted.

Offer prizes. You can use giveaways as an incentive to get people to donate, or to donate in high amounts. Maybe everyone who donates $100 or more gets entered into a drawing to win an iPad.

Share like crazy on social media. You’ll get the word out to your family, friends and acquaintances, and make it easy for them to share it with their networks.

Spread the word the old-fashioned way, too. Make phone calls, put signs on community bulletin boards, send press releases to the media.

Keep everyone in the loop. Update your fundraising page often, post updates to Twitter and Facebook and send out emails whenever there is anything new to report, or just to let people know how you’re progressing toward your goal. That will keep your cause at top of their minds, and help spur further donations.

Send a thank you. The crowdfunding website you use most likely will send an automatic reply to each of your donors, but take it a step further and send a note of your own.