SA Crowdfunding Blog

Monday, 05 November 2012 00:00

Crowdfunding Success Series: Karen Klein Takes a Vacation

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Karen Klein isn't your typical crowdfunding success story. There's no product involved in the story and there's no entrepreneur trying to take the world by storm with their new idea. Karen Klein is a bus monitor near Rochester, New York. Her story managed to touch many people when it was distributed as a viral video.

In the viral video in question, Klein is harassed, bullied, berated and outright insulted by some of the students on the bus that she monitors. At the time that the video was made, she was in her late 60s. The idea that this woman had to put up with this sort of harassment from students for a paltry bus monitor's wage enraged people and made them want to do something. On the site, people got together with a simple idea: let's send Karen Klein on vacation. Given what goes on in the video, she could certainly use one.

There was no stated goal with this funding project, but her annual salary of $15,506 gives something of a metric. By the time this campaign had finished, people in 80 different nations had contributed over $640,000 to send Karen Klein and nine of her friends or family to Disneyland for a much-needed vacation.

Why It Worked

Most of the time, crowd funded projects are essentially capitalistic ventures. The appeal that they have is generally the appeal of the entrepreneur with a great idea or the appeal of a new product that seems like it could really change the world. In this case, the appeal of the project was simply that everybody has a bad day at work and, given that, everybody was able to sympathize with Karen Klein who had a day at work that nobody would ever want to deal with. There is also the assumption that this woman has to deal with this sort of treatment every single day of the school year.

This appealed to people's desire to make life better for others. This is one of the most potent impulses that people feel. You do not, however, need to have a solely charitable enterprise to appeal to this instinct in people. In fact, some companies do quite well with crowdfunding when their products have some sort of an overall humanitarian benefit to them, even if the company putting up the request for crowdfunding is a capitalist enterprise.

Take Away Lesson

Sometimes making a problem apparent to the audience from whom you are attempting to get crowd funding can be as persuasive as making apparent the benefits of your solution. In Karen Kline's case, people were motivated because they saw a situation that they felt like they could help to end with a small donation. Klein simply needed a vacation and, according to what people in 80 different countries thought, she needed a good one. With the right pitch and an appeal to people's essential humanity, you may find that a little bit of concern for other people goes a long way, even when you are pitching a product that is essentially profit driven.

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