VolunteerForever.com – Crowdsourcing for Church Mission Trips – Interview

volunteerforeverI recently wrote an article about various ways to fund church youth group mission trips (because our Jr. and Sr. High groups are both currently raising funds).  As a result Steven Weddle, the Co-Founder & CEO of VolunteerForever.com reached out to me to let me know about his site and how it might be able to help our church.  I thought it was a really interesting concept but needed to get more information from him so I asked him the following questions which he agreed to turn into a nice interview for my blog:

1) What inspired you to create this site?

I created Volunteer Forever after volunteering abroad in India in late 2011. The trip was a life-changing experience for me, but getting there was difficult since I had a hard time finding a trustworthy volunteer opportunity and paying for the trip. When I got home, it just dawned on me to build a website that would allow people to find volunteer opportunities abroad and raise money for their volunteer trip expenses.

2) Have you funded church youth group mission trips through the site and if yes, how many?

Volunteer Forever was originally designed to help individual volunteers raise money for their trips abroad. For example, our typical user was a college student or recent graduate raising money to join a position with an international volunteer organization overseas.  However, in describing the features of Volunteer Forever to my family and friends (several of whom have participated in church mission trips), I realized our website would benefit church youth group mission trip participants as well. So far, we have one family who is currently fundraising for their church mission trip to Haiti. Their mother founded an organization that raised nearly $8,000 on Volunteer Forever last year and she is using our website again for her children’s first mission trip to Haiti. Ultimately, we’d love it if every church youth group had the opportunity to use our platform to make mission trips more attainable for everyone. Each group will be able to create their very own trip page that individual fundraisers will be able to link to. Donors can then easily make a donation to the individual fundraiser of their choice and the funds are instantly placed in the fundraiser’s or group’s PayPal account.
3) Would you recommend that a youth group notify their congregation and community to support a volunteerforever.com campaign?

Absolutely, your congregation and community will likely understand your mission trip’s purpose and the benefits of participating in one. Best of all, you’ll be able to leverage the support from your church and ministry leaders to raise awareness of and advocate for your fundraising campaign. Furthermore, you’ve built trust and rapport with your congregation and community members, which are incredibly vital for a successful fundraising campaign.
4) What are some of the challenges with crowdfunding a mission trip?

One of the biggest challenges for crowdfunding for a mission trip is engaging your audience and telling a compelling story. Not everyone will understand why you are raising thousands of dollars to go on a mission trip to help people outside of your local area. When crafting a crowdfunding campaign for the trip, we encourage all of our fundraisers to clearly explain the following in their campaign description:
  • What’s your motivation for going on this mission trip?
  • What will you do there and how will the host community benefit from your presence?
  • Why do you need funding and how will the funds be used?
  • How do you plan to grow from the experience?
5) How do people normally spread the word about a project that may be on your site (social media, emails, etc.)?

Our fundraisers spread the word about their project through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Typically, a fundraiser will send out a personal e-mail or Facebook message to their closest friends and family members. Then, they will share their fundraising page with their extended networks through Facebook. Facebook is an especially effective way to raise of a campaign; our data for this months shows nearly 60% of all donations on our site originated from Facebook. We’ve integrated these social media tools directly onto each fundraiser’s page so that with a single click, you can share your fundraising campaign across e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and many other social networking platforms.
At a conceptual level, I think this is really interesting and worth looking into.  It makes a ton of sense and no matter what we end up doing for our church, this is a website that I’ll be keeping my eye on.  I definitely want to thank Steven Weddle for taking the time to tell me more about his site and how we might be able to use it.  If you end up giving it a try for your youth group, please report back and let me know how it works for you and I’ll do the same.