Crowdfunding with GoFundMe

A dream becomes reality

When Jay began his ambitious new Mini 6.50 Project we knew we had to find funding one way or another. Jay has dreamed about professional sailboat racing since a young age, while sailing around the Caribbean with our kids we always had in mind to sail across the Atlantic to come to France, the mecca of professional sailboat racing. Six years later . . . thousands of miles sailed, many countries visited, friends made and memorable experiences gained, the complete refit of our home and boat Messenger, 2 births of 2 new “crew members” one in the Caribbean and another one in Iceland, finally we reached France and Jay began to tackle the world of professional sailboat racing. A world dominated by corporate partnerships, we began to look for sponsors but this is a career in itself and by this time Jay had already found his dream project, a Class Mini 6.50 designed by the top naval architect of our times, Guillaume Verdier. So with no funds in place colleagues, friends and family suggested we launch a crowdfunding campaign, Jay was hesitant, wanting to pave his career on his own but after some wise discussions we decided to give it a try.

Jay at the Vendee Globe Village as part of  Conrad Colman Ocean Racing  team

Jay at the Vendee Globe Village as part of Conrad Colman Ocean Racing team

The docks at the  Vendee Globe  Village

The docks at the Vendee Globe Village

Choosing the right platform

We had never launched a crowdfunding campaign before so we had little to no experience with this, we had only heard of Kickstarter, Fosburit, KissKissBankBank and GoFundMe. Having worked for other skippers who were running their own larger sailboat racing projects here in France we had heard of a few of them who had used Fosburit or KissKissBankBank to crowd-fund their projects. Fosburit is a 100% sports related crowdfunding platform while KissKissBankBank accept any creative project and have a sports category. As a filmmaker several of my colleagues had launched campaigns to raise funds for their films using Kickstarter, whose mission is to help bring creative projects to life but they have no sports category. We had heard about GoFundMe through the media or just word of mouth since it is the largest crowdfunding platform in the world. So we began our search to find the best match for us and we became quickly overwhelmed by the amount of crowdfunding websites out there, there are thousands to choose from. We narrowed our search down by picking the ones with the lowest fee percentages, with large community followers and ones with minimum requirements. Many crowdfunding platforms have an “all-or-nothing” policy which means you have to set a goal and you get to keep what you have raised only if you reach that goal in a certain amount of time, otherwise the money is returned to the donors leaving you empty handed. This would not work for us, first because we need to raise a lot of money and second we cannot do this is a short amount of time. All of our needs and desires pointed at only one crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe. I was hesitant because as an artist I was drawn to the inducing design of other platforms and because I did not think our “high tech” campaign was a good match for GoFundMe whose image is of the “average person” raising money for health emergencies or charity, things that seam more important than a state-of-the-art racing project. But the pros outweighed the cons so we began the process of setting up our campaign with GoFundMe.


Setting up your campaign

The bulk of the work when setting up a crowdfunding campaign is getting all your material ready which you have to do regardless of which platform you use. A good video is very important, though a lot of campaigns on GoFundMe seamed not to use the video option we knew that for our project we needed a good video to get people interested and as a filmmaker myself this was of utmost importance. It took us about 3 weeks to complete the video, we had to shoot the interviews about 3 to 4 times, having to shoot 6 of us under the same weather conditions was tricky in a place like Brittany where the weather changes quickly and especially hard when you have children involved, timing is everything. Finally on the third try we got it! In 3 weeks of hard work we wrote the script, shot the footage and edited the video. People underestimate the work involved in creating beautiful videos so if you don’t have the skills yourself for this then hiring someone to do a video for you is important and you should include that into your budget.

Pre-writing all your text and gathering all the information you will use to describe your project is also done ahead of time, visuals are as important as text, I tried to have a visual for every section that described our project so that browsers could just scroll through our story to understand our project by just looking at the visuals. Finally you have to think about Rewards and what you can give back to your donors, thinking up things that won’t cost you any money is best. We came up with “quotes on the boat”, people can send us their quote which will be visible on the boat, we offered 3 different sizes for 3 different prices. So thinking about original rewards will help people make a donation, people love to get something in return even if it’s just a “Thank you” on social media. Once you have your material ready loading it up onto the GoFundMe site is a “piece of cake”, they make it so intuitive and user friendly, even Grandma could do it easily. 

The video we made for our crowdfunding campign


GoFundMe website features

Your video is placed at the front and top of the page, it’s the first thing visitors will see and hopefully click on to play when they visit your page. Would be nice, for those people who are less internet savvy, if the video would play automatically like videos do on Facebook when you scroll through your wall. You can customize your page by changing the main color of the buttons and text, the default color is the GoFundMe green but for our project we changed it to red, it’s a nice little perk. GoFundMe is linked with Facebook, you have to have a Facebook account in order to launch your GoFundMe campaign but who doesn’t have Facebook in this day and age? Even my Grandma has one! Unfortunately you cannot launch your GoFundMe campaign with your business page which would have been ideal for us but you can still have GoFundMe post automatically to both your personal and your business pages.

You can post Updates about your project to keep your donors up-to-date on the progress of your campaign, your Updates can be pushed automatically to your Facebook pages, Twitter account and send an automatic email to your donors. On Facebook and on Twitter the Updates appear well, with the image you chose and the text you wrote. Unfortunately in the email version you just get a little of the text but the image is that of your campaign which might make it repetitive. GoFundMe makes it really easy for any viewer to share your project on Facebook or Twitter with 2 very visible buttons. You can set up a customized campaign link which is another nice perk. You can even print a pre-made campaign sign you can use to pin up at work or in your favorite coffee shop but the link on this sign is not your customized link which is strange, another little detail that could make things better but let’s not get lost in details, GoFundMe is easy to use and makes your crowdfunding experience practical and efficient.

They even have this awesome widget you can embed into your blog or website that links to your crowdfunding page!

But by far my favorite feature of GoFundMe is their CUSTOMER SUPPORT team. When you have a question about your campaign you send them an email and they respond within minutes, they are super helpful and always find a solution for you, they are very knowledgeable and won't give up until they have helped you solve your issues or concerns.


Choosing GoFundMe as your crowdfunding platform

We are certainly happy with our choice, for us it was important to find a “no deadlines or goal requirements” platform, getting “no penalties for missing our goal” and to be able to “keep every donation we receive”. Our campaign is a 2 year on going project so donations trickling in have allowed us to keep the project moving along while we continue to look for partners. It’s also exciting to involve our friends, family and followers into our project by incorporating their quotes on the boat.

We were very surprised when we received this email from GoFundMe:

We found your campaign to be extremely inspiring, so we decided to nominate it for our GoFundMe employee donations program that we call "Gives Back"! After analyzing all the nominations, your campaign has been selected and you will receive 1,000 euros from GoFundMe.

So even though our crowdfunding campaign has not “taken-off” as we had imagined it would, we knew we had done something right when we received this kind "give back" from GoFundMe. Donations have been steadily coming in but our idea behind our campaign was for it to go outside of our circle of friends and family, for it to go a little viral, our budget is so large that we knew we would never reach our goal unless we reach the masses. We are still waiting for that opportunity, currently we have received only 5 donations from complete strangers, the local newspaper Ouest-France wrote an article about our project and crowdfunding campaign and our video has received nearly 10K views, if each person who viewed our video donated just 5 euros we would have raised 50,000 euros by now, this was the concept behind our crowdfunding campaign but for now we have received generous donations from 7 family members and 42 friends to be precise. The main idea behind our campaign is to represent freedom and world issues that are important to speak out about such as equality, peace and environmental conservation. We created a campaign with a purpose, to sail for freedom and by placing peoples quotes on the boat we would deliver our donors voices and wishes regarding these world issues.


Crowdfunding for professional sailboat racing

It seams as if nearly every sailor, who isn’t already very wealthy, is launching a crowdfunding campaign to start their racing project dream. Though sailboat racing is existent in the USA it is huge in Europe, especially in France, England, Italy and Spain and growing quickly in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Finland, and also in the USA.

Sailboat racing is to Europe as soccer is to Latin America.

I found a single French website that listed 24 crowdfunding websites in France alone. Crowdfunding has allowed us to keep our project going while we continue to look for companies to partner up with. Companies in France understand the value of partnering with a competitive sailboat racing project, they have been doing it for the past 40 years, they have experience with the high ROI sailboat racing provides. For us, as one of the few Americans trying to make it in this close-knit world in France, it has been difficult to get a French company to back our project as of yet. And on the other hand getting an American company, who wants to expand their reach into Europe, has proven difficult because they don’t understand the value that this sport can have on their company.

So we stand between a rock and a hard place.

But we believe that with our passion, enthusiasm, skills and what will become the most competitive and innovative Class Mini 6.50 racing project we will find a company who wants to align themselves with us.

3D rendering of Jay Thompson's Mini6.50 project designer by Verdier

3D rendering of Jay Thompson's Mini6.50 project designer by Verdier