The “Money Bomb” Phenomenon

by | Oct 1, 2013 | Fundraising

Organizing an Effective Short-term Online Fundraising Frenzy

In a previous post, I suggested that one effective method for engaging young adult donors is to create what is known as a “money bomb.”This is a fairly recent political fundraising method that has the potential to revolutionize online fundraising for nonprofit organizations when organized correctly.

In the 21 months before the 2008 presidential election, then-candidate Barack Obama amazed the political world with his ability to mobilize young voters to raise half a billion dollars online through small dollar donations. It was a groundbreaking fundraising movement, and it laid the groundwork for the money bomb phenomenon.

At the end of 2007, presidential candidate Ron Paul stunned the media when his bare-bones campaign pulled in over $10 million through two innovative online fundraising events. The term money bomb was coined after Trevor Lyman, a supporter with no official connection to the campaign, was inspired to create a website and organize a one-day fundraising frenzy on November 5th, a day linked to British rebel Guy Fawkes. The event raised $4.3 million in just 24 hours.

Even more stunning was when the same supporter organized a money bomb on December 16th, on the anniversary of the original Boston Tea Party, and that event brought in $6 million. The money bomb has since become a popular method for political candidates with limited access to traditional fundraising infrastructure.

Follow these ten steps to plan, promote, and execute a successful money bomb:

The Planning Phase

      • Choose a specific project that will inspire an intense emotional reaction
      • Choose a meaningful date, with some type of symbolism, as the deadline
      • Create an event specific website or landing page that will serve as a countdown to the event, the collection channel for donations, and track funds raised in real time
      • Set the fundraising goal with a specific low dollar amount per person, e.g., 10,000 people give $25 for a goal of $250,000 raised
      • Keep the timeframe for collecting the money small, 24-48 hours, to increase the sense of urgency

The Promotion Phase

      • Choose a popular, charismatic figure within the organization as the official spokesperson
      • Assign staff members or volunteers who are social media savvy to post related content online multiple times per day, utilizing event specific hashtags where appropriate, to create buzz
      • Build your email list by collecting pledges through the website

The Detonation Phase

      • Send out reminders throughout the day via social networks and emails
      • Give real time updates on the website and through social media channels to build a sense of excitement and urgency as donors and potential donors watch the money bomb “detonate”

The beauty of the money bomb is its grassroots nature. It works best when appealing to a broad base of passionate supporters, asking them to give small dollar amounts in a limited amount of time to a specific project. Social networking allows the “bomb” to go viral, and potentially recruit thousands of new donors.