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Jan. 11, 2019, 10:11 a.m.

When your fundraising campaign stalls, go on The Daily Show.

Okay, that’s obviously not an option for everyone (or almost anyone) — and this is not a normal “how the sausage is made” story — but still, if you want to know how The Correspondent’s fundraiser for its U.S. launch went from “this actually may not work” to success, check out this post over at Engaged Journalism Accelerator.

Among the details:

— The Correspondent ultimately signed up 45,888 founding members from more than 130 countries. $800,000 of that came in the first week.

— The campaign relied heavily on unpaid “ambassadors”:

More than 100 people became ambassadors, including Hollywood producer Judd Apatow, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and musician Rosanne Cash, and shared quotes, campaign messages and appeared in videos to support the campaign. No one was paid (although Baratunde Thurston later joined the team as a paid campaign strategist).

— A Slack bot broadcast “key metrics — total raised, member numbers, total broken down by currency, countries, average giving rate — into a channel every four hours. WhatsApp was also used outside working hours.”

— Email was a key part of the strategy:

21,000 people had signed up to receive information about the campaign before it launched and an email strategy was created with Blue State Digital to encourage these people to become members. Emails were designed to empower the recipient, as well as convert them, and came from ambassadors such as Baratunde or people in the team, like operations lead Zainab Shah. Longer emails from Rob about The Correspondent’s approach to ads or why they’d chosen a “pay what you can” model were sent at the weekend, when people had more time to read them As soon as people converted to members, they went onto a different list and received a different email flow with different messaging. A different flow was also set up for people who decided to repledge later in the campaign.

— The team’s decision to create its own website, rather than fundraising via Kickstarter or Indiegogo, was a good one: 15 percent of people who visited went on to contribute, and conversion improved even during the traffic spike following the TV appearances.

— Shocker, TV works. The team turned to it after hitting a fundraising plateau about three weeks in.

On 6 December, Jay Rosen, an ambassador for The Correspondent’s expansion, appeared on the show after direct messaging Trevor Noah on Twitter. Rob also appeared on CNN and Jay appeared on The Young Turks which caused a surge in sign-ups. Rob also did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.

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