Baby Warm, a nonprofit organization that supports individual animal rehabbers, has raised more than $30,000 in 19 weeks, a figure that is more than 3x their original goal amount. The organization continues its mission today, running multiple crowdfunding campaigns simultaneously to help animal rehabbers make a difference in their community.
One of writer Kim Barker’s passions outside of work is animal rescue photography, which took her around the U.S. to meet an array of dedicated wildlife rehabbers, who take in weak, fragile baby animals and nurture them back to full strength. These animal lovers work at all hours of the day and invest physical, mental and emotional energy into healing vulnerable wildlife.
During Kim’s many travels, she noticed that many rehabbers didn’t have the proper equipment to do their jobs, mainly an incubator.
“They were using heating pads, which are not designed to be left on 24 hours a day, have cold spots, can be a fire hazard and just aren’t ideal,” she explains. “But these rehabbers are paying for all of the baby formula, food, medicine and rehab supplies out of their own pockets – some working extra part-time jobs just to pay for their supplies. They’d never be able to afford an incubator.”
After identifying a common problem in the wildlife rehabber community, Kim came up with idea to help these individuals get the live-saving equipment they lacked.
“From my experience with helping [rehabbers] raise funds, I know that people are more likely to donate to a specific thing they can envision rather than making a general donation – so the natural step was to fundraise specifically incubators.”
Baby Warm was born.
Baby Warm provides a platform for home animal rehabbers to raise the $450 needed to purchase an incubator, which means that there are multiple fundraisers going on at any time – something you don’t see that often.
Rehabbers fill out a three-page application, complete with a photo and background about why rehabbing is important to them. If approved, Baby Warm sets up their fundraising page, sends them sample email messages and Facebook posts to share and orders their incubator once the rehabber raises the funds.
With this model, each of Baby Warm’s campaigns has a person and story behind it.
“It’s much more personal,” says Kim. “And in a time when people can be suspicious of charities, in our case they know exactly where every penny of their donation is going.”
“The challenge of course was how to create a site to allow these multiple campaigns to run all at the same time.”
In steps IgnitionDeck.
When web developer Michael Scarchilli started looking for a platform, he knew he didn’t want anything super time intensive that required learning something like PayPal’s API, so when he discovered IgnitionDeck, he and Kim felt like they struck gold.
“IgnitionDeck was by far the best solution I was able to find,” Michael says. “It was relatively easy to implement on with our site, even with a lot of custom modifications we had made to really make the site the way we wanted it.”
“I wish I found IgnitionDeck sooner so I could have saved a lot of time doing research for other solutions.”
On top of IgnitionDeck’s technical allures, the price is reasonable. “Being a nonprofit means we need to make wise and informed decisions with what we spend money on,” Michael says. “IgnitionDeck’s cost is worth every penny. It really helped that they have a free product so you can get familiar with the product and its possibilities before making a purchase.”
Plus, Baby Warm had a specific vision for the website in mind, which required a bit of customization.
“Whenever I had questions that needed to be answered, I turned to IgnitionDeck’s support forum,” Michael recounted. “The support people were always patient and understanding, and did a great job with help when needed. They even helped me to problem solve an issue that was completely unrelated to their product.”
What Baby Warm accomplished far exceeded expectations.
“When we originally launched, we hoped to fund one [incubator] per week but we have been funding one per day,” Kim excitedly shares. “We’re successful beyond our wildest dreams and couldn’t ask for better.”
As of March 11, 2015, the nonprofit had helped funded 67 incubators since their launch on Oct. 25, 2014. Each incubator will hold about 50 animals per year for the next 10 years, according to Kim.
“Baby Warm started as an idea – let’s fund some incubators,” Kim explains. “What we didn’t expect is that it turned out to be about so much more than that. Our site has created a little community of good people being honored for the selfless work they do, and what that energy of kindness has given back to us is immeasurable.”
The duo also had several recommendations for future crowdfunding leaders, starting with some technical tips.
“While IgnitionDeck is great as a product on it’s own, it would be wise to have help from an actual web developer who is familiar with building WordPress sites and using plugins,” Michael recommends. “Most frustration I saw on the support forum came from people with little to no technical experience when it comes to building webpages.”
And when you do need support, “be as detailed as you can possibly be,” and use screen shots to help others understand what the issue is. “It will save both you and the support team time overall.”
He also added, “While WordPress is something to make building sites ‘easy,’ it’s not that simple if you really want to make a good site, especially with more advanced plugins.”
What is Kim’s advice to others thinking about such a project? Just go for it.
“With the right people and the right tools, like IgnitionDeck, changing the world isn’t as impossible as you think.”