Fundraiser Post Mortem and Next Steps

HackerSummerCamp is about a week away! I figure this is the perfect time to go over how I managed to get there. I'll cover where I succeeded, where I failed, and what lessons about fundraising I took away from this. I will also briefly go over what I plan to give back after all of your help to make it out there.

Fundraiser Post Mortem

Successes

  • Raised funds for travel and expenses for BlackHatUSA 
  • Extended trip to cover DEF CON 
    • DEF CON ticket was supplied through a giveaway done by @justinengler
  • Clearly indicated where donations would be allocated
    • Caveat: Estimations were off initially, they were adjusted to give a proper indication of the costs as the costs changed.

Failures

  • Ask only for enough to cover trip 
    • How did this fail: Fundraiser was rushed before the specifics were ironed out 
    • Why is this a failure: Initial launch costs were estimated on the high side of things, which turned off potential donators. 
    • Solution, used: Adjusted costs down as I found ways to save money. 
    • Solution, future: Don't rush the launch of a fundraiser. Within a day of the initial launch I had cut the cost of the trip almost in half it hurt the initial launch by turning away lots of people. 
  • Launch of Fundraiser (Initial Hype) 
    • How did this fail: Fundraiser was rushed before enough contacts were on board, and the fundraiser was launched out of peak hours. 
    • Why is this a failure: Although the people who were on board with my fundraiser publicly backed it due to the launch being out of peak hours the initial marketing push sputtered out before it could start rolling. 
    • Solution, used: Attempts to salvage by contacting people throughout the fundraising period. Occasionally reposting it again. 
    • Solution, future: Again, don't rush the launch of the fundraiser. Get more people, anyone with 500-1000+ followers is a good person to get a RT and endorsement from. With enough people on board when it goes live, then the fundraiser will be able to roll forwards on its own. 

Lessons Learned

  • Launching earlier, with more preparedness would have made this a lot less of a struggle. Leaving it late pushed me into the territory where the infosec community was flooded by people trying to go. 
  • During bigger conferences there are often deals on rooms at hotels partnered with conference. Check out what's available early on. 
    • Note: You can get charged up-front for only the first night. If you can afford to cover that then you should reserve your room as early on in your fundraising period as possible to ensure your get the reservation you want.
  • Being a known entity is very important when raising funds. Having been around and at the very least seen by a lot of people, I was given some legitimacy. Maintain a good reputation in the community. 
    • Note: A good reputation will help you in whatever you do, not just fundraising. Having enough good will about you that people will go to bat for you is a strong place to be. Use that responsibly, don't abuse it. 
  • I should have reached out to people with fewer followers who were more likely to see me and boost the fundraiser. My initial focus was on people with over a thousand followers but I should have leaned more on my connections with smaller people. 
  • There were more additional expenses than I expected. These had to be paid out of pocket, however they can be factored in better in the future. 
    • Purchasing foreign currency for travel is more expensive than I had imagined. 
    • A few purchases needed to made in preparation for: Replacement luggage (old luggage in poor condition), USB Battery, phone "travel pass" to maintain phone use abroad, additional miscellaneous items. 
  • In the future I would put that semester of How-To Microsoft Office to use excel and keep/maintain expense reports on my spending. The way that I lost track of what funds were reserved for was unacceptable, and had I been more diligent and strict on my budget this trip wouldn't have been made at such a large potential loss. 

The Numbers

Goal: Roughly* $1,760 CAD
GoFundMe: $1,940 CAD
  • Personal Funds Added: $250 CAD 
  • GoFundMe Cut (7.9%): Roughly* $133.51 CAD 
  • Amount Received: Roughly* $1,555 CAD 
External Donations: Roughly* $485 CAD

Total Raised (Excluding Personal Funds): Roughly* $2040 CAD
*Once the campaign was closed I was unable to see exact donations and what the final goal was. I was only able to see the amount raised, which included the amount that I had added as "offline donations."

What's Next? (Conclusion)

So that was the results of the fundraiser. I paid more than $500 out of pocket after this trip on miscellaneous items and sorting out other expenses. Between cash and money reserved for the hotel, I am not sure how much money I will have after the trip since there are currency conversions involved. 

So what's next? I have a solid plan for my day at BlackHatUSA. I plan on taking extensive notes on what I see there. I will make a series of blog posts about what I've learned and taken away from those presentations. For most of my trip I will be wandering around DEF CON and nearby events. I'll continue to take notes and make blog posts about the things that I see and experience. 

I hope to see all of you while I'm out there! <3 We'll have a good time.

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