Karen Korr is in rarefied air: she’s a leap year baby. A little over a month ago, she turned 10, which also means that she’s been around the planet for 40 years. So in honor of her finally hitting the big double digit milestone, she set out to raise $10k for kids who are in pressing need of support. And because she’s so good at crowdfunding/birthday fundraising, she raised $14,000, which is quite impressive for a 40-year-old, and especially impressive for a 10-year-old. Okay, now I’m just confusing myself.
Nevertheless, instead of us trying to show the steps Karen took to crush her fundraiser, we talked to Karen about being a leap year baby and how she is so good at birthday fundraising.
You must be proud of the fact that you’re a leap year baby. Can you talk about what it was like growing up?
I got a lot of attention for being a leap year baby when I was growing up. As kids, my friends didn’t really understand why I didn’t get a birthday, but their parents and our teachers did and would always make a big deal about it. It was a little strange not having a birthday every year, but a lot of fun to celebrate the big ones. My “Sweet 16” at Chuck E. Cheese’s was particularly memorable.
What’s the best thing about being a leap year baby?
You know when you go to a meeting or a work retreat and you have to go around the room and say one interesting fact about yourself? I’ve always had an easy go-to fact (and a good conversation starter.)
What inspired you to raise money around your 10th/40th birthday?
Turning 40 is pretty daunting; it is a really big milestone. When my mom turned 40, I remember thinking that she was so old. Because my birthday is on leap year day, I felt like I had a particularly good reason to celebrate how youthful 40 can truly be, and also a somewhat unique opportunity to make the day less about me and more about others – particularly kids in need in my community.
Through my job as the Director of Communications and Outreach Strategy at the San Diego County Bar Association, I became familiar with the work of Voices for Children and their Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, which supports kids in foster care. My best friend is a CASA, as well as many of the attorneys I work with at the Bar, and I have another friend who is in the process of fostering babies in the hopes of one day adopting a child from foster care. Through their experiences, I learned about how valuable CASAs are to the children they serve. Incidentally, I had a conversation with a prominent judge when I first started thinking about doing a fundraiser, and he told me how truly helpful the program is in the juvenile court system and in our community, and that “CASAs are angels on earth.” So everything came together, and I decided to honor my “10th” birthday by trying to raise $10,000 for Voices for Children.
Why did you decide to use CrowdRise to do your birthday fundraising?
First and foremost, CrowdRise makes it so simple. It literally took just a few minutes to set up my birthday fundraising page – I posted an overview of what I was hoping to accomplish, posted a picture of myself at age 10 riding a bicycle with E.T. in the basket, and voila – my fundraiser was all set. The team at CrowdRise was exceptionally helpful throughout the fundraising process, and they also send you cool t-shirts to encourage you along the way to your goal.
In particular, I appreciated that the CrowdRise platform meant that I didn’t have to take donations directly and then in turn write a check – friends could donate online and Voices for Children received the money directly, while the donations were consistently tallied on my fundraiser page. I also liked that I could input off-line donations as well and have them included in my fundraising total.
What was the birthday fundraising process like? Can you break it down step-by-step?
I set up my CrowdRise fundraising page about a year before my leap year birthday, and then posted a link to Facebook letting friends and family know that I would be doing a fundraiser to honor my birthday and to be on the lookout for various events and announcements. I then planned a few fundraising events – a Souplantation dinner, a happy hour at a cool local bar, an online handbag buying party – and encouraged those who couldn’t attend to donate and/or share the link to my fundraiser instead.
Every time I received a donation, I posted a personal thank you to the donor on my Facebook page (and if they were a personal friend, a picture of the two of us or just a picture I liked from one of their Facebook albums), and would give an update on what the current birthday fundraising total was, and encouraged others to either donate or share a link to my fundraiser on their own page.
You were particularly successful on the social media front – can you talk more about this?
My background is in public relations, so in my world, “impressions” – or how many times someone saw my fundraiser link and clicked through to learn more about Voices for Children, was incredibly valuable. My social media strategy was essentially to make sure that as many people as possible saw my link, knowing that if I didn’t reach my fundraising goal, at least I would provide some value to Voices for Children by sharing their good work outside of our community.
I think that there were a few keys to my success on social media. First, I recognized that not everyone who is a Facebook friend (or a friend of a friend) or twitter follower would have the means or the desire to donate to this particular cause, so in my messaging, I put equal importance on sharing the link to my fundraiser. That way, individuals could contribute to the success of my campaign without necessarily opening their pocketbooks.
Through hashtags on both Facebook and Twitter, I was able to follow and connect to others who were advocates for causes involving foster care, or community service, or crowdfunding, or fellow leap year babies looking to do something good to honor the big day. Through some of these connections (notably, @melanieinboston and her amazing #fostercarein5words campaign), I was able to reach different audiences and join in/get included in bigger discussions.
Lastly, my fundraising success was truly a reflection of the incredible people in my life who were thoughtful enough to make a donation. So, I posted a thank you message – and often a picture and/or collage of pictures – to each and every donor on my Facebook page (much to the annoyance of many, I’m sure). Through my posts I was able to recognize the donor for their support, and also encourage anyone who saw my message on either my page or the donor’s page to either contribute to my campaign or share a link to my fundraiser, thus creating more impressions and exposure for Voices for Children.
You had success with some celebrities – how did this come about?
I am a news junkie, so I was always on the lookout for stories tied to foster care that I could use to illustrate why the need for organizations like Voices for Children is so critical. The Today Show has long been my very favorite show, and must-see every morning. When I saw Natalie Morales do an amazing story on the foster care system, I tweeted a note of appreciation with a link to my fundraiser. Next thing I knew, she had retweeted it to her 303k followers!
Admittedly, I am also a Bachelor/Bachelorette junkie, so when I noticed that former Bachelorette Jillian Harris was supporting Chevrolet’s #DayItForward campaign to use leap year day as a day to do something good, I shared my fundraiser with her and unexpectedly, she retweeted it to her 164k followers.
I think paying attention to news and thought-leaders (and reality TV stars) on social media to see what they are talking about and finding a tie-in to your cause is a good way to broaden the reach of your campaign – even if it doesn’t have any direct fundraising results.
How did you communicate your birthday fundraising campaign to friends and family?
In addition to social media, I also asked a friend, Jason de Alba, who is also a talented graphic designer, to create a flyer announcing my fundraiser that I could email to friends and family, put on the bulletin board in my building, and ask others to share with their friends and families as well.
Finally, do You have any wisdom to impart on fellow leap year babies?
Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you can’t act your leap year age sometimes. Also, 4 years to go until my next Leap Year CrowdRise! Check out Facebook.com/leapyearbabiesgiveback if you are interested in joining forces to do something big for kids in honor of our next big birthday.