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Crowdfunding: the hot new social media tool for raising money and support

Raising money for your tuition to attend Essential Foundations for Cheese Professionals at the Academie Opus Caseus

So you want to come to hone your skills, build up your chops, and maybe prepare for Certified Cheese Professional status, but you are just a starving (except for cheese) monger? Start a Crowdfunding campaign!

Click here to see an example of a successful crowdfunding campaign for Academie tuition.

There are lots of advantages from many angles for this approach:

  • You raise money to advance your career without going into debt
  • You raise your public profile and boost your career
  • You demonstrate your commitment to your chosen profession
  • You publicly pledge to reach for and attain greater levels of customer service
  • You develop/enhance a loyal customer base and following
  • You achieve free PR for your shop or business (your boss will love you for it!)
Not all crowdfunding platforms allow for tuition-related projects so check the terms before embarking. Here is a very short list (not at all comprehensive!) of some that do:
While crowdfunding is a valuable source of capital, you should know a couple of other things about it:
  • Fees for crowdfunding platforms range from four to 12 percent.
  • Some platforms have an all-or-nothing philosophy. If you don't reach your goal, you don't get any of the money raised. Others, using what's called a flexible funding model, allow you to keep whatever you raise even if you don't reach your goal.
Before starting a campaign, do your homework. Read some articles to learn how to get the most out of a campaign: It's about YOU, but it's also about YOUR CLIENTS. Be sure to highlight how your funding partners will benefit: will you offer them a class or a series of classes, or write a blog to enhance their knowledge? Will you be sourcing new products that they can try? Will they get first dibs at anything new that you bring in? Will they learn more about cheese, have access to more & better products? Will you give them a discount card good for a certain time period in exchange for their support?

Demonstrate your passion! Highlight your tattoos (if you've got 'em) and your ambitions: will you be entering the Larkin Cheesemonger Invitational? Taking the ACS Certified Cheese Professional™ exam? Opening your own shop or expanding your services? What are your goals...and how do they benefit your donors? Jiro may dream of Sushi, but do YOU dream of CHEESE?

Make it lively: include a short (!) video, and keep the campaign alive and engaging. Don't put it up once and leave it. Incorporate all your networking tools: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, posters in the window, tack a link onto your email signature.

Craft a BUDGET carefully: you have tuition costs (lodging is included), airfare, and out of pocket incidentals (some dinners, souvenirs, any additional travel you may wish to add on to your time in France). Think about how much you will provide to seed your own campaign, and be sure to line up as many committed donors as possible BEFORE you launch, so your campaign looks successful from the start. Be sure to include in your budget the COSTS associated with the platform you choose!

Don't just budget for Money, Budget for Time: work out a calendar backwards from your preferred course dates. Your tuition balance is due 30 days before the course starts, and you'll want to arrange your travel well in advance to get the best rates. A campaign typically takes 3-4 weeks, and requires a good deal of daily attention and nurturing, including making phone calls. Make sure you can do all this in enough time and not get fired!

Enlist your network of support: Aunt Betty handy with a video camera? Is your contact list on LinkedIn and Facebook up to date and well sorted? Does your college roommate have a way with graphic design? And most important, enroll the active support, commitment, and participation of your boss and colleagues, not just as cheerleaders but as part of your hands-on team, making phone calls, texting, and generally getting the word out in the most inspiring way possible.


Excerpted from Forbes.com, 12/12/12:

4 Tips for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

Prime the pump: "One common myth is if you build it, they will come," said Jed Cohen, COO of Rockethub. Nothing could be further from the truth. You need to look trustworthy. The best way to show that others already trust you is by showing that others are already supporting your crowdfunding campaign. Before you launch your campaign, line up commitments from friends and family so on day one you look successful.

Build your network before you need it: In order to be successful in online fundraising, you need to have social media juice - lots of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections and email subscribers so your message can go viral, according Cohen. These online connections already know you, trust you, and are more likely than strangers to invest in what you're doing. They'll also help you with outreach by spreading the word about what you're doing to their connections.

Tell an engaging story: "The crowd" funds when they feel a direct connection to a great idea, a game changer, a superior management team or a personal value like giving back, according to Elizabeth Kulik, founder of ProHatch. Articulate a clear vision and tell an engaging story. If at all possible, use video. A short, no more than 2-minute, video is a great way to make an emotional connection. And in all your media, share your personal passion.

Offer something tangible: "Rewards can be a powerful incentive that convert people to fund and support your project," says Kulik. For now, it's not legal to offer debt or equity in a company so you need to provide some other reward: a product or service in exchange for the money you receive. Have different rewards that are commensurate with the level of support given. While the average contribution on Rockethub is $75, you need to offer a variety of pricing options below and above that.


Employer Contract

If you work for someone else, and would like to have your employer sponsor or subsidize your professional development at the Academie, you'll need to build a strong argument, from your employer's point of view.

We've developed a tool for you to use. We're calling it a Contract. It's your demonstration of your commitment to not only receiving value from your studies, but also offering value back to your business and your customers.

The form is quite open-ended: it's up to you and your boss to fill in all the blanks. We've simply provided you with a place to start your conversation. Remember, when asking someone for their support, you need to step into their shoes, and communicate less from your point of view and more to theirs.

Start the conversation with some of your own ideas, and be open to your employers'.

We've tested this with a few employers in the industry, and they've told us that if an employee brought something like this to them with their request for support, they would absolutely sit up and listen.

Go for it! Be creative! Be generous!


Employer-Employee Contract

I, ___________, would like to participate in the Academie Opus Caseus' professional development course, ___________________________ (www.academie-mons.com).

The program is two weeks long, takes place in Saint-Haon-le-Châtel, France (at Mons. headquarters) and tuition is ____ $/€/£. My preferred date for participation is ________.

I request that you, my employer, sponsor my participation; recognizing that this is a significant investment, I propose the following conditions:

  • I will pay ________ ($/€/£/%) out of my own pocket, to demonstrate my personal commitment, and ask you to subsidize me in the (amount/%) of ________.
  • I propose to allocate _____ days of my personal vacation days to the time I am on the course.
  • I agree that, should I leave your company for any reason (including but not limited to being dismissed for cause) I will reimburse you for (the full amount/a prorated portion) of your investment prior to my departure, thus protecting you from financial risk in your support of my participation.
In return for your support, I promise to :
  • Remain in your employ (unless dismissed for cause) for ______ years.
  • Share what I have learned with my colleagues in the form of (classes, a paper or article, a blog, etc).
  • Increase value to our customers by (offering classes, blogging, writng articles, running programs, etc).
  • I intend to apply for and take the ACS Certified Cheese Professional™ exam, to demonstrate the mastery I have achieved through the course and my other professional development work.
  • (additional promises here..)
(attach to this the motivational letter you plan to submit with your application to the Academie).

Download this contract as a word document to use a template for making a contract with your employer to fund your education at Academie Opus Caseus.

Scholarships

We've done some research and found a handful of scholarships that might help you on your way. If you know of others, please let us know by emailing .

Les Dames d'Escoffier is an invitational organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose mission is education, advocacy and philanthropy. The association has local chapters throughout the United States and in London; many of these have scholarship programs.
For women only.

The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award is an annual scholarship awarded to an USA-based cheese professional who uses the funds to travel, learn and further their education on cheese.
For Americans only.

The Jack Green Memorial Fellowship specifically funds projects in the Dairy industry under the aegis of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Established in 1965 the Trust honours the memory of Sir Winston Churchill by awarding overseas research fellowships to Australians who are innovative, filled with a spirit of determination and possess a strong desire to benefit their community. Churchill Fellowships allow you to design your own research project, travel the world and further your knowledge in your chosen field, before returning to make a real contribution to Australian society.
For Australians only.