Guest Blog by Louise Baigelman, Executive Director, Story Shares. It is the first part in a series of posts LearnLaunch asked Ms. Baigelman to write about crowdfunding her edtech startup.

Story Shares began as a literacy project – an experiment, of sorts. Could we expand the collection of content meant for teens and young adults who read below grade level? To test this, we launched a writing contest and built a prototype of a digital story-creation tool.

The success of the contest, and the support from writers, readers, educators, and other organizations in the field, gave Story Shares the opportunity to become its own non-profit organization.

Since then, Story Shares has evolved into a literacy hub for the ongoing creation of Relevant Reads. But the biggest challenge for Story Shares so far has been raising the funds to sustain our activities and build on what we’ve created to date. While there are many different avenues for generating money, success can be difficult for a new nonprofit organization providing a technology product for free. Grant writing is incredibly time-consuming for a small team like ours, and soliciting individual donations can be a longer term endeavor. So, where could we turn to get some additional funding that would give us a boost and allow us to take Story Shares to the next level?

Crowdfunding began to stand out as a good option for Story Shares. Here’s why:

  • Crowdsourcing as a concept is fundamental to the way Story Shares works more broadly. At our core, we are a platform that crowd sources content. We have built the Story Shares library by calling on the community to contribute stories, through both the original writing contest and the 2015 Relevant Reads Contest (which runs until December 31.) We’ve seen firsthand how we can build a movement by asking others to join in and collectively create something great.
  • While we don’t have a lot of money, we do have a strong Story Shares community. We are hopeful that our supporters will be interested in helping us to raise more money, so that we can continue providing and evolving this resource.
  • Crowd funding campaigns, such as Kickstarter, also serve as a tool for marketing – they can be a powerful way to spread the word about our endeavor and tell our story more broadly.

Planning for a Kickstarter campaign is no small task. We’ve had to work hard to refine our narrative, design the reward tiers and prizes, and set our goals at the right levels. We’ve had to enlist the support of others to produce a video and craft an outreach plan – relying on our partners, our users, social media, and our own personal networks – that will get the word out to as many people as possible.

Story Shares continues to grow and evolve, and we’re excited by our progress so far. We know that we can make a much bigger impact than we are currently, and we are confident that a Kickstarter campaign will help us take Story Shares to the next level. The #StoryShares Kickstarter campaign will run for one month (until December 17th), with an initial goal of raising $50,000, which will enable us provide more Relevant Reads for thousands more students. Our stretch goal of $250,000 would also allow us to develop our mobile application, which would improve the resource we offer and significantly increase our reach.