Good Cause, No Traction. Suggestions?

Greetings & Salutations!

I hope the community can help address the following challenges:
As volunteers from a Recreation Therapy background, we help people achieve their educational and therapeutic goals through the intentional use of role-playing games (RPG) and music. We work with toddlers, youth, and adults of all ages, to help improve the quality of their lives. We also work with many populations with specific challenges, including: Autism spectrum, brain injury, at-risk youth, and many others.

While I received some some local and regional television news coverage on the trailer in October:

Problem #1: Not much of a following to begin with, though providing free services to many. A portion of this is because with these special populations being protected (for good reason), it is very difficult to get any releases for photos, videos, audio, release of interviews/information, etc.

Problem #2: When we do get coverage, while we get many verbal kudos, for some reason these are NOT translating into financial support.

So, I am hoping members in the community here might be able to take a look at what we’re doing, and maybe help us try to improve the efficacy of our campaign?

My name is Hawke Robinson, and I am the creator of The Wheelchair Friendly RPG Trailer ( http://www.rpgtrailer.com ), and founder of The RPG Research Project ( http://www.rpgresearch.com ). I am registered with the Washington State Department of Health as a Recreational Therapist. Since 2004 I have been, from the Therapeutic Recreation perspective, researching the effects of all forms of role-playing games (tabletop, live-action (LARP), solo books/modules, and computer-based), and their potential uses for participants to achieve therapeutic and educational goals. I have been involved with RPGs since 1979. I especially work with a lot of populations from a wide range of diagnoses:

  • Autism spectrum
  • Brain injury (stroke, TBI, etc.)
  • Muscular Dystrophy (MD)
  • At-risk/troubled/incarcerated youth
  • PTSD
  • Substance dependency transition
  • Parkinsons
  • Cerebral Palsy (CP)
  • Mental health
  • And many others
    .

Until this year, I provided all these services alone, or working with teams at their facilities.

This year I had a number of volunteers join to help, there are currently 5 of us.

Until recently, everything has been 100% self-funded, out of pocket, including the $40,000 USD mobile facility. During the first 4 years on Patreon, I only acquired 4 patrons. We did recently get an uptick of 7 more, but that has stopped (unknown what caused it, we think Zombie Orpheus Entertainment helped).

My apologies if the rest of this is TLDR for folks, but hopefully providing the full picture will be helpful…

I have been performing the aforementioned services throughout the Northwest of the U.S., and some testing via Internet services throughout the world as well. I hope, over time, to eventually cover North America (with others helping of course), though I am primarily based in Washington State, Idaho, and Oregon right now. I live in Spokane, WA (eastern border of WA).

I am originally from California and began using RPGs around 1979. Then I began with creating and teaching an RPG Education program in 1985, in Utah, at a school for gifted and talented children (also a student there at the time), and then focused on the therapeutic possibilities in 2004. I have been creating and implementing program plans for various populations since, further refining the programs based on the research.

The RPG Research Project website is also a repository of research information from around the world for everyone to share, so that there is less reinventing of the wheel, and people stop working in isolated silos, so we can all improve how we use RPGs to help others.

Last year, to solve many issues that came up during research and program delivery over the years, I bought, out my own pocket, a $40k mobile facility (RV Toy Hauler Trailer) dubbed The RPG Trailer, that increases the reach of the research and programs delivery to people in un-served or under-served locations, and solve many other logistical issues as elaborated upon here: http://www.rpgtrailer.com/faqs

The current trailer is just a prototype for a a more ideal trailer I wish to build. There is only one (affordable) company in the USA that specializes in Wheelchair accessible RVs, based in Arizona. They are a small company. Washington state only allows RVs and trailers from large companies that are on their “approved list” to be on the state highways. For this manufacturer to get on the list, each floor plan must be individually approved by the state’s Labor & Industries division (thousands of dollars and many months of delays). This means the more ideal trailer build will have to go through a lot of Washington State red tape to be brought into the state, which adds thousands of dollars in bureaucratic fees, and about 18+ months of delays when ready to begin the process.

I have a GoFundMe ( http://www.gofundme.com/rpgtrailer ) trying to raise enough for the down-payment toward the custom-built trailer. The goal is $6,500, which will cover the down payment to get the build started, and some of the transportation costs. We have raised about $1,000 so far. Meanwhile I am using this prototype as best I can, and slowly making the modifications that I can afford to make.

The prototype can seat 2-3 people in wheelchairs, but the bathroom and side door are not wheelchair accessible. The ideal custom-built version will seat 6-8+ in wheelchairs, and will have fully wheelchair friendly bathroom, side door, etc.

My hopes in having a Patreon page, was that folks would be interested in helping our charitable efforts (though I have not been able to afford to form a 501©3), to help cover the costs of driving the trailer around to keep providing these free services to populations with special needs, help cover research Institutional Review Board (IRB) fees, and other expenses in the hopes of growing the geographical reach, breadth, and depth, of the research efforts and the charitable program delivery.

Everything I have done so far has been out of my own pocket and only this year have I taken on a team of volunteers/trainees to train in the hopes of growing the capacity to help others

After 4 years we only had 4 Patrons, then briefly we had a “spike” of 7 others join, but then has been quiet again.

The gofundme of several years has been quiet for quite some time as well, and has plateaued around 1/6th of our goal for the down payment.

I have been self-hosting/managing the websites for these projects since 2004, and I have been on all social media about these projects since as well. We provide podcasts, video broadcasts, etc.

Rewards include early access to research papers, major announcements like the permissions we received from Wizards of the Coast, podcasts, anecdotal stories, live interactive broadcast, gaming sessions, etc.

And while people state they think what we are doing is great, it has been difficult to convert the small following we do have, into paying Patreon supporters.

The funds of my early retirement from my tech years long ago ( http://www.hawkenterprising.com ) are dwindling, so unless I can find more support, instead of being able to grow what we’re doing, I will have to cut back (though I won’t stop, it will just be at a reduced capacity, the trailer at least made it more affordable to continue further).

I really hope we don’t have to do that. This year I started taking on some occasional short tech contracts to try to re-infuse my cash reserves to keep supporting our efforts, but that of course takes away from the time I have for our primary goals in helping others.

So, any suggestions to help improve things are greatly appreciated.

Here is a summary of the sites:
http://www.rpgresearch.com
http://www.rpgtrailer.com
http://www.rpgbus.com
http://www.twitter.com/rpgresearch


http://plus.google.com/+RpgResearch

http://www.youtube.com/rpgresearch

I look forward to any guidance, suggestions, support possible from the community.
Happy Gaming!
-Hawke

http://www.rpgresearch.com/about/volunteer-team/hawke-robinson

I don’t know how to gain traction with something like this, but getting mention in the news a very good start. I would suggest you condense your intro section to be as concise as possible. It might be better to have a brief synopsis with links for more info as opposed to a huge info dump before they get to the content. I have a tendency to want to give all the details so no one will have questions too, but if they have questions it means they have interest and engagement and you’ve given them a way to interact with you. I think you should look for any redundancies in your intro such as the goals and rewards which are on that same page and remove them. I would suggest looking up other charity organizations and see how their websites are organized and in what order. You may want a brief mission statement at the top which will give an overview of what type of service you provide and to whom and how you intend them to benefit. For most Patreon pages it is good to have what patrons get very near the top so they can see what’s in it for them, but as a charitable organization it is probably better to be very clear that the real recipients of the rewards are the people you serve so you might not want to push patron rewards as hard.

Best of luck!

2 Likes

Moin, Hawke,

I have thought back and for about whether I should try to respond to your thread or not - after all, I am most likely not helping you in gaining “more traction”.

However, I think that sometimes feedback on how one’s “campaign” is perceived can be helpful. Even if that feedback does not have much traction, because “you can’t suit eveyone”.

unnecessary_personal_introduction_click_to_read:

I am someone who frequently, almost regularily, donates money to NGOs of various types. When I help people with professional problems (in my areas of expertise), I often suggest donating something instead of paying me, because writing an invocie for a small amount is giving my government too much revenue and I prefer money to be in the hands of people who do good things with it instead. Meaning: In theory I am someone who could, eventually, donate to your project. IF your project “speaks to me”.

When reading your thread, the first thing I notice is a wagon load of links, logos, social media advertising and whatsnots, frightening me off, because I entered this thread thinking there was someone asking for help, instead I get a bulk of external links that I will never visit (I am not using Facebook, I don’t like GooglePlus and I have no idea what tumblr even is about). Since this advertisement (even if meant as “background information”) takes up about 75% of your post, my initial reaction was - every time I called this thread - to leave right away.
Suggestion: GIve ONE SINGLE link with a clear indication “If you want to know more about what we do, please visit the aggregator site”.

When I read the introduction of your post, what I learn is: This guy is on the news frequently, he has been on TV, maybe radio, paper. Yet, that does not seem to make much financial return for him - while the lady who runs the animal shelter all my dogs are from gets considerable amounts of donations every time she appears on local TV stations, in the papers or anywhere. And she is not a lovely looking, overly nice-to-people Lara Croft-style girl. So it cannot really, this is my feeling, a problem of the MEDIA mentioned, it must have to do with how the presentations run.
Suggestion: Try to get some real feedback (i.e. not from so called friends, but from grown up people who have the balls to tell you what they think) on your public media appearances. If possible, adjust accordingly. Consider hiring someone to do the publicity work, an actor/actress, a well known spokes person (some do it for the good cause, some for mon(k)ey).

I haven’t seen your publicity work in detail yet, but I superficially skipped over some of the explanations you give. It doesn’t “talk” to me, it’s way too broad to get a picture. “RPG everything” - I have done my share of RPG when I was younger, today I feel like - and please understand that this is a completely subjective, personal, unfair, biased and useless feeling that I am expressing - RPG is a total waste of lifetime and the energy put into it could be used better.
Suggestion: Make a 30 seconds clip that explains to ME why I am wrong. Imagine there could be a few hundred thousand people like me believing they know better. But make it ONE clip, not one hundred. Better still, SHOW me, don’t tell me why I am wrong and in what way RPG can really make a difference to anyone, anywhere.

(let me underline that the above paragpraph is an exaggeration to make a point. Obviously I do understand that RPG can be fun, if you have the time needed to really get into it. Somebody else’s fun, however, is a personal thing and not something I am too willing to donate money to.)

I tried to get a whole picture of what you are trying to achieve with the funds raised “in all” and was blown away. I would not even be able to tell in an interview what, say, 100 Dollar I donate to you would actually DO. There is a car, there is advertisement, there is DRIVING the car, there is the whole project, there is a website, there is research, there is gaming sessions, broadcast … I assume 100 Dollar would go into that car project, which I have no real idea about its direct or indirect benefit to the people you are working with (this, again, is trying to make a point, not meant as an offense, because OBVIOUSLY I do not know what I am talking about).
Suggestion: Make it simple for simple people like me. Pick ONE TOPIC. Pick ONE GAME. Pick ONE project and present that, and only that, showing the costs, how far you got and what you need and why you need it. If you cannot show the people benefiting from it, show QUOTES from them. Have a voice actor read out the quote, to make it sound personal. Give donators/“patrons” something to focus on instead of a galaxy of things that I have no doubts are highly important for your project but make understanding what you do unnecessarily hard.

Lastly - and I apologize for a text wall as response to a text wall saying that your text wall is too long with way too many words - I tried to feel what relevance your project has to me.
With an art project I can always claim “I don’t understand art, so I do not see why YOUR art would be more worth than anyone’s else’s, therefor I do not support your work”, which is a cheap, easy, yet very successful excuse. Many artists that I do not support would not like to hear my simple, clear and rocksolid reason for not supporting them: Because I don’t like their stuff.
Yet, you don’t do art. You do “something” that may or may not help people who, otherwise, don’t have that much fun in life. That sounds good, but I don’t get the hang of it: I have worked with disabled people and the one thing they wanted was to participate in “the real life”, be seen as “real people” and interacted with like “everyone else”. Sure, some did play RPGs, but that was, always, a personal, private thing, not something they craved for, something they would put their heart into having nothing else to do.
Suggestion: Give your PR a personal touch. If you cannot showcase one of your clients, consider hiring an actor, clearly stating that you hired an actor because you cannot showcase your actual clients but want to show what you DO. That may cost money, yes, but in order to raise funds, you have to invest money first (been a fund raiser myself) - but this suggestion is about “make it personal”. CONSIDER, this is just a thought, to NOT present yourself as a role-player, giving the impression that you are raising money for your own fun. I repeat, this is a thought, I am not saying that you DO raise money for your own fun (you are allowed to have fun with what you do for a good cause, though), I am trying to say: Make it clear that what you do is not about YOU but about the people you HELP.
(Example: If the animal shelter lady I mentioned earlier would tell people that she needed money to feed her OWN DOGS, I am absolutely sure donations would not go that high - first impression is what counts, unfortunately).

I realize, of course, that what I am doing here is criticizing what I think is a HUGE thing because I don’t want to invest time into understanding what you do. I hope that, at least for a few percent, my intention shines throught, though: Giving you an impression about why some people who might “tick like me” don’t support your project, even if they FEEL it might make sense. Because they don’t “get it”. Because they don’t get the “personal vibe” necessary. Because they may have to set priorities: Support artists whose art they find absolutely stunning, overwhelmingly great (or who they think might, if they don’t starve before that, get to that point one day) - or your project. And decide for the artist, because they GET what they pay for - mentally.

Sorry, again, for the textwall. Please see it as my (first?) donation: It’s my lifetime that I am offering here :slight_smile:

Marc

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Okay, based on feedback so far, I tried trimming down the Patreon page intro considerably.
I don’t yet have a replacement video for the summary, to replace the KREM2 News video. I’m swamped with related projects, so it might have to wait until late August to make such a 30 second video, but I did add links to What are RPGs and their benefits, and such.
Also changed the header/banner image to a collage of the most recent activities we provided last week to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, but had to pixelize all the faces/heads. I’m concerned about that. Is it better to have something, even if pixelized? Or would it be better to go back to the previous older photo, that doesn’t show as much, but is not pixelized?
Regarding actors and professional PR, that is so totally beyond our/my budget at his stage. That would take away from providing the services to those in need. if someone, an actor, marketing, PR person, wanted to donate something, that would be great.
I did add the older clip from ZOE’s actors, asking folks to support the trailer. That help?