In this video, Samir from Esusu shares how they used Givebutter to raise emergency funds to provide relief to those who are struggling to make rental payments due to COVID-19. You’re going to really enjoy this Success Story because Samir is giving away:
- What made their emergency relief collect form so successful
- Why they chose Givebutter as their fundraising platform (Hint: speedy integrations!)
- Helpful tips and words of encouragement for the Givebutter community to make campaigns even better than they already are
Nothing worth doing is worth doing alone. Find partners, find a team, find even just your friends and family who are willing to kind of have your back as you embark on crowdfunding, because it can be a lot and it can be overwhelming–and it's all about the people you get to do this with.
Campaign at a glance
Full video script
Rachel: Hey everybody! Rachel here again with Givebutter and trust me, you are going to be really inspired by today's Success Story. I have here with me Samir from Esusu, a company that has been helping Americans keep a roof over their head during this global health pandemic. They are going to be sharing a little bit more about why they chose Givebutter to help accomplish this mission for fundraising, what has made this campaign so incredibly successful, and then tips, tricks, lessons learned for all of us who are currently running Givebutter campaigns to make them even better. Samir, thank you so much for representing Esusu and for joining us today.
Samir: Thanks so much Rachel. Such a pleasure to be here with you today.
Rachel: Awesome. To start, could you tell us a little bit more about who you are, your role in Esusu, and what you guys do?
Samir: Yeah, absolutely. My name is Samir Goel. Once again, I'm the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Esusu. At Esusu what we do is really simple: we take rental payment data and report it into the credit bureaus so that renters can build and establish credit. During this pandemic, my Co-Founder [and Co-CEO] Abbey and I thought, you know, it's really sad that we're seeing close to 65 percent of the renters on our platform struggle to make that monthly obligation. There must be something that we can do about it. So we elected to partner with our charity-entity rent reporter so that we could raise philanthropic capital to provide rental assistance to those in need.
Rachel: Amazing. So what inspired you to turn to Givebutter to accomplish this task of helping out, you know, this 65+ percent that need additional help?
Samir: That's a great question, Rachel. So I chose to work with Givebutter because Abbey and I have actually known the founders for quite some time. Ari and Max have become good friends. We'd been following Givebutter since its very start. One, we wanted to work with people that we know and trust, but two, just saw how much the platform evolved, really from a crowdfunding shop to a full suite. A platform for fundraising and galvanizing a community around what we were doing. The platform capabilities were second to none, and the offerings were really well adapted to what we were trying to do.
Rachel: Well, I'm so glad to hear that. We had exactly what you needed at the right time, and I'm sure you needed to get it up and running very quickly because these were emergency funds. So walk me through a little bit of your fundraising strategy. When you were setting up the campaign, what was running through your head?
Samir: Yeah, that's another good question. Fortunately, Abbey and I have done some crowdfunding before. One of the things that we learned very early on was people like to back a winning campaign. A lot of it comes down to the pre-work that you do before going live. What that means is we spend time actually thinking through all the people we would reach out to, pre-drafting email templates, social media templates, you know, campaign collateral. Even pre-drafting a press release, all the kinds of building blocks, and then also trying to lock in a couple of donations ahead of time. So that way, when we were able to kickstart our campaign, we could immediately have some momentum, so that when people come to our page, they feel excited. They feel like they're a part of something bigger than themselves because it's really hard to build momentum from ground zero. That was really the strategy here. It was all about the pre-work: doing as much as possible as we could before that day zero to go live.
Rachel: Was there any pre-work that you did this time that was different from before? Because you said you did crowdfunding before, was there anything that you did different this time?
Samir: Yes. I think learning from those experiences, it really was that we did all the pre-work. You know, in the past, you throw up a campaign and then you're kind of overwhelmed because there's so many things to do. I think the two things we wanted to do is one, we wanted this to be a success, but two, we didn't want it to be as draining or overwhelming as the last time we had done crowdfunding. And the best way we could think of to do that was to do our homework before time and set up a system and process so that we were every day reaching out to another batch of people we knew. As much as possible, we were able to plan it out.
Rachel: So I want to go ahead and share my screen so that people can see how much of this pre-work that you've been talking about, that you've done, because it really shows. Part of why I say that is because the messaging is so consistent. You use the same campaign title throughout, your story is concise, the messaging is consistent. You can tell that all of your team fundraisers have been successful in some way. You have got tons of messages in your live Supporter Feed on the right-hand side, which tells me that people are really engaged and excited about what you've been doing. What else stands out to you as you look at the campaign page from a pre-work standpoint?
Samir: Yeah, that's a great question. So essentially there's... I think it's a lot of the things that you pointed out, right? But it's consistency in brand and in messaging, so people know exactly what we're trying to do here. Two, I think the video was really powerful for people. Fortunately, a couple of months ago we had the opportunity to essentially have a professionally done video that shares Abbey and I's story. We found that just the presence of a little bit more engaging media was very helpful. And then the last thing that you pointed out also is just keeping it concise. We see a lot of campaigns with lots and lots of content, which is really helpful, but sometimes that's overwhelming. We were trying to operate with the model of less done better. Really we were focused on what words we choose and to be really selective in what we did. Off the campaign page, it's just all about follow-up. Reaching out to people, following up with them, doing so consistently. Kind of everyday showing incremental progress, so people get excited when they come to our campaign page.
Rachel: Do you mind if we share a minute or two of your video because it is so well done. Like you said, less done better. I mean the video as well was very concise, so it keeps everything consistent. Do you mind if we share a little bit of it?
Video VO Samir: We really started out in America with essentially no money, no credit identity, and really nowhere to go.
Video VO Abbey: When I got to the United States, my mother wanted to borrow money to afford my first year of college. So we borrowed money at over 400 percent interest rates.
Video VO Samir: Your credit score is essentially your lifeline in the US financial system. So if you don't have good credit, it's very hard to buy a home.
Video VO Abbey: Home ownership has been the biggest driver of wealth in the United States, but there's a systematic inequality that prevents marginalized folks from getting access to homes. Today, we have an opportunity to right that wrong. We started Esusu with a simple premise: your financial identity shouldn't determine where you end up in life.
Video VO Samir: We work with large multi-family owners and operators to capture rental achievement data and report it to the credit bureaus to help tenants build and establish their credit score. There's currently 45 million Americans that don't have a credit score today. We can unlock over $3 trillion in mortgages.
Video VO Abbey: That it in and of itself is not only good for the American economy, but It's good for advancing and paving a permanent bridge to financial access and inclusion for everyone.
Rachel: Again, the video is just so well done, and I love that the video just jumps right into the story and people are invited in right away. It captures their attention, it makes them want to keep watching more, so that by the time that they go to read the story, they're really already so compelled by your vision and what you're about that it's like, “Okay, just give me the details. What's this going towards? Okay. Easy. I'm ready to click donate.”
Samir: You got it. The video really did for us immediately let people know our story and why this matters to us because people want to give to campaigns that they trust. They want to know who is behind the campaign and what the motivation around that is. For Abbey and I, this cause in our company is incredibly personal. This video helps kind of establish that in a very efficient way.
Rachel: Exactly. I think credibility can't be understated for crowdfunding campaigns. So what are some other tips? Tricks? Lessons learned? On give Givebutter specifically because I know this is your first time using Givebutter for a crowdfunding campaign. What are some things you've learned about the platform that have been helpful to you?
Samir: Yeah. So, you know, there's really a suite of functionality that we found to be really valuable. One was just the ease with which we could add additional team members. It's very easy to give people a link to join, so that way your crowdfunding campaign becomes a little bit more expansive. As you can see on our page, we have quite a few people on our squad, so to speak, that are helping us raise money. Another piece of the puzzle was the flexibility of payment options. And that's something we really appreciated. One was that Givebutter has some of the most competitive processing fees rates in this space. But two, it's so easy to donate with a variety of different options. It's not just a credit card or a debit card. You can donate through Venmo or PayPal. That sort of flexibility is really helpful, especially in a mobile-first generation. So we really enjoyed those two pieces. Then the third is something Rachel that you already pointed out, which is on the supporter side. People can make comments, they can input fun GIFs, they can do stuff to really make the campaign feel a little more lively. Those are some of the features that we found to be particularly exciting. One other thing that was helpful was the ability to add an offline donation because some of our larger checks were ACH, they were wired directly to us. We were still able to add those on the back-end and do so in a way so that on our more public facing campaign everyone could see the progress that was being made, and we didn’t have to have two different kinds of narratives.
Rachel: Right. So what I hear you saying is it was extremely user-friendly, especially from a crowdfunding standpoint. It was easy to add team members, also it was extremely accessible with funding options, whether that's offline donations or accepting Venmo, that's huge. That makes your life so much easier, especially during an emergency fund situation where that can easily backlog and become a huge nightmare when you're raising funds. I'm glad to hear that that process was really easy for you.
Samir: Yeah, I think you're spot on. It was really three things: it's flexibility of payment options, the accessibility or intuitiveness of the user experience, and then the community building elements.
Rachel: Yeah. And you really capitalized on all of those things. It's so obvious, just looking at your campaign page. So hopefully those that are watching, reading, listening, are able to kind of compartmentalize those three categories as well. And kind of take an assessment of what they already have going and say are we covering those three areas? Are we making these as easy as possible for us to maximize what we can get out of this campaign. Like you said, as a nod to the beginning of our conversation, it's all about the pre-work and setting your campaign up for success before it gets started. For example, finding team or squad members that are able to make the first donations to get the ball rolling, getting those bigger gifts that you mentioned. I didn't even point out that you've raised seven times more than your fundraising goal, which is just mind blowing to me. Was there any other sort of secret that made your campaign so successful? Because seven times over your goal is really impressive.
Samir: Yeah. Thanks so much for asking. I think the other thing is that we have a couple of anchor funders that are philanthropic. So The Global Good Fund and Acumen Fund, you know, they've invested in Eusu as a company. We had already built a track record and credibility, and Abbey and I wanted to reach out to them to support these efforts. Our real strategy was how do we kind of leverage the power of a grassroots campaign to then go and raise big dollars from philanthropic organizations? And so that was really the game plan. How do we kind of set this campaign up to be successful? You know, we raised over $25,000 in individual contributions, and then we can take that momentum and that acknowledgement that this is really solving a major need to then go and raise larger donation amounts from larger organizations that can give more.
Rachel: So that was part of your success I'm hearing as well is that you had major partners. That's something that in the rush of creating an emergency campaign, it's easy to think “I'll just go ahead and get it up and running and hopefully we'll find someone along the way that can give the big boost.” But you’re saying that you were intentional about that beforehand.
Samir: Exactly. I think the idea was, you know, we really believe in the power of grassroots community and everyone's desire to lend a helping hand in this time. That was phase one: how can we get the people around us that we know care deeply about issues to support us. That also comes with time. We've been doing this work now for three or four years, we’ve built some brand equity, we’ve demonstrated where our hearts are. Since we had that trust, it was then about the execution of the pre-planning and all that work. Once we were able to show traction on a grassroots level, we can go to larger donors who want a little bit more of a proof of concept. They're never going to be the first person to put money in, but if you can show that there's enthusiasm and you already have a relationship with them, then it becomes a much more smooth process to get that capital.
Rachel: Right, right. I'm just so inspired by the purpose of this campaign, and I'm sure many others who are listening are curious, how are you using these funds? What's been going on since you've been raising them and how are lives being impacted by it?
Samir: Yeah, absolutely. What we did is after we raised the capital, we reached out to all our partners who are housing developers, landlords, or nonprofit organizations, and asked them to share our application page with all the residents that they have access to. People have now applied for rental relief, and we're in the process of reviewing applications and giving out. The way we structure it is as zero interest loans. So anyone who is struggling to meet rent because of COVID-19 can now access between $250 to a $1000 at 0 percent interest. We don't ask people to start paying us back for six months and after that they have over a year to pay us back. The point is really just that once we get funds back, we're able to give out more zero interest loans to people. And so that's really what we're doing with the capital is, you know, there's over 30 million Americans out of a job. Many of whom are worried about keeping a roof over their heads. So how can we use this money to help keep those people in their homes and do so in a way that works for everyone?
Rachel: I mean, wow! It's just so inspiring. Please tell these stories as they unfold because I know I'm not going to be the only one following along wanting to hear what happened with all this emergency funding that you provided. It's just incredible. It's inspiring. Know that all of us at Givebutter are cheering you on. We can't wait to see how much more you'll continue to raise, and all the amazing work that you're going to continue to do with the funds raised. Just to close, I'm wondering if you have any sort of word of encouragement. If there are other companies that are listening maybe, and are new to the crowdfunding space and maybe just have a sense like, “Things are hard right now and I want to make a difference and I've never tried this.” What would be your word of encouragement to them?
Samir: Yeah, absolutely. Rachel. I think I'd really say two things. The first is that nothing worth doing is worth doing alone. Find partners, find a team, find even just your friends and family who are willing to kind of have your back as you embark on crowdfunding, because it can be a lot and it can be overwhelming–and it's all about the people you get to do this with. And the second is, and I think I've already mentioned it, but it's have a plan. Anything that’s new feels much better when you have a plan. So take some time to think through “If this is my goal, where do I think I can get this money? What do I need to do to accomplish that and put those pieces in place?” If you do that, then you'll probably surprise yourself and be even more successful than you anticipated.
Rachel: Great words of wisdom. Thank you so much for joining us today and for inspiring our entire Givebutter community. Like I said, we can't wait to hear what's next for Esusu.
Samir: Absolutely. Thanks again Rachel, have a great day.
Rachel: You too.
View campaign: Esusu COVID-19 Emergency Rent Relief Fund
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.