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Crowdfunding One Hot Meal At A Time

Chilis on Wheels is an initiative based in New York City, spearheaded by veteran vegan and social rights activist Michelle Carrera. Michelle decided to cook her own vegan chilis and provide them to the homeless and food insecure in need of a warm meal once a month. Most soup kitchens close their doors over the weekends and Chilis on Wheels aims to cover that need.

They’re raising funds to expand their service from monthly distributions to weekly ones, and add a component of a table in the park in order to expand the population that they serve. The team have started a crowdfunding campaign in order to cover costs for food, related supplies and fees associated with tax exemption. I spoke with Michelle on how her team pitched the idea to their friends and family, and what it means for them to provide a service in their community with the support of the crowd.

Watch Michelle’s pitch video

1. Why did you decide to turn to crowdfunding to raise money?

“We turned to crowdfunding because the entire effort was being funded out of pocket. When we turned to supermarkets for food donations, we were directed to register as a 501c3, a tax exempt organization. Unfortunately the fees associated with this registration were out of our budget and we turned to the crowd.”

2. How did you initially promote your campaign and create a community of support?

“We spent our social capital. Left no door unknocked. If I know you, I make sure you know about our campaign. If I don’t know you but know of you, you have received a message from us. Unabashedly.”

3. Do you have a team of people working with you to promote your campaign?

“I have a little team of people promoting the campaign, but for the most part I have taken charge of it. The most important thing has been Facebook. My team has shared it with their friends and so on and a lot of donations are not from people I know directly.”

4. Is it crucial to have an established online community of support before attempting to crowdfunding?

“Absolutely crucial, but that also speaks to the cause that you are crowdfunding for and how passionately you can write about it and convince others to support you on it. I did not have a Facebook group for Chilis on Wheels before the campaign. Once we made the decision to expand, we did everything at once. It has been an intense experience. However I did have a pretty diverse group of committed individuals as friends that have done their part and shared it with their broad contacts.”

5. How has integrating visual media helped tell your story and engage support?

“Also a crucial point. I have three videos attached to the campaign. Two as updates. They greatly help. And they were made with a simple point and shoot camera and free video software. The simple act of having a video is a huge boost.

6. What FundRazr features have you found useful in your efforts?

“It is the first time that I crowdfund. Definitely the social media export tools have been of use, and being able to upload email contacts has been great.”

7. What has been a challenge you faced while crowdfunding?

“There are slow days. It’s hard to lose hope when a day goes by without a contribution. I keep at it, keep sending emails, keep seeking contact information of people who might support the cause.”

8. What has been the highlight of your experience so far?

“Out of the experience we have received a lot more than money. Chilis on Wheels is now in talks to establish chapters in Boston and Florida. We have been invited to appear in a local TV show.”

9. Do you have any advice for others who want to start crowdfunding?

Knock on every door. Don’t despair but do not rest. Seek out anyone you think might support your cause. Move, move, move. There is always an email that can be written, a Twitter or Facebook message you can send. We believe in Chilis on Wheels. We believe in the power to help our community. When you believe in your cause, you will stop at nothing to see it succeed.

Click Here to learn more about Chilis on Wheels.

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