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How Not For Sale Combined Storytelling and Crowdfunding to Grow 56.52 Percent Year Over Year

We want to disrupt the traditional norms of capital and business, so that everyone is equipped to become empowered and lead lives with dignity. We believe that business can change the tide against modern slavery because we’ve proven it with our own sweat, tears, and capital. We test our ideas, and help others do what works. Ellie Neilson, Operations and Impact Measurement - Not For Sale

Not For Sale is not your average nonprofit. Since 2007, the human rights and social justice organization has supported more than 25,000 survivors of human trafficking through their global projects, but in 2010 they took their mission a step further.

Instead of only supporting survivors after they’ve been trafficked, Not For Sale is addressing the root problems of trafficking to prevent exploitation in the first place. To accomplish this, Not For Sale started to create tools that engage people in business, government, and on the ground in order to incubate and grow social enterprises to benefit enslaved and vulnerable communities. This evolution in their mission also called for a change in their fundraising strategy.


“We really honed in on our communications tactics,” Individual Giving Manager Ashleigh Kincaid shared with us.

In June 2016, Not For Sale switched from a donation page to a crowdfunding page and over the next year saw 56.52 percent growth. The crowdfunding campaign type allows for a stronger storytelling presence, and Not For Sale leveraged this to tell their narrative, process, and impact, as well as to highlight their projects and enterprises. All of this creative freedom has transformed how they engage their supporters, and their crowdfunding campaign page acts as an extension of their website rather than a simple form to make a gift.
Our goal in the beginning of 2017 was to retain and maintain our audience, while also working to have them understand the shift in our model and the way that we’re challenging traditional norms of ‘charity.’ Since we’re going through a rebranding period and a shift in the way that we engage with our audience, we thought it would be time to change up our donation page as well. Ellie Neilson, Operations and Impact Measurement - Not For Sale

Not For Sale not only maintained their audience, but saw substantial growth across several of their most important metrics. Their goal was to retain and maintain, but their total number of online donations increased by 312.7 percent. They also saw an increase in average donation size and recurring donors as well.


“It is often hard to inspire others to make a tangible difference with one of the world’s largest human rights problems—45.8 million people are currently in some form of modern slavery today—without instigating an emotional connection,” Ellie Neilson says. The team at Not For Sale was wary of using guilt or exploiting the survivors’ stories to elicit donations.

Still, they knew they needed to drive home the impact that donations can have beyond an individual life by focusing their mission on the eradication of human trafficking entirely. To do this, Not For Sale leveraged the storytelling elements on a crowdfunding campaign page, like photos, impact blocks, and powerful copy.

To ensure these elements aligned with their values and showed respect for their beneficiaries, they told the whole stories of their lives beyond their survivorships of human trafficking.

Storytelling is a powerful driver of human empathy. When done properly, it deeply connects us and inspires us to take action. I think our shift to tell stories of survivors and their complex stories in a way that supports and uplifts them has been helpful to our success. We want our Not For Sale family to feel urgency to take action against such a tragic issue, while also maintaining the integrity of the survivors that we work with. Ellie Neilson, Operations and Impact Measurement - Not For Sale

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