Humans of New York's Advice to Higher Education Crowdfunders

For my birthday this year, my mother-in-law gifted me Humans of New York Stories (10/10, would recommend) with an inscription,

For our sweet Kristen – the “people lover!”

It’s true – I love people, and I love people who love people, such as Brandon Stanton, founder and photographer of Humans of New York (HONY) – a blog with over 17 million followers on Facebook alone that highlights photos of people in New York City and gives them a platform to tell their personal stories.

The profiles he compiles are stunning and engrossing. Take a look:






The final image is of 13-year-old Vidal, a child from one of Brooklyn’s most dangerous neighborhoods. After meeting Vidal and learning about his teacher’s dream to bring her students to Harvard University for a visit, Brandon went on to launch a crowdfunding campaign, and, with the help of his community, raised $1.6 million. The money raised will go toward future Harvard trips and a scholarship fund for graduates from his school.

Vidal will be the first scholarship recipient.

I have been following Humans of New York for years. I’ve shed real crocodile tears. I’ve laughed so hard I woke my husband up in the middle of the night. I’ve been inspired to take action.

So imagine my excitement when I found out that Brandon Stanton would be speaking at Arizona State University – one of USEED’s first clients (partners), my alma mater, and just a stone’s throw from my home in Tempe. I had one foot out the door before I even finished reading the invitation.

Photo courtesy of “Did it actually happen if you don’t instagram it?”

Photo courtesy of “Did it actually happen if you didn’t Instagram it?”

I joined hundreds of college students as we sat on a lawn on campus, enamored by Brandon’s passion for people and excited about what our future could look like if more people stepped up to the plate to make our world a more connected, empathetic place.

I dreamed alongside 18 year olds, and it was the best.

At the end of his talk, Brandon opened the stage for questions. First up: A young woman from Arizona State’s crowdfunding program – Pitchfunder (powered by USEED). She asked:

What advice would you give to the students here on campus crowdfunding for their various projects?

What’s this – direct advice from one of the most innovative and inspiring journalists in the world today?! For our crowdfunders?!!!

I tackled my phone to capture Brandon’s response. Here’s what he shared:

“I think why [my] crowdfunding campaigns have been successful is because I never held a crowdfunding campaign for the sake of crowdfunding. […] Sometimes through the process of [telling a story], I identify needs, and when you layer a crowdfunding campaign on top of that, [others can] use it to become part of that story. But it always starts with stories.”

This is the man who, along with his community of readers, has crowdfunded over $6 million for needs-based causes in the past year alone, and he’s saying that none of that money came from crowdfunding for the sake of crowdfunding.

When reading Humans of New York, it becomes immediately clear that the best way to move people to take action is to tell stories of real people with vulnerability. The story of “We’re crowdfunding to purchase [fill in the blank]” won’t cut it.

Are you willing to highlight these stories – whether it be from other team members or from people who have been or will be impacted by your initiative?

And if so, how will you tell their stories in a way that inspires others to be a part of your mission?

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