School of hard Knocks – a crowdfunding case study

How easy is it for a charity to use crowdfunding?

The School of Hard Knocks is a charity that uses sport to tackle the issues surrounding unemployment, crime and health. They work with unemployed adults to help them find and sustain work; and with school children at risk of exclusion to help them re-engage with education and improve their attendance, behaviour and attainment.SOHK received a Royal Society of Arts Catalyst Grant in 2016 to run a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdfunder. As they had a high-profile, largely from the television exposure, crowdfunding seemed a good avenue to explore.

The RSA grant paid for

  • a high quality, professionally shot and edited video
  • social media experts to support the campaign
  • transactional costs from the hosting site,
  • and to fund staff time in coordinating and executing the campaign.

They raised £20,450 from 90 supporters in 28 days to directly funded work in two new London schools at no charge to the schools.

Lessons learned from Jack Lewars is COO of School of Hard Knocks

Who are your donors

We are told that 70% of your donors will come from your existing network, but we found that over 90% of our supporters were already known to us as donors or supporters. You need to have a large network ready to back your campaign. You also need to consider carefully whether crowdfunding is the best way to galvanise that network, or whether they would be happy to donate in a general appeal, which would usually allow you to add Gift Aid (if run via a typical charitable donation site)*.

Need for constant exposure

We used every person in our contact book to retweet, post on Facebook and generally shout about the campaign for an entire month.  Every high profile supporter was given suggested text and was emailed or texted every week to remind them when and what to say.

This proved to be effective but also extremely time-consuming. We were lucky that an intern was able to execute the majority of this legwork. If we had a full-time member of staff leading on this, it would have increased costs by at least 20%. Anyone contemplating a campaign, therefore, needs to have the resources to assign at least one person, full-time, for the duration of the campaign to promoting it.

In addition to driving donations from individuals, the exposure raised the profile of the campaign with other types of backer. Around 50% of our funds came from corporate backers, most notably Santander’s Changemaker Fund. Without these we wouldn’t have met our target. They helped leverage extra support as people liked the idea of ‘matched’ donations.

The right rewards

We realised early on that the decision to give on a crowdfunding campaign is essentially commercial, not philanthropic. Anyone viewing your site is judging the value of the reward alongside the social return and is looking for value for money when they combine these figures. So if £20 ‘buys’ a £5 t-shirt, they’ll need to feel that there’s £15 of social return on investment to bite.

If 90% of your donors come from your existing network, they may just donate anyway. You may be better off with an appeal and not having to buy a reward. True crowdfunding campaigns are therefore a finely balanced calculation about reward and margin.

Have a look at the rewards we offered.


The campaign actually raised significant funds for our programmes and we are now delivering new work and striving to ensure its sustainability.

Jack Lewars is COO of School of Hard Knocks. If you are interested in supporting the charity or would like to know more, please email him. All SOHK emails are

School of Hard Knocks is a charity that uses sport to tackle the issues surrounding unemployment, crime and health. Founded in 2012, we work with individuals to help them take responsibility and make positive steps forward in their lives. We offer a number of different programmes, each tailored to its audience and principal aims. The constant factor is our methodology – controlled confrontation, challenging activities and a constant affirmation of self-worth and motivation.


* Gift Aid is allowable on the cash part of a crowdfunding donation.

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