On June 28th, we launched our first ever crowdfunding campaign: Swimmable Lake Ontario. But this campaign was about more than raising money. It was about connecting Torontonians to the lake – making sure they can enjoy Toronto’s water without the threat of getting sick.
Our fundraising goal was to raise $5000 in order to cover the cost of repairing our Boat, the Angus Bruce, gas, and lab testing.
The need for this water quality information is apparent, as the city only samples water at the 11 public beaches from June to Labour Day. This means 95% of Toronto’s waterfront isn’t monitored and 100% of the waterfront isn’t monitored for 9 months of the year.
Having never crowdfunded before, the team at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper didn’t know what to expect. In case you missed it, here is what happened:
The first day in any crowdfunding campaign is crucial, as this is when momentum is at its highest. In the first 24 hours, we raised $1290 towards our fundraising goal, accounting for over one quarter of the funds we needed.
Day two of our campaign was even more successful; we raised an additional $1555. This put us over the halfway mark of our fundraising goal, exceeding all of our expectations.
By day three, we had raised a total of $3455 but momentum began to slow down. We were still optimistic we would hit $5000 though. A number of contributors stepped up throughout the month and carried the total closer and closer.
On July 29, the campaign officially ended. And we were thrilled with the result. We received a total of $5230 on the Indiegogo platform, backed by 61 backers. This meant our campaign was 105% funded, allowing us to mark it as a success!
But one of the best takeaways from this campaign was that 70% of the backers were new donors. The crowdfunding platform helped us reach a new group of recreational water users in Toronto, expanding the Swim Drink Fish community. Welcome!
This campaign also helped us realize that crowdfunding isn’t for everyone. A few donors weren’t comfortable with the platform, but still wanted to give to the cause. Outside of the campaign, we raised another $1500 towards this project. So the campaign was actually 135% funded.
Our work on the water also caught the attention of Muskoka Brewery and Evergreen – who contributed an additional $8000 to stretch our sampling work into the fall. And although the swimming season is officially over, there are still thousands of boaters, surfers, and paddlers still out on the lake. Meaning, fall sampling is equally important.
What did we do with the money?
The Swimmable Lake Ontario campaign allowed us to make the necessary repairs to our boat and bring it to Toronto. Upon arriving in Toronto, Waterkeeper Mark Mattson and his crew spotted a 2km stretch of waste floating in Lake Ontario, just off of Ashbridges Bay. Validating the need for more public information regarding Toronto’s sewage problem. Our photos caught the attention of the media and of the legendary open-water swimmer Marilyn Bell.
With our boat in the city, we were able to sample the lake in places that are inaccessible from land four times this summer. Additionally, we were able to train volunteers and collect water samples on foot another three times.
Having the boat in Toronto, also gave us the opportunity to take community members out on the water (some for the first time) to see first-hand the threats Lake Ontario faces.
And although the Angus Bruce is back in Kingston for the winter, we are continuing to take samples of the lake and informing the public when wet weather impacts the health of the lake. We’re also testing out our new in-house lab!
The Swimmable Lake Ontario campaign was about getting the City of Toronto more connected to, and with, the great Lake Ontario. Thank you to everyone who supported this campaign and continues to support all of the work that we do.
With your support, we are able to engage thousands of recreational water users who care about the lake and move one step closer to a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future.