Rapidian’s first fund drive goes social, makes education a priority

By Sally Duros

In April, The Rapidian is going to launch its first fund drive in a big way. It’s going social.

“We are still working on a sustainibility plan for The Rapidian,” said Holly Bechiri, Managing Editor, “and we have really good support from our community and we felt they would want to be part of our sustainability as well.”

The two week drive begins April 16 with a week of education to explain to the Grand Rapids, MI.,  community why they should open their check books to pay for The Rapidian’s citizen journalism services.

The Rapidian fund drive is geared to reach 250 donors, not to raising a specific dollar amount, Bechiri said.

The second week begins April 23 with an online social rally led by 25 hand-recruited sharing partners. They’ll get the word out through Facebook, Twitter, Google+ — whatever their preferred social network — to support The Rapidian.

Sharing partner in chief is Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. Other sharers will be artists, musicians, reporters, board members, photographers, local businesses and key local personalities.

It’s planned that the first week will generate a buzz and raise awareness. Beginning April 16, The Rapidian will unveil the elements of the campaign, and feature a new article on the home page every day explaining why the funding is needed, who The Rapidian serves, and why its coverage is important.

In putting together the campaign, The Rapidian takes a chapter from online fund-raising campaigns that include consistent online messaging by participants across platforms.

This messaging includes a hashtag: #RapidianFundDrive. The message is:  “Join me in supporting The Rapidian: the hyperlocal news source powered by the people of Grand Rapids.” There’s even a Twibbon that can be used on Facebook.

The fund drive week will kick off with a Storify collected from the Twitter launch. During that week, The Rapidian will be holding a contest that challenges the audience to describe The Rapidian in ten words or less. And they’ll show four kickoff videos. And of course, donors can win tote bags, buttons and other appropriate kinds of swag.

Currently The Rapidian, which is a registered 501©3 non profit, is run by full-time managing editor Bechiri; a three-quarter time community engagement specialist; a ten-hour per week web person; and a business development person who works on commission.

Several smaller local businesses advertise online through The Rapidian. In addition, they’ve found sponsors for some of their beats– these include music, food, and of course, the beer beat.

The Rapidian started as a citizen journalism project of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center, which has been around 25 years.  Launched in 2009, The Rapidian was funded with $200,000 in grant money from the Knight Foundation and others including the local community foundation.

It’s now graduated to being a department of the GRCMC, Bechiri said. “We’re proud to work alongside community media providers in television, radio, theatre and education.”

Sally Duros is a social journalist working toward the next generation of successful, credible online newsrooms. Connect with her on  and on twitter at saduros.

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