Top 5 Crowdfunding Success Tips for Nonprofit Projects

I just completed my fifth successful nonprofit crowdfunding campaign. All raised funds for nonprofit causes. I used the Indiegogo platform, which also offers the Generosity platform option for nonprofit and personal campaigns. (I stick with Indiegogo because I know it and I like the extra data analytics it offers.) The campaigns ranged from $1400 to over $10,000. My top tips will apply to your campaign, whether smaller or larger.

1. Don’t Crowdfund unless you have a core crowd of your own. Most (not all) donations for most campaigns will come from your friends and families. Few nonprofit projects rise to the level of getting promoted to strangers. (Stranger donations are more common for truly innovative for-profit tech products.) Focus on people you know who will want to support your cause. Think of people you can email, tag on Facebook, reach with Twitter, or ask in person. If you don’t know many people, or are too shy to tell them about your campaign, you might want to use another fundraising strategy.

Best case scenario: The nonprofit project already has its own list and will send out emails for the campaign.

But if it is a start up with no list to start, you’ve got to be willing to contact friends.

2. Form a team of leaders. Ideally you should have at least 5-10 people lined up in advance to helping you the campaign, and a schedule so that every day, the word is getting out to potential supporters from someone they know. Email to close friends is usually more effective than Facebook, so make sure email figures in prominently.

Day 1 — All team members send an email to 20 people
Day 2 — Cindy Facebook post and tag 8 people
Day 3 — Joe Tweet to his 1000 followers
Dav 4 — Jyselle email all her family members, including her 37 cousins

3. Make your goal realistic. It looks better to have 60% of a modest goal than 1% of a goal that is too high. There is no penalty for raising more than your goals.

4. Include a video. Campaigns with videos tend to get much more support than those without. If you can’t do that, at least include some cool photos.

5. Thank your donors and enlist them in outreach. In the thank you, you can include a note like this:

Thank you, Wizard Window Washing, for your generous endorsement to the Cancer Patients Legal Defense and Advocacy Fund and getting us to 97% of our goals! We’d love your help spreading the word! Here is text you can email or post to help us get over the top:

I just donated to the Cancer Patients Legal Defense and Advocacy Fund. Please join me in supporting cancer patients fighting for affordable medicines, including my friends Zahara and Hannah.

Add your questions and tips to the comments.

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New Cancer Diagnosis? Stockpile Dental Floss

“I’ll stop flossing.”

That was my first thought after I got a new breast cancer diagnosis.

I seriously thought I might not live long enough to need to worry about my teeth.

Dental flss treatment for cancer

How Does Dental Floss Help When You Have Cancer?

Four years later, I am super glad I kept flossing. I still have cancer, but my body is strong, my spirit is strong, and my teeth are strong.

Last weekend, I heard This American Life interviewer Nancy Updike say that upon her diagnosis, she made trip after trip to the drugstore to buy dental floss, without knowing why. Her interviewee, Michael Kinsey, thought that maybe she was “stockpiling a message…You will live to floss long into the future.” The interview.

I think Nancy’s approach was spot on.

Not everyone is as lucky as me and Nancy, but cure rates are up for many cancers, survival rates are up, and new treatments offer many patients the chance of a high quality of life even during treatment.

In the past year, for example, I have been in a clinical trial and on chemo, but I still was able to travel to Iceland, stand up paddle all summer, and ride my bike to work.

I know how devastating it is to learn that you or a loved one has cancer. I know the pain of treatments, and the mental and emotional side effects.

But I also know there are silver linings. Possibilities for beauty and happiness, even in treatment.

If you learn you have cancer, I suggest you find a friend to go with you to your doctor’s appointments. Ask people for the kind of help that you need.

And stockpile a message to yourself that you just might have fabulous future. Buy some dental floss.


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TPP Threatens Access to Medicines: Statement in Advance of State of the Union

Press Conference Monday, January 11, 2016 at 4:00 PM
2168 Rayburn House Office Building
Members of Congress to Join a Broad Coalition Against TPP Ahead of the State of the Union

Contact: 202-489-8908
January 11,2016

Learn more and get involved:

World Cancer Day Event:

In 2008, I received a devastating diagnosis: invasive breast cancer. My son had just turned 3. But today, even though my cancer is considered advanced, and my current treatment includes chemotherapy, I am thriving. My son is now 10 and I am happy to be a soccer mom as well as a writer and educator.

Zahara Heckscher at Rosa DeLauro Press Conference about TPP and State of the Union, January 2015

Zahara Heckscher at Rep. Rosa DeLauro Press Conference on TPP and State of the Union

I am alive and thriving today because I have had access to the latest medicines for breast cancer, including monoclonal antibodies, known as biological medicines.

Sadly, I know all too well what cancer can mean without access to new treatments. My mother died of breast cancer in 1976, less than one year after her diagnosis, just days before my 12th birthday.

That is why I was arrested at the TPP negotiations in Atlanta, and why I am here today to urge Congress to reject the TPP. The TPP will effectively take some patients backwards in time to the dark ages of cancer treatment. It will prevent too many people with cancer – and other life threatening illnesses – from accessing the new treatments they need to stay alive. When science has the potential for them to be thrivers like me, living productive lives while in treatment, or to be cured, the TPP will be a death sentence.

Doctors Without Borders: Worst-Ever Trade Agreement

According to Doctors Without Borders, the TPP will “go down in history as the worst-ever trade agreement for access to medicines…It’s bad for people needing access to medicines worldwide, including in the U.S.”

How does the TPP prevent access to medicines? Organizations including like Doctors without Borders, Public Citizen, and Oxfam have done the detailed technical analysis, but the bottom line is this:

First of all, in the US, if passed, the TPP will lock in policies that will keep prices obscenely high.

  • The TPP could tie policymakers’ hands by locking in the inability of our government to negotiate reasonable prescription prices in any future Medicare Part D reform.
  • The TPP would prevent the reduction of extra-long monopolies for biologic medicines — some of which cost over $100,000 per year — and delay the timely development of affordable, life-saving biosimilars.
  • The TPP would lock in perverse incentives that encourage pharmaceutical companies to “evergreen” profits, extending monopolies for making minor modifications to existing medicines rather than developing new medicines.
  • In addition, efforts to reform our system and reduce medical costs in the future could be challenged outside our court system in unaccountable trade tribunals.

The high prices locked in by the TPP will mean that in the US, insurance formularies may not cover certain new and effective medicines, people with high deductibles may be unable to afford treatments they need, and low-income and even middle class people may be unable to afford co-pays that can total thousands of dollars per year for expensive medicines.

As an example, I were not in a clinical trial, this medicine I take, palbociclib, a drug that is helping me stay alive and thriving, could cost me over $100,000 a year because it is not approved for the kind of breast cancer I have, even though my doctor wanted me on it. Locking in our current system will mean more of these outrageous prices and a resulting lack of access to life saving medicines.

And for those of you who think you are not affected because you are healthy – think again. Propping up higher costs for medicines will ultimately increase insurance premiums for everyone, as well as taxes to cover Medicare and other government programs that pay for drugs. As economist Dean Baker has illustrated, outrageous health care costs are the number one cause of U.S. budget problems.

TPP Delays Generics and Limits Access Overseas

Outside the US, by establishing extended monopolies that delay production of generics and biosimilars, the TPP will have devastating effects on individual health and health systems. The TPP will roll back the May 10, 2007 agreement between Congressional Democrats and the Bush Administration that promoted access to medicines for developing countries. The effectiveness of our international aid dollars will be compromised. Try telling a woman with breast cancer in Vietnam, where annual per capital income is under $2000, that she has to pay $100,000 a year for the medicine that would save her life. Ultimately, people will die because they will not have access to lifesaving medicines for HIV, cancer, and other illnesses.

If passed, the TPP would be extremely difficult to modify because all signatories would have to agree to any changes. This means that harmful provisions may be in effect for decades, hampering not only current policy but also future generations’ ability to improve our health care system and control costs.

SOTU: Look at the TPP Details, Not Obama’s Glossy Gift Wrap

At the State of The Union, Obama may try to wrap the TPP in some nice gift wrap – for example, he may say that the TPP is needed for companies to be able to develop new drugs. We need to look at the TPP details not Obama’s glossy gift wrap. Please don’t be confused by arguments that conflate obscene profits with the ability to advance medical research. Pharma spends more on marketing and lobbying than on research. And much of the innovative work in developing new medicines is funded by government and nonprofits.

The TPP is not a policy wonk issue. It is a human issue that affects individuals like me who are fighting for our lives. And it affects our families too.

Lack of Access to Life Saving Medicines in New Millennium: Cruel, Premeditated, and Avoidable Catastrophe

For my mother to die of breast cancer in the 1970s was a tragedy for our family. For people in the US and around the world to die unnecessary in this new millennium because of the TPP is a cruel, premeditated, and avoidable catastrophe.

I urge all members of Congress to serve the interests of your constituents, of public health, of fiscal responsibility, and of democracy. I urge you to vote against the TPP.


# # #

Zahara Heckscher is a breast cancer patient, writer and educator who lives in Washington, DC. She has a BA in Biology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, and an MA in International Development from American University. She is currently in a clinical trial that combines chemotherapy and palbociclib, and her treatment also includes the biological medicine Xgeva, a monoclonal antibody. Zahara bikes to and from her chemo appointments and paddles with a dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors. As the founder of Cancer Thriver, she is dedicated to spreading the word about the role of exercise in helping to prevent and treat breast cancer. She is a leader in the movement of cancer patients to defeat the TPP and protect access to affordable medicines.

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“Slaves” vs “Enslaved People” in My Son’s Classroom

My blond, blue eyed boy is the descendant of an enslaved person and named for someone who escaped from slavery. So how do I handle it when his teacher refers to “slaves” instead of “enslaved people”?

I just spent 30 minutes observing my son’s classroom. My role was to see how my kid was doing.

To protect anonymity, let’s say it was a 6th grade class in Maryland.

The subject was the Civil War. Students were formulating questions they wanted to answer during their studies.

I was impressed by the students — they had deep questions about the roots of racism, the politics of Lincoln’s opponents, and the use of symbols in quilts to promote resistance to and escape from slavery.

But the teacher’s use of the word “slaves” and “masters” got me stuck. Really stuck.

A while back, someone told me that to use the word “slave” defines people too narrowly. It takes away other elements of their humanity. It makes invisible the fact that someone else was using force to enslave them. It freezes them in time — perhaps they were born free or won their freedom. A better term, I was told, is “enslaved people,” or “enslaved Africans” when referring specifically to African people. Excellent discussion here: Slaves vs Enslaved People and Detailed Exploration of Phrase “Enslaved People”

Saying “enslaved person” makes a lot of sense to me. You see, my own grandfather was enslaved by the Nazis. While I did not know him (he died the year before I was born), I know that he was much more than a slave. He was an entrepreneur, an assimilated Jew, a German (until the Nazi’s stripped his citizenship), a soldier, an animal trainer, a husband, a brother, a father, a Holocaust survivor, an American. He’s also my son’s namesake.

So my blond, blue eyed boy is the descendant of an enslaved person and named for someone who escaped from slavery.

I have taught my son to use the phrase “enslaved person” and to be in solidarity with all other enslaved people, because it is the right thing to do, and because of his great grandfather’s experience.

So I was kind of shocked when the teacher in my son’s class used the words “slaves” and “masters” or “owners” uncritically.

She does not know my family story, but most of the kids in the class are African American, and presumably many of them have ancestors who were enslaved. (And some students probably have ancestors who were slaveholders — a fact that I think requires exploration, awareness and sensitivity by the teacher as well.)

For now, I am thinking about how I can bring this up with the teacher. I am all in favor of teachable moments, not shaming. That’s how I would want her to teach my son.

I appreciate that she teaches with questions. Perhaps she can bring this issue to students in the form of some questions for them to explore. I know they’ll have some interesting ideas, opinions, and proposals.

A teachable moment, indeed.

I welcome your thoughts, resources, and ideas.

(BTW, Did you know it is your right as a parent or guardian to observe you child’s class? If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what is really going on in there.)

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Why Did I go to Jail Protesting the TPP?

This video of my arrest in Atlanta. Here is my statement from the press conference before the arrest, explaining why I am involved

Zahara Heckscher, Cancer Patient
Media Statement on TPP and Access to Cancer Medicines

Contact: 202-489-8908
September 30, 2015

I am Zahara Heckscher, a mother, wife, writer, and educator. Seven years ago this week I received the chilling news that I had invasive breast cancer. The diagnosis was especially devastating because my son was only 3 years old. But today, even though my cancer is considered advanced, and my current treatment includes chemotherapy, I think of myself as a Cancer Thriver. My life is full and rich. I was able to be there for my son’s 10th birthday party. I stay busy and prodictive with work, biking, stand up paddling, as well as PTA meetings and taking my boy to baseball practice and soccer games.

I am alive and thriving today in large part because I have had access to the latest medicines for breast cancer. My treatment has included new biological medicines, or biologics: the monoclonal antibodies trastuzumab (Hercepin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta) and denosumab (Xgeva). These and similar medicines have extended and even saved the lives of thousands of women with breast cancer. The additional biologics in the pipeline give so much hope to me and other people living with cancer.

Sadly, I know all too well what cancer can mean without these breakthrough treatments. Let’s go back to September 8, 1976. It’s the day before I start junior high. It’s four days before I turn 12. That was the day my mother died of breast cancer, less than one year after her diagnosis. That is what cancer means without access to new treatment. I am a writer, but I am at a loss to find the words to tell you how awful it was for me, my brother and my sister, as well as my father, to go on without her.

For my mother to die of breast cancer was a tragedy for our family.

For thousands of women to die unnecessary of breast cancer because of the TPP is a horrible, cruel, premeditated, and avoidable catastrophe.

The majority of women with breast cancer are mothers. So breast cancer is not only an illness that strikes down women in their prime; it also creates devastating effects on the children and partners of its victims, lifelong damage to families — because you can never fully recover if you lose your mother when you are a child.

And that is why I am here. The provisions under consideration by the TPP would allow drug monopolies on biologics for 8 years.  Some of these medicines cost up to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. When you have breast cancer today, you can’t wait 8 years for a treatment to become available or affordable. When you have cancer, even a one year delay in affordable medicine can be a death sentence. That is why we call this proposed provision of the TPP a death sentence clause. If it passes, thousands of women like me will die waiting. It also means that here in the US, we’ll be locked in to long waiting times for affordable new medicines. Any efforts to reduce wait times could be struck down by undemocratic trade tribunals. This is unacceptable to me, to other people with cancer, and to our friends and families.

You might ask, if I oppose extended monopolies, am I anti-research? Of course not. I am currently in a clinical trial and I am happy that I can contribute my time and my cancer cells to scientific advancement. I have a degree in biology and even worked as an intern in a research lab that made monoclonal anti-bodies. Medical research is keeping me alive.

I am pro-research and pro-access. Don’t be confused by arguments that conflate the death sentence clause with the ability to advance medical research. Big pharma is doing fine without this extra 8 year monopoly. Extra revenue from monopolies may bloat already high profits, may puff up advertising budgets, but this extended monopoly period is not required for pharmaceutical companies, or the NIH, or nonprofits, or universities to continue investing in cutting edge medical research.

Now let’s go to the future. It’s 2018. A 7 year old girl’s mother sits her down to explain, mama has an illness called breast cancer. If today, we can prevent the death sentence clause, there will be a better chance to get her mother affordable biologics on the market sooner — and a better chance that this girl will have her mother there to nurture her as she grows up, the same chance I hope to have to continue being there for my son.

This is why we must act today.

I am here to remind Ambassador Froman and the USTR team that the policies they promote are supposed to represent the interests of the people of the US, not just the short term greed of the giant pharmaceutical companies.

And I also call on the trade ministers for other countries to continue to stand strong against the death sentence clause.

I am honored to bring with me the names of hundreds of people with me, including cancer survivors, who join me in our plea to the TPP negotiators. We speak with one voice: Drop the TPP death sentence clause.

# # #

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Deadly Risk Factor: Docs Who Don’t Take Your Symptoms Seriously

Sisters, it is time for us to fight back.

Today, I found out that the fabulous Carey Fitzmaurice just passed away from Ovarian cancer, the same cancer that took my sister-in-law Lena from us two years ago.

In their honor, I’d like to spread awareness about one of the biggest risk factors for death from ovarian cancer: Doctors who don’t take your symptoms seriously.

Paint toes teal and tell friends about Ovarian Cancer

Teal toes — awareness for Ovarian Cancer. Image from

Carey dedicated part of her life to Teal Toes,, to spread awareness of the symptoms of this disease:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, “you should see your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month and the symptoms are new or unusual for you.” Other symptoms include “fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities.” More on symptoms from OCNA.

Because these symptoms can indicate other diseases, diagnosis is often delayed. That means that cancer can spread before the disease is treated. That is a problem if your doctor does not take your symptoms seriously.

Please spread the word, not only about the symptoms, but for the need for us to be assertive about testing when we have symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, please see a gynecologist and insist that you get a test for ovarian cancer.

As a Cancer Thriver, I believe in thriving no matter what your cancer status is — even if, like Carey, you have stage 4 cancer. Carey certainly provided us with an example of how to live a rich life even during treatment for a devastating diagnosis. But I also know that early detection is more likely to find cancer when it is curable, a goal that Carey tried to promote with

In Carey’s honor, please consider painting your fingernails or toenails teal, and use the color to have a conversation with a friend. Tell her the symptoms. Spread the word. Awareness saves lives. So does taking your own body seriously — and being assertive with your doctor.

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Women Walking on Water June 13 in DC: What Could I Love More Than This?

My life changed three years ago when I looked out Charlie Young Beach in Maui and saw a group of people walking on the ocean.

Since that day, I have learned the glorious sport of Stand Up Paddling, aka paddleboarding or SUPing. I’ve paddled in Hawai’i, Massachusetts, the Potomac, the Anacostia, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Recently, I’ve learned that there is one thing I love even more than SUPing: teaching other people how to SUP.

Zahara walking on ocean in Hawaii

Zahara walking on ocean in Hawaii

So I am super excited that my friend Carloline Greene and I will offer a workshop on June 13 in DC for women who want to

  • Learn how to SUP
  • Face their fears and move forward
  • Connect with other fabulous women

Want to join us?

Here’s the details:

Women Walking on Water: An Adventure in Paddle Boarding*, Coaching and Sisterhood

Learn to Stand Up Paddle and Move in the Direction of Your Dreams

Saturday, June 13, 2015
9:30 AM to 12:30 PM

at Boating in DC – Georgetown (formerly Jack’s Boathouse)
Key Bridge Boathouse, 3500 Water St NW, Washington, DC 20007


Zahara Heckscher
Author and Education, Cancer Thriver and Stand Up Paddle Advocate

Caroline Greene
Author and Certified Martha Beck Life Coach

EVENT COST: $69 per woman ($49 for breast cancer survivors)

INCLUDES: A yummy bagel breakfast, coffee, water and snacks; introduction to stand-up paddling lesson; all gear and life jackets; one hour of paddling time; one-hour group coaching experience; connections; and a lifetime of memories.

JOIN US AS we face our fears, build our confidence and move in the direction of our dreams.

Email to sign up today!

Registration here:

*Paddleboarding is a relatively gentle sport that involves “stand-up paddling” (or SUPing) on a board similar a surf board. It is appropriate for all fitness levels, except for those who have experienced falls, fainting or balance problems. We’ll learn gently in a supportive environment.

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