How an Indy 500 Driver Embraced Crowdfunding To Help Make Millions of Lives Better

Pippa, in her cockpit

Usually when feel-good stories come out of motorsports it’s because a driver did something completely unexpected behind the wheel, or beat the odds to score an underdog victory.

This story is different. But, mostly because there is more than one winner in this race.

Last year, I wrote about Pippa Mann’s campaign to help raise awareness for Susan G. Komen by using honest and transparent observations about her own life and challenges on social media. Her candor, combined with the media reach of one of the largest platforms in the world (a little race called the Indianapolis 500), allowed the message of the #PippaGoesPink campaign to reach millions worldwide last Memorial Day.

Far from being disappointed with her 24th place finish in last year’s 500 race, the only chance she got to run in the Verizon IndyCar series in 2014, she instead got to planning bigger and better things for her next attempt at “going pink”. Only this time, she added a few more friends to help, and invited many more people to join her on the journey.

In this effort, Pippa is crowdfunding. As you likely know, especially if you’ve gotten a Pebble or gave to the ultimate potato salad effort, crowdfunding takes out the middleman in fundraising, and allows causes to take their efforts to directly to the advocates who are likely to care most about them. Fans win because they make easy financial investments that literally empower the causes they believe in. Causes win because they can raise funds more efficiently than they normally do and reach a digital audience through viral and word-of-mouth marketing — something many struggle to do.

 

 

Pippa’s crowdfunding efforts this year are made possible by Indiegogo, one of the largest crowdfunding platforms. Her goal is simple — reach $50,000 in donations for Komen (Update: She passed $61,000). The opportunity for an IndyCar team was unique — nothing quite like this had ever really been tried before for a sponsor or partner.

Needless to say, it required a few challenges outside the cockpit as well. For a driver used to barreling into turns at nearly 240 miles per hour without any fear, the scariest thing about all this was hanging up the helmet and embracing the digital strategy that would be required to make the campaign work.

I recently had a chance to talk to Pippa about her #GetInvolved campaign, and her new role as a crowdfunding advocate and budding digital marketer.

Pippa at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

How did it all get started?

”I started reaching out to our vendors who have supplied and donated the perks last winter, and kept them updated as to our build progress along the way.

Some of these perks included:

The mini Bell Helmets were a popular item and sold out quickly, twice!

  • Hats from Firestone and Honda for me to autograph (sold out!)
  • Mini helmets from Bell Helmets
  • Diecast replica cars provided by Metro Elevator
  • Custom designed T-shirts with “Pippa races for ________”
  • Autographed campaign posters
  • A “Race with Pippa” night at Fastimes Karting in Indianapolis
  • Exclusive pre-race garage tours (sold out!)
  • Custom designed art of the race car from famed motorsport artist Doug Garrison (sold out!)
  • The chance to have a decal with a loved one’s name ride in the cockpit of my car (sold out!
I also put up for bid my Indy 500 race worn gloves and race suit. (The gloves sold on the first day; the race suit on the day before the race!)”

Indiegogo logo on Pippa’s car

How did Indiegogo help make it possible for you?

Indiegogo allowed us to share progress easily, offer these perks, and create an overall more interactive campaign that we could before. Plus, they look great on the race car, too!”

So clearly there was a massive group of people involved in the digital launch?

”The out-reach to fans, friends and followers ahead of the campaign was via social media, and then via email, explaining the details of the campaign to them, and asking for their help to spread the word once we launched it. We also ran an early sign up, which gave people advance access, and that proved very successful raising $5,000 before we even opened up the campaign to everyone. I did write the copy myself — although I had a lot of help with editing once it was there. I wanted to make sure to put the appropriate excitement behind the campaign while mixing with with the respect it was due.”

Sending all of this messaging must have been easy.

”I took a 10 minute lesson in how to try and HTML code to add live links into the text, and turn the color of the text the appropriate colors for this campaign. Messing with the code makes me VERY nervous after I managed to delete hours of work one day without having it backed up!”

Oops. Ok, you must have had someone help you at launch time, right?

”The midnight end time required a midnight launch. I was the one who stayed up to see that happen and send the campaign live. I was then also responsible for getting the correct links for the early sign up to people who needed them. I was a little bit paranoid about checking my links many times in the middle of the night in case I made a mistake!”

What is the thing you were most surprised by?

”When I was doing research on these types of campaigns late last fall, everything I read warned me how much work this was going to be. I guess I should have paid better attention!”

Racing Pippa in a go-kart was one of the campaign’s top perks

What is the one thing you’re most excited about in terms of your new understanding of the world of crowdfunding?

”It’s been incredible to see how many people can come together in support of something they believe in, and what to see succeed. From the friends, vendors, artists, and partners in the racing community who have helped provide us with these perks, to the bloggers, fans and my friends, who are helping support this with stories, social media push-out, and contributing to the campaign. I love that we’re able to use this platform to try and do something that’s going to help make a difference.”

What would be your advice for people who are on the fence about the campaign?

”If you love an underdog, get involved. If you have a loved one who was impacted by breast cancer, get involved. If you love racing, or the Indianapolis 500, get involved.”

Because, well, who doesn’t love an underdog story — especially one that helps to make thousands of other underdog stories possible.


Update!

Thanks to the support of racing fans worldwide, Pippa exceeded goal, raising more $61,000 from more than 600 individual backers!

She had a very tough month of May, starting with a practice crash that required a rebuild of her primary car, and left her sore for the rest of the month.

Pippa slams on the brakes to avoid the lap 1 accident.

As far as the race went, Pippa had a tough day behind the wheel, fighting through car damage caused by debris from multiple accidents to bring the car home in 22nd place, behind winner Juan Pablo Montoya.

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