When I offered to give away copies of my book Get Paid For Who You Are™ to benefit a rainforest charity founded by Sting, I knew the response would be big. I did not know it would be so large it would crash my server.

A little over a month after my April 15 launch date, I had more than 68,600 people signed up to claim their free copy and had raised more than $58,000 for charity. I was offering a paid follow-up training course May 20 when it happened.

We had 1,000 people camped out at the page www.getpaidforwhoyouare.com waiting for it to go live. They all hit the page at once and the video server just crashed.

My technology guys got the problem corrected in about 10 minutes, but I still wanted to thank the people who had given me such an enthusiastic response. So I sent out a mass email giving the early buyers my CD set called Explode Your Coaching Practice, a $197 value, for their perseverance.

As more and more entrepreneurs market online, it becomes necessary to move the free line – what you are willing to give away to have people give you their email address and the opportunity to sell them products. This is why I chose to give away my book after investing $130,000 in developing the book, materials, training program and marketing. It’s also why I chose charity partners to help me spread the word through their cause and reputation.

When people sign up to receive their free book, I give them the opportunity to make an optional donation to charity of any amount they want, or nothing. The first day, we ran a test on how it was going and emailed the results to the executive director of the Rainforest Foundation US http://www.rainforestfoundation.org, our charity partner which was founded by Sting and Trudie Styler to help native people save their rainforests. (People can also choose to give any amount they want to One Laptop Per Child http://laptop.org/en/, which provides computers to needy children around the world.)

She told me her organization was already thrilled with the results. She said the funds raised just from the test alone would pay for the plane ticket for a volunteer coming to help save the rainforest in Belize. And we are on our way to our goal of raising six figures for charity.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people have signed up for a monthly membership program. So we have not only built a strong opt-in mailing list and raised significant funds for charity, but we are starting to generate early revenue for the business.

People are spreading the word about the book giveaway, posting links on Twitter and Facebook and emailing their friends. We have documented a viral boost in leads of 22 to 53 percent on top of the initial affiliate email traffic, which you can see illustrated here:

In four weeks we also picked up 4,937 blog comments on the campaign. That is ridiculous – especially on a blog that didn’t exist two months ago. The response has been wonderful from people such as Jose Polo, who wrote to say “You are creating a better world with your work.” And people such as Daisy Lee have commented how much they appreciated being asked to give without being told they had to.

“I have read a lot of ‘gurus' that try to ‘teach’ us how to climb out of the hole we've been in,” she wrote. “But none of the gurus have evoked the huge emotional, healing, love and compassion response that your gentle questions have created.”

Combining the free book offer with an optional opportunity to give has not only generated enormous goodwill, but also turbocharged the viral boost. People are happy to send it around to their friends in a way they might not otherwise be, even for a free offer.

It is hard in this day of so much information overload to build a relationship with people via email when they subscribe to 10 lists already. This approach can set a business apart – for example, in my customer’s eyes, I’m the guy who not only gave away the book but raised $60,000 for charity.

This model could be the wave of the future for both nonprofits and entrepreneurs. I have already had two charities contact me and ask if they can use this system, and colleagues have told me they are going to steal the idea. I am excited and would love to see this take off as a marketing method and fund-raising tool.

I am thrilled to have built such a strong responsive opt-in list, to have over 1,000 people registered in the continuity program and to see that number growing every day. I am also thrilled to see the community of people helping each other and how inspired they are.

Who knows what the future holds? Give away a product, give people the chance to do good for charity, and make even that optional. People love the idea. They are saying “I didn’t have to, but I gave anyway”.

Author's Bio: 

International speaker, standup comedian and Professional Certified Coach David Wood is the author of Get Paid for Who You Are™ and a coauthor of the bestselling book Guerilla Marketing on the Front Lines. His tried and true methods for freeing oneself from the shackles of the timecard have been the inspiration for many people to gain a lifestyle of freedom and contribution. Learn more at www.GetPaidForWhoYouAre.com.