Thanks to crowdfunding, new products have been created and launched, albums written and recorded and community projects started.
But what exactly is crowdfunding and how can it support your work?
“The practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people who each contribute a relatively small amount, typically via the Internet.” – oxforddictionaries.com
Basically, it’s a way to raise money from the general public for a specific project over a short period of time. In return for donations, you can offer ‘rewards’ as an incentive to give more. In general, if you don’t reach your target, supporters keep their money.
When it works, it really works, particularly if your campaign goes viral. However, there is more to a successful crowdfunding campaign than creating a short video and crowdfunding page and sitting back to watch the money roll in. For example, Kickstarter’s campaign success rate is 36% (as at March 2017).
To have the best chance of success, you need to prepare and be 100% on it throughout your campaign.
Before getting into some of the top tips for running a successful crowdfunding campaign, here are a few examples from the non-profit and social enterprise sectors for inspiration.
Who Gives A Crap – “good for the earth, good for people, good for your bum”.
Who Gives A Crap is an Australian-based social enterprise that produces toilet paper out of 100% recycled fibres, donating 50% of its profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. In 2012, co-founder Simon Griffiths sat on a toilet in a cold warehouse for 50 hours as part of their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, raising $66,548 USD from 1,333 backers.
Another great example is:
Positive News – #OwnTheMedia
Positive News is an independent magazine produced in the UK. It uses constructive journalism to focus on positive news. Following its successful #OwnTheMedia crowdfunding campaign in 2015 it became a community benefit society (a form of cooperative) owned by readers and journalists worldwide. Its campaign on crowdfunder.co.uk smashed its £200,000 target, raising a total of £263,422 from 1,526 investors in 30 days. For a minimum contribution of £50, supporters became community shareholders receiving 50 shares in Positive News. And for the top amount of £20,000 (one was claimed) you received 20,000 shares in Positive News, the opportunity to meet the team, receive a private tuition session in constructive journalism or writing and an exclusive dinner with Positive News patron Martyn Lewis CBE and editor Seán Dagan Wood.
And now to the tips…
Before you start
Are you ready for this?
- Is crowdfunding for you/your organisation?
- Do you have the resources (time and people) to run the campaign?
- Is the timing right? What other projects/activities are going on at your organisation that could affect the success of your campaign? And what about the timing with the outside world? Is Christmas on the horizon or maybe the summer holidays?
Do you have a specific tangible project/activity that you need support for? And is it something that will appeal to your network of supporters and the general public to get behind?
How much do you need? What is achievable and realistic in the timescale? (most crowdfunding campaigns run for around 30 days). The target is important as some crowdfunding sites operate on an ‘all or nothing’ approach so no matter what you raise if you don’t reach your target, you won’t get the money. Others offer a ‘tipping point’ option where you get all the funds raised once you’ve reached this point. Also, keep the crowdfunding platform fees in mind when budgeting and setting your target.
What can you offer as a reward? Rewards typically focus around thanks/acknowledgement (e.g. thank you tweets, honour walls etc.), physical items (e.g. t-shirts, posters, badges, the product itself (if a product), etc.) and experiences (e.g. meet the founder, dinner with your patron etc.).
Replicate and adapt
Have a look at other examples of successful crowdfunding campaigns for inspiration. What can you replicate/adapt?
Planning and preparation
Choose the right platform for you. There are several out there with different fee structures and levels of support. Some of the main platforms are StartSomeGood, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Pozible and Crowdfunder.
- You don’t need to have a big budget to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. Many successful campaigns have been filmed using a smartphone. The key is in your delivery, the story and your project.
- Talk to the camera – speak directly to your supporters to engage them.
- Be clear, concise and specific.
- Keep it short. Ideally 1-2 minutes.
- Tell your story.
- Make it compelling and share your passion.
- Humour can help (but don’t force it!).
- Try to answer who, what, why, where, when and how in your first few sentences.
- Make sure to ask/tell people what you’d like them to do aka a Call to Action.
- Mention your rewards.
Your crowdfunding page
- Eye-catching headline
- Be clear and concise. What will you do with the money? Why is it needed?
- The power of one. This great copywriting hack can help improve your writing, increasing reader engagement and buy-in. Write as if you’re writing to one person to avoid general bland statements that don’t mean anything to anyone.
- Break up text with sub-headings, short paragraphs and lists.
- Use images.
- Create a plan, including how often you’re going to post/send out updates, who is responsible for what, what social media outlets you’re going to use etc.
- Research press contacts and create a hitlist with personal contact details.
- Identify high-profile supporters and others with large social media followings (‘influencers’) and approach them before launching to tell them about your campaign and ask them to share.
- Prepare communications in advance, including press releases, website copy, emails, social media posts, updates, etc.
- Create a media enquiries page with contact details (include a mobile number), quotes and images.
- Have a bank of images that you can use throughout your campaign in different formats for social media, email etc.
- First donations. Ask friends and family to be your first supporters on day 1. This will encourage others to support.
- Get all your team on board.
- Ask your friends, family and supporters to share your campaign on social media, making it as easy as possible with shareable posts and/or template messages.
- Reach out to media and others that may be interested in what you’re doing.
- Remind high-profile supporters and social media influencers (identified in the preparation stage) to share the campaign.
Once you’ve launched you need to continue to build excitement and momentum. Post updates regularly. Engage with supporters.
Ask, ask and ask again.
The home stretch
The final few days are where many campaigns see the majority of donations. Create a sense of urgency and make sure it’s clear that the deadline is approaching. “X days left to support XXX. We need your help!”
More like just the beginning…
Following the campaign, make sure to post a final update on your total, what you plan to do and when you plan to do it. Where can people get updates? E.g. subscribe to your e-newsletter, follow you on social media etc.
Always worth saying “if you missed the deadline, don’t worry. You can still support [insert project name] here.”
Thank all supporters and send them their rewards.
Make sure to provide updates on progress made.
Need some support?
Do you have any questions about crowdfunding or other areas of fundraising? If so, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here.
Or perhaps your non-profit or social enterprise is in need of some expert support in another area, such as communications, evaluation or projects? Find out more on how I can help you here.