The road to a successful crowdfunding campaign
Crowdfunding. It’s exactly what the name states. Designed to help you raise money from a ‘crowd’ of people, it sounds simple enough in theory – but the reality isn’t always so straight forward. Did you know that there is more than one type of crowdfunding model? Apparently so. Fortunately, this is a fundraising blog, so we’ll be focusing our efforts on donation-based, rather than equity and revenue-sharing campaigns (phew). For sure, crowdfunders can be an effective way to raise funds, especially for start-up initiatives and ventures. But, like all things in fundraising, they aren’t necessarily the right choice for everyone, and they are not a quick fix. You can’t just launch a crowdfunding campaign and wait for the money to roll in. If you want it to be successful, you are going to need to put time, energy and planning into its delivery.
That means doing some research and choosing the right platform for your campaign (remember to compare features and fees). You don’t have a lot of space, so use it wisely. Take care to show your need, outline your vision, and the funds you need to get there. If you can, add a video, photos, quotes, and website links. You don’t need a big budget for this, but you do need to tell an authentic story and show prospective donor’s that you’re a trustworthy organization with an achievable ask.
Ready to go? Not quite. Before you click publish take a step back to think about what you’ll do when the page goes live.
New to the world of crowdfunding? Here are a few tips to help get you started:
Design your ideal donor: What a luxury! But seriously, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when planning a crowdfunding campaign is the assumption that because you believe in the cause, it is going to appeal to everyone. It isn’t. When designing your communications strategy, you need to focus your ask. People give to nonprofits for a reason, and you need to tap into that. Ask yourself why someone would give to your campaign. What are the touchpoints, the connections, the things that you have in common? Use your answers to map out your target donor (or donors—there can be more than one) and keep their needs in mind when pitching your ask and getting the message out there.
Set the right target: It’s good to be ambitious but be realistic as well. Psychologically speaking, reaching—and surpassing—a series of smaller, achievable targets will feel far more constructive than seeing people’s donations swallowed up by a large, insurmountable ask. It also makes for better reporting and communications.
Start with who you know: Cold approaches are some of the hardest to convert. To get your campaign moving you need to use your networks to get the message out there. Map out all your key and most promising connections and think about the best way to approach them. It won’t be the same for everyone. Some people might respond best to a phone call or email, others to a message through social media message. Let your relationships be your guide and set a timeline to get your phase one approaches out there. It will help get the ball rolling—and once you’ve got a few donations in, it will be easier to get others. Donors love company, after all.
Go cold: The stronger your network, the easier it will be to get your message out there. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to create new opportunities as well. Research is your friend here. Remember your ideal donor and try to put your message in the same place. Is there a particular group, club, website, or network you can contact who might be interested in supporting (or sharing) your campaign? It might sound daunting, and a lot of people will say no, but not everyone. You don’t know until you ask, so create a prospect pipeline and start working through your cold approaches.
Go broader: Your networks are networking away, and that means it’s time to go a bit broader. This is your external marketing, your broad, overarching campaign. Do not try and be everywhere at once. Again, it is all about focus. Take some time to research the right hashtags, websites, podcasts, newspapers, and magazines, and plan your approach accordingly. A few, well-targeted social media posts or a single well-placed press release or news story will do far more for your crowdfunding campaign than a barrage of general messages aimed at no-one in particular.
Mobilize influence: Of course, the more people you can get to share your campaign the further it will reach. The temptation here is to think big and start reaching out to your favorite A-list celebrities. If there’s a strong link, you may well get lucky and find the perfect high-profile partner. But honestly? With so many organizations going after the same people, you need to be a bit more creative. Think carefully about who you approach and why you’re approaching them. And remember, they might not have millions of followers, but it is better to get more shares from lower-level influencers than no shares at all. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ambitious and throw in a few wildcards. Just temper your expectations and spread your eggs across a variety of influential baskets.
Add an incentive: If you can, why not ask a corporate or small business to match fund your campaign. A tried-and-tested method for traditional fundraisers is the promise to double a donation, or a set amount of donations, and is a great way to hook people in and create an extra incentive to give.
Share your support: You’ve got donors! Congratulations. Why not use this chance to start a ‘snowball’ effect and ask people to share their support (and your campaign) on social media. It’s a great way for your supporters to celebrate their generosity, and for you to get your message out into a new pool of potential like-minded donors.
And finally, remember—if someone has taken the time to donate to your crowdfunding campaign, then you can take the time to say thank you. It’s just two words. But they make all the difference in the world.
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