Fundraising has moved way beyond bake sales and car washes. Whether you want to start a business or raise money for a cause, crowdfunding sites make it possible — though not necessarily easy — to raise money online. Here are pro tips for setting up a successful crowdfunding campaign.
How often do you hear the words “artist” and “big money” in the same sentence? Maybe when it’s something like this: “The artist owes big money on his rent.” Or: “The artist who titled his abstract painting ‘Big Money’ sold it for 75 bucks at the local art fair.”
Now, consider this fat figure: $346,000. That’s how much a group of ambitious filmmakers raised in 2010 to bring Donald Miller’s memoir “Blue Like Jazz” to the big screen in 2012. The campaign became the largest cinematic fundraise in Kickstarter history. And to make it more delicious, the badly-needed cash came after director Steve Taylor had his original funding pulled just hours before production was to start.
The bootstrap effort was not led by sympathetic Hollywood moguls, nor high-powered PR people. Rather, a pair of fans of Miller’s book—Zach Prichard and Jonathan Frazier—launched “Save Blue Like Jazz” with high hopes but low resources. As Taylor recalls, “I thought they were very naive. The most a film had ever raised on Kickstarter before was between $40,000 and $50,000, and we had to raise $125,000 in 30 days.”
This illustrates the power of crowdfunding, which has now expanded beyond the scope of indie directors, musicians, and visual artists. In 2012, President Obama signed into law the JOBS Act, standing for Jumpstart Our Business Startups. For the first time, it allows individuals to invest in small business and startups through the Internet and social networking sites. Previously, only donation-based crowdfunding had been allowed.
Yet it’s one thing to launch a crowdfunding campaign, and quite another to see it through to a triumph. What will help you get there? Here we present ten tips for crowdfunding success. Special thanks to WePay.com, a payments provider platform that serves top crowdfunding sites and makes the setup and maintenance of campaigns easy.
Identify the emotional appeal of your campaign—and bring it home.
The “Blue Like Jazz” campaign skyrocketed for two reasons. First, Miller’s book already had many fans. But just as important—perhaps more so—Prichard and Frazier communicated that the stakes were high. It wasn’t just a question of helping the movie along, but saving it. Nothing enthralls potential donors like the chance to rescue a dead project and make a real difference.
Don’t do it alone: Set up a virtual street team.
When a cause goes viral, it’s a function of networking, where ten people who know ten more, who then know ten more, suddenly have 1,000 hot prospects. If you start with just yourself or a friend, it can still be done—but the odds are arguably longer. A street team provides big numbers from the get-go.
Keep your team accountable.
At Indiana University, organizing and mobilizing peer-to-peer networks for crowdfunding campaigns is nothing short of a science. There, “ambassadors” manage and monitor student fundraisers as they reach out to friends and family. This gets the fundraise past the initial burst of excitement and helps it hang in there for the long haul.
Put the “social” in social networking.
There’s no doubt the artists who hit Kickstarter or Indiegogo have a case to make about their project.
And therein lies the personal pronoun problem: “I need this money because I want to release this album that I have dreamt of…”
The connection to the larger cause or community. For fundraisers who don’t have a large following, it’s important to make a connection to the greater good, or the community at large. “Together, we will spread a message of hope” or “This community garden will help kids right in your neighborhood.”
Set up your campaign with a pre-campaign.
Because crowdfunding campaigns have a time limit, it plays to your distinct advantage to publicize it before the clock starts ticking. That might not be possible if the need is truly urgent. Buy if you can give yourself a month’s cushion before the campaign starts, get the word out and ask people to help spread it before you pull the trigger. Frame this blast in terms of anticipation; then save the real excitement for the kickoff.
Here are five more tips from the WePay folks
Sweeten the pot.
Like anything in life, incentives get people’s attention. You can even find ways to inspire people to donate multiple times. For example: Offer a giveaway prize for donors who contribute more than $100, such as a chance to win an Apple iPad.
Do your research.
Which fundraising option is right for you? Commission rates can differ, along with varying rules on what you get, or don’t, based on meeting your goals. Some crowdfunding sites specialize in certain kinds of fundraisers over others. Dig around to make sure you select the best platform.
The media needs you.
TV and radio stations, newspapers and websites always look for feel-good stories. So in addition to social media, don’t forget conventional media. You’ll get a pleasant surprise when they show an interest in sharing your cause with the general public: Just make sure to pitch an interesting, exciting story.
Who donates first? You do.
Just like seeding the tip jar at the local coffee shop, you can get the ball rolling in your campaign by making the first donation. Once you do, it’s much easier psychologically for your friends, family, and associates to follow. Be mindful of how much you give as well: If you want people to donate $100, don’t donate less. You’re setting the bar for others to follow.
Don’t forget to say ‘Thanks!’
Crowdfunding sites will automatically send a confirmation message to your donors that will also thank them for their generosity. But a personalized thank you note will truly show your appreciation.
Or you can make like Steve Taylor. He called every single one of his 4,500 backers for “Blue Like Jazz.” “It took me a year to contact everyone personality,” he says. “But I did it.”
Andrew Osterland has edited various financial websites at QuinStreet for a span of four years. Because of his talent and hard work, he was raised to the role of senior editorial manager of the company’s insurance sites and was a contributing writer at CNBC.com. He is also an entrepreneur and has been the editor manager of Insure.com. Full profile here.