Crowdfunding can be an absolute game changer for social ventures. It was for Kinyei, who raised $18,000 to drive social entrepreneurship in Cambodia, and it was for Sock Monkeys Against Cancer, who got the $35,000 they needed to boost cancer research and the spirit of sharing. But the truth is, a crowdfunding campaign is only as successful as you make it, so save yourself the heartache of an unsuccessful campaign – don’t make these mistakes.
1. Forgetting the “why”
As social entrepreneurs we’re focused on doing, and so we should be. But when it comes to sharing our story with potential supporters, we can’t afford to just tell them how we’ll get things done. We need to tell them why. Why do you care? Why should I care? When I know why you’re dedicating your time and energy to this project, I’ll understand why I should reach for my credit card.
2. Talking to money instead of people
On a site like StartSomeGood, you have an opportunity to get face to face with your funders, particularly in your campaign video. Remember, it’s other human beings that are watching, not anonymous dollar signs zipping through the internet. Show us your personality, because we know it’s people who care that make a difference. And don’t let style win out over substance – you can have the production values of a Hollywood blockbuster, but your video won’t sell without heart.
Use video to tell a story that moves people.
3. Over-reliance on words
If you’ve already started skimming this article, then you’ll get what we’re saying here. Attention spans are short. Photos are your opportunity to do more show, less tell.
For a campaign with a product to sell, product photos are essential. For those ventures doing project work, pictures of your team and the communities you’re working with will make you seem like a real and viable agent for change.
4. Asking once
Just sending out a tweet isn’t truly asking people for support – it really does take asking and then asking again. You may feel like you’re bugging people, but in reality, you’d be amazed how many just barely notice the third time around.
Only asking in one format is a mistake too. Emails, Facebook, posters, flyers… people respond to different media differently, so go to where they are, both online and off.
5. Failing to plan (is planning to fail)
Having a well-thought out plan of attack (eg we’ll send an email every 7 days to these lists) takes away the stress once a campaign goes live and gives you the opportunity to capture the ideas and contributions of everyone in your organization and networks.
6. Ignoring your supporters
How would you feel if you donated money to a cause and never heard from them again? Disappointed? Skeptical? Angry? Don’t let it happen to your new and growing support base. Crowdfunding is a great way not just to raise funds but also to grow a community of supporters.
In the first instance, email your supporters to express your gratitude and let them know how they can deepen their involvement. Don’t overlook the opportunities here. People who supported you know other people who would also support you. Ask them to spread the word, and make it easy for them to do so. Suggest pre-written tweets, emails and Facebook updates, and ask that they commit to sharing with X number of their friends.
7. Asking for money to…. you know, do stuff
Peerfunding works best when the ask is very clear. People need to know that if you reach your tipping point goal, something tangible and well-defined will be accomplished. Right up front, tell us what you’ll do.
This is a great opportunity to let people in behind the scenes of your venture and to make them feel part of your team. Especially when people are taking a chance on your vision, it’s important to be transparent with how you’d use the funds and what challenges you might face along the way.
8. Starting with a whimper
With the notable exception of Usain Bolt, a strong start is critical in almost any endeavour. Be sure to line up your first few supporters to put points on the board literally the minute your campaign goes live. That way when you promote it to your extended networks, they’ll already see a campaign with momentum instead of that dreaded $0.
You never saw a busker with an empty hat, did you?
9. Praying to Justin Bieber
Tweeting out to celebrities for support is not a sure-fire strategy for success. In fact, it’s a really not a strategy at all. Make sure that your asks are contextual. If you’re running an environmental venture, reach out to bloggers in the environmental space, not @parishilton.
10. Thinking crowdfunding is all about crowds
Sadly, there really isn’t an anonymous crowd out there just waiting to shower you with money, no matter how good your idea is. But your project comes replete with a unique community convened by you, so re-frame your thinking around peers or tribes rather than crowds. We don’t mean that only your friends and your parents will support you, but chances are that the people who do will share a cultural connection with you and your team. They care about the same issues as you, or they’re part of the same virtual or geographic community. They’re already excited about your campaign – they just don’t know it yet. So get started.