Crowdfunding or crowdsourcing has become the latest and maybe even greatest way to fund small projects, ask for donations or even get some help for those bills that are crowding your budget. It might even look like the easy way to get funds together for whatever it is that you want to do.
#1. Crowdfunding is hard work. A successful crowdfunding campaign is a great way to gather up money for the thing you need to do. However, it isn’t necessarily easy. Nearly all of the websites (and there are a lot of them) that give crowdfunding tips emphasize that putting together, promoting and following through on a crowdfunding campaign is a lot of hard work. In fact, it is pretty much like holding down a full-time job – only without the assurance that there will be a paycheck at the end of the work.
Not every campaign succeeds. In fact, most authorities – including Forbes – agree that only about four out of every ten campaigns are successful. The successful campaigns, however, have some key things in common: Good planning, a great story, a winning video (keep it short), fun rewards in graduated steps, and excellent follow through on keeping reward promises. They also almost always have a great team backing them.
#2. Have a very clear idea of what you are funding. If you have written a book – and have the manuscript ready to go, you have an invention or you’ve started a business that suddenly needs a new piece of equipment, you have your goal ready-made. You need to publish your book, or you need to make a prototype and manufacture your invention, or you need enough money to buy a new steam table for the kitchen – all things that are easy to budget because they will need a specific amount of money.
But what if you just think you want to write a book but you never seem to have time? Or you think there ought to be a better way to get weeds out of fence corner, but you aren’t sure how it could be done? Or you always thought it would be really cool to be a business owner? In each of these cases, you need to do a little more homework before you try to crowdfund them. You can’t tell people what you want and need if you are still unclear about your project yourself.
Crowdfunding can also be used to fund charitable endeavors – such as donating pet food to a local no-kill animal shelter, or even making a trip to learn how to help economically challenged people build straw-bale homes. You can even borrow money through crowdfunding, or (very, very recently in some places) offer shares in a business.
Whatever it is that you want to do, you must first be clear in your mind about your goal. You cannot write a great story about it, make a video featuring it, promote your crowdfunding campaign through any kind of media, or even reward your potential supporters without having some sort of realistic idea about what it is that you are funding.
#3. Start planning at least six months before you go live with your campaign. Again, knowledgeable sources agree that having everything ready to roll before you start your campaign means that you have more time to interact with your team and with your supporters. It means that you have time to give interviews, set up a secondary video, contribute to your campaign blog (more on that later), and send on-the-fly information and thank you notes to your supporters. You will have all your tools set up and ready to go before that exciting moment when you announce that your crowdfunding campaign is LIVE and ready to roll.
#4. Put together a great team. Once you get into the campaign process, there will be many things to do. You’ll want to call all your nearest and dearest – and even remote acquaintances – letting them know that you have a crowdfunding campaign going on. You’ll need to update your blog daily. You’ll have a great desire to keep looking at that meter on your website – just to see if it has changed. Friends and family make good team members, but you might also want to get some professional help. Experienced campaigners, such as the folks at Best Crowdfunding Websites (www.best-crowdfunding-websites.com) can help you with selecting the best crowdfunding platform for you, and – very important – with publicity for your campaign.
#5. Pick the right platform. A quick read through the guidelines for a crowdfunding platform will give you a good idea about whether or not it is the right one for you. For example, Kickstarter is set up to fund projects, such as publish a book or finance production of a tangible item. Kickstarter is a rewards-based platform, through which you receive funds only if pledges to meet your goal. Indiegogo uses flexible funding. That means that you get the money as it comes in; but it also means that you need to send your rewards as you go, as well. However, if you are raising money for a charitable cause, you might want to use Continue to Give, which is set up for exactly that purpose. If you need a loan, you might look into a peer to peer lending platform, such as Kiva, Lending Club or Zopa. There are even very specialize platforms such as Tubestart or Ecopropagator. There are even crowdsource software products that you can use to run your campaign directly from you own website – if you are feeling truly brave and independent. But it is truly important to select a platform that suits your campaign.
#7. Get your product and your rewards ready for the campaign. This could mean a lot of different things – but the point is to be ready. Complete the manuscript for your book, or have a working prototype of your invention. Line up your publisher or your manufacturer. Select your rewards, and have them printed or manufactured – or make arrangements to make that happen. Plan for shipping, packing, postage and what to do if a reward gets damaged or broken in transit. This can be especially important if your product is used as a reward.
#8. Create a website and email address dedicated to your product and the campaign. This makes a great place not only to display new pictures, on-going developments and new ideas, but you can also use it as a platform for your blog and even an on-line catalog. Make a space to publish names of people who want to be known as contributors.
#9. Start a blog about your product. Maybe you don’t want to give away the plot of your book or the details about manufacturing your better weed trimmer, but you can talk about successes and failures, creating a fan base before you ever begin your crowdfunding campaign. You can also use your blog to post updates on your campaign’s progress.
#10. Set up your social media and other advertising. Create an account with Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus for Business, YouTube and Instagram. You certainly don’t have to limit yourself to these, either, but they are great places to get your information out. There are more – Pinterest, Linked In . . . the list is nearly endless. Set up an auto responder for your email so that contributors get quick replies, and you are not bogged down in hundreds of email messages. Under the same heading, Hootsuite will manage your social media so that you don’t have to post multiple copies of the same announcement. Plan for advertising through traditional media, as well, particularly if you are promoting a product or cause that will have impact on your neighborhood. Make a list of the people who should receive personal calls when your campaign goes live – and write up a script so you don’t forget vital information when you talk with them.
Ready to begin:
Now that you’ve done your set-up work, you are ready to set up your crowdfunding platform, and really begin your campaign. Good planning won’t guarantee success; but it certainly improves the likelihood that it will happen.