These days, crowdfunding is huge – and it looks like it will only continue to grow in popularity. According to the World Bank, the global crowdfunding market potential is estimated to be between $90 and $96 billion by 2025. That’s no small number – especially considering that it was just $2.7 billion in 2012.
Part of the reason for this growth, or perhaps as a result of it, is the plethora of different crowdfunding platforms available. If you’re looking to run a campaign, you can choose from options like and Razoo, on which any individual can raise funds for any reason. Or you can opt for a platform that caters to charities and cause-based projects like Crowdrise. And if you have a really specific crowdfunding need, you can use a platform like Standbuy, which allows individuals to raise money for costs associated with a cancer diagnosis. If you’re not sure which one is right for you or your organization, here is some information that will help you make the decision.
Crowdfunding is a fun and effective way to raise money for a specific need, but it takes a lot of planning in order to be successful (unless you’re this guy – he got lucky). Determining the parameters around your campaign – its duration, your fundraising goal, and what exactly you’ll do with funds raised – is the first step. Our friends at Marked Point have provided a wealth of helpful information in this area, including how important it is to keep your campaign short in order to create a sense of urgency around giving, and how crucial it is to choose the right fundraising goal.
Then, you have to figure out how to engage your potential donor base. If you want to do that effectively, consider including these elements in your strategy:
If you want to get people to really stand behind your campaign, you need to tell them your story, and tell it well. Telling a compelling story about you or your organization, including why you do what you do and what you’ll be able to do with funds raised is essential to a successful crowdfunding campaign. And what better way to tell that story than with a video? Many of your potential backers will never have the opportunity to meet you in person, so creating a compelling video that sheds light on who you are will really personalize your story. Whether you’re able to produce a professional video, or simply film yourself on your phone, providing your audience with a visual narrative will make a difference.
Many of the available crowdfunding platforms allow you to set up incentives based on contribution level. People are often more likely to give when they know that they’re getting something in return – it’s just human nature. Incentivizing in tiers also often compels people to give more. If you were thinking about giving $40, but you get a free t-shirt when you donate $50, you may decide it’s worth it to pitch in the extra $10 when you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Usually, these incentives are related in some way to your campaign, so as to appeal to the funders who are interested in your mission. For example, if you’re running a crowdfunding campaign to produce a documentary film, you could offer tickets to the premiere to those who donate over $200, a visit to the set to those who donate over $100, or a free download of the film to those who donate over $50. Or if you’re looking to do something on the less expensive side, go homemade: offer a video of yourself thanking them personally (you could even sing!), or a funny poem on a handwritten card. No matter what you decide, make sure that your incentives are appealing to your target audience.
Social media is the perfect platform to spread the word about your crowdfunding campaign. On other platforms (like email), you need to be more careful about oversaturating your audience with information and requests; but on social media, talking about your campaign builds hype. Here are some ways you can use social media to engage your donor base:
- Follow up with campaign progress updates: For example, note how close you are to your goal and how close you’d like to be within a certain time period in order to create a heightened sense of urgency.
- Thank your supporters: Social media is a great place to publicly acknowledge supporters, while asking others to follow suit.
- Share words of support from your community: Encouraging notes could strike a chord with a potential backer, giving them the push that they needed to get on board.
- Announce campaign updates: These updates could be anything from a surprise funder matching campaign or the addition of a new incentive. Announcing them on social will keep the campaign fresh and exciting.
- Reach out to influencers: Encourage influencers who you think will support your cause to share your campaign with their audiences, both expanding your reach and giving you additional credibility.
You know that email list that you’ve been building? Now is the time to use it. The people who have opted to subscribe to your mailing list are already engaged with your brand, and likely care about the work that you’re doing. Because of this, your email list is really the “low hanging fruit,” so to speak, when it comes to your campaign’s potential backers. First, think through how often you want to reach out, depending on your typical outreach schedule and the duration of your campaign. Then, develop a compelling message, and be sure to include your video and a strong call to action. As your campaign unfolds, you can tailor your messaging to share updates, talk about incentives, and thank your supporters.
You can also get creative with email marketing, using it as a tool for spreading awareness by way of your current supporters. For example, you can ask subscribers to forward the email to a certain number of friends to help you raise awareness. Or you can provide sample messaging for social media and emails that they can then personalize and send out in order to make it as easy as possible for them to spread the word.
We cannot stress this enough: Individualized outreach is critical to the success of your crowdfunding campaign. Standard email marketing is definitely important, but mobilizing your own network by sending personalized emails can make a huge difference. Reach out to your friends, family, and colleagues. Think through ways to engage influencers in your space. Secure donors ahead of time who pledge to support your campaign. In fact, this last step could make or break your success: Marked Point purports that in order to gain the level of traction necessary for success, “you’ll need to raise 30% of your goal within the first 24 hours of your campaign.” The best way to do this is through individual outreach. Not to mention, if you’re able to achieve that 24-hour goal, your campaign will make it to the front page of the platform, which will lead to a significant increase in traffic.
The key is to keep these communications personal; do your research so you can appeal to different individuals in different ways. It takes time, but will make all the difference.
It may seem like a given, but it’s worth mentioning: As your campaign moves forward, never forget to thank your supporters. Thank them via email, on your website, on social media, in person, or all of the above. However you choose to do it, make sure it happens. Let your backers know that their donation will make a difference, and that their support is noticed and appreciated. Not only will your supporters feel acknowledged for their contributions, which is always positive, but thanking supporters will likely compel others to follow suit.
With a solid story and these strategic elements in place, your crowdfunding campaign will be on its way to success. Join the ranks of successful crowdfunders like the Ocean Cleanup Project, who raised over $2 million to test out operational pilots for cleaning plastic out of the ocean, and River Blue, who exceeded their goal of $45k, allowing them to produce a documentary about abuses in the textile industry.
What are your favorite crowdfunding tactics? Share with us! Here’s how: