What We Learned From Crowdfunding / by Chris Weigl

There is a plethora of advice out there for people who are planning a crowdfunding campaign.  There are just as many businesses that are looking to profit from your campaign as well.  It actually gets annoying when you’re getting a ton of requests from these people who want to make money off your campaign, but I always told myself that that was exactly how my poor Twitter follower and unfortunate Facebook friends must feel like all the time during the campaign. 

That brings me straight into point #1: have an end date in mind.  At least have some timeline for when you’re going to do certain things and you should definitely have a date for when to end the campaign.  There’s a website called Thunderclap that can help you get a lot of last minute donations if you set it up right.

Point #2: Create a character with a scene so people can step into it.  If your audience can understand where you’re coming from they’re more likely to donate.  If you can’t put your audience in your shoes then the next best thing is to create a scene that they can see themselves in.  For our campaign I used the example of a woman going back to her old dog training club only to be belittled for the choices she had made with her dogs.  Everyone knows how that feels.  You take one course of action that someone doesn’t agree with and suddenly everyone is against you.  It gives your audience the ability to feel something and the more emotionally drawn they are to your product the more likely they are to donate.  If you think about crowdfunding like the six degrees of separation you can understand where your likely revenue streams are going to come from.  First, second, and third degree connections are going to yield the best results, but we had people we didn’t know give just as much as those we did know at some points in the campaign which brings me to point #3.

Point #3: Think of the biggest possible audience for your project.  The larger the audience you’re trying to reach the better your chances of getting funded.  That’s just math.  If your target audience is too specialized you’ll only have a few people who will donate and then you feel like you’re out of options.  We had this happen to us because we didn’t really have a marketing plan.  We were making a film about flyball and since the film was about dogs and people we naturally thought people would donate to a human interest film.  That did not work.  At all.  Once we realized that everyone who was donating to our campaign had some background in flyball we get ultra-specific and started targeting people and that’s how we grew our customer base.  This brings me to point #4.

Point #4: No matter what you’re doing figure out who you know will donate to your campaign, who you hope will donate to your campaign, and who you’d like to donate to your campaign.  If you’re lucky you’ll get all three.  I could count on one hand the people I thought would donate to my campaign.  As the campaign progressed I started reaching towards the people I was hoping would donate to the campaign and I was able to grow it from there.  You’ve got to start somewhere though and if you start out of the gate with a little money that is much better than starting out with no money.  You can get funded even if you go say a week with no donations, but after that it gets tougher and tougher.  You probably can’t go longer than ten days or so.

Point #5: Be as desperate as you have to be without coming across as a spammer.  This is a tough line to stay on, so let me give you an example.  I sent out probably three or four tweets per day on Twitter when I started and then we went down to about one.  I posted to Facebook every day because if you go with GoFundMe 80% of their donations come from there.  You have to be aggressive on Facebook using anything you can think of to get people to take notice.  We were crowdfunding for a film about flyball, so I looked up the website of every single flyball team in the United States.  Excessive?  Probably.  Was I spamming people?  No.  I had a special folder for all the e-mail addresses I sent donation requests to.  Did I hit some people up more than once?  Of course, no one’s perfect.  But, I did my best not to annoy people.

Point #6: Reach out to blogs and websites who can help you.  I reached out to maybe fifteen-to-twenty websites and forums.  One let me guest blog on her site and promote our campaign through that post.  A lot of forums have rules set up that ban people if they solicit money from their users.  Keep this in mind.  Eventually, I was spending so much time reading through the rules and conditions that it took more time than it would have been worth to me.  You have an experience though.  Remember that.  You’re running a crowdfunding campaign and believe it or not there are people out there who count that as expertise.  So, do like we’re doing and write about it.  Someone might even publish it and then you should get some free publicity for your campaign.  Not everyone is ballsy enough to go out and ask for money.  It does take a certain amount of effort and courage to go out and fight for what you believe in.  That’s why you want people to donate to your campaign.  You’re not like everyone else.  Someone else would have sit back and let whatever problem you’re trying to solve continue.  But, not you.  No, you went out and are trying to do something about it.  Good for you.  No, seriously, good for you.

Our current crowdfunding campaign is ongoing.  You can check it out here at: http://www.gofundme.com/flyball