Intro to crowdfunding tips 2018 – 2020

I’m going to teach you how to plan a Crowdfunding Campaign. Crowdfunding is just another way of raising funds for existing programs or new projects. While you’ve probably seen a crowdfunding campaign take off, go far, raise lots of funds. What you don’t see is behind-the-scenes. All the marketing and all the planning that we need, to make that magic happen. There are some pretty significant differences to traditional fundraising, where approaches like direct mail or telemarketing involves talking about your brand to a bunch of people which we call Broadcast Marketing.

Crowdfunding is all about getting your fans to talk about YOU to their friends. We call this Social Marketing. And like any communications strategy, good crowdfunding comes down to good Planning. So this just takes about 20 minutes, and by the end you’ll have a marketing plan for a standard four-week crowdfunding campaign. This marketing plan is the secret source for successful crowdfunding campaign. This marketing plan is to target the people who already love you, your core-supporters. When you’re focused on creating a great campaign for those core-supporters. They’ll tell their friends, and their friends will tell their friends. And all of a sudden your message gets to a much bigger audience. They come together and fund your program.

The Project – crowdfunding tips

During this lesson we’re going to use three google docs:
Google doc sharing one
Google doc sharing two
Google doc sharing three

The Crowdfunding tips page, some example emails, and a marketing plan. You can get copies of these directly from the crowdfunding lesson page. You’ll need a google account to use them. Just your Gmail account will work fine. We like to use Google docs because they’re really sharable. So every one in your organization can edit stuff at once. To use the template, simply go File > Make a copy and name it. Then you’ll be able to edit the copy using your gmail account. You’ll notice we’ve put in little yellow bits for areas where you have to put in your own information. Don’t worry about the emails, or marketing plan yet.

We’re going to start with the crowdfunding page. So the first step is choosing a project that works for crowdfunding. Crowdfunding works best for projects that have a fixed, tangible outcome. Fixed means people know when it’s finish. Tangible means people feel like they could reach out and touch it. It’s not just a concept or an idea. So a project that’s “We’re going to help with the refugee crisis” is a great idea. But it’s not fixed and it’s and it’s not tangible. But “we will reunite members of this refugee family that haven’t seen each other in 23 years”, is a concrete task that can be done.

That said, crowdfunding isn’t just for one-off projects. Making a complex ongoing program more tangible makes it more crowdfundable. For example, the Cowalition of the Willing, provides livestock, water security, permaculture education and complex ongoing support to small plot farmers in Cambodia. The operation details get technical quickly, like any complex intervention. The crowdfunding campaign however, was built around the tangible concept of buying individual cows. It’s a simple idea, and easy to tell your friends about.

Next decide on an amount to raise. This comes down to your existing supporter base, and how much time you actually have to campaign. Here’s a rule of thumb: With your own network, friends and family, devoting one day a week: you can probably hit a target up to $5000. If your target is $5000 to $25000 you’ll need an email list of at least 1000 names, and someone on the campaign at least 2 days a week. Above $25000 You’ll need at least 3000 names and a full time person on the campaign. If the cost of your project doesn’t match up to how much you think you can raise, make your project smaller in scope, especially for your first campaign.

You may be thinking, I thought crowdfunding was all about ‘leveraging social media’, and ‘viral reach’ and stuff? You’re probably thinking about social media because you’ve seen someone’s campaigns take off on Facebook. Social networks are helpful, but email still the backbone of a really great campaign. For most of our campaigns 60-70% of their donations come from email, 30-40% of their donations come from Facebook, and a little bit from twitter.

Now, have a think about your project and put the basic details in the Crowdfunding Mockup. Our campaign title is: Reuniting refugee Families. Our target amount is going to be $20,000 And our duration is going to be 5 weeks. The fixed, tangible outcome really means that supporters can picture what they’re contributing to and how their donation helps make it a reality. Your campaign becomes their campaign, and they come along the journey with you.

The Campaign Page – crowdfunding tips

You’ve probably seen what crowdfunding campaigns online before. They tell the story of your campaign using videos, words and photos and end with a call to action like pledge or donate. By now you’re probably itching to put together your crowdfunding page. This part is actually pretty straightforward. Here’s what you do. Let’s draft up all the rest of the information you need for the page. We’ll pick a category. This is not needed for all platforms. But we’ll pick social enterprise.

The next part, our ‘blurb’ or ‘pitch.’ Now here’s some real examples from some successful campaigns. Note that they’re all incredibly short and snappy and they tell you what the campaign is about, very succinctly. The idea here, is that you want people to get excited about the campaign generally. In our example we’re going to say: We’re going to reunite a refugee family that hasn’t seen each other in 22 years. This is good because it’s short, to the point. It explains what we’re going to do. Its the text people are going to share on facebook, twitter and other platforms.

Next, comes the video. Videos are a fantastic way to tell your story, and most good campaigns have a video. Oh, hi! We’ll go into more depth on how to make videos for crowd funding in another lesson. You don’t need to be a film production genius to make a good crowdfunding video. you just need to grab your phone, some friends, maybe some beneficiaries and tell your story to the camera. There is software your phones or computers that let you edit video and get it up to YouTube really easy. Remember high production value doesn’t matter, you’re not making a Hollywood Blockbuster Just tell a personal story in a way that matters to your core believers and their friends.

Now we come to the main part of the campaign page, however you do this: Tell a good story. The format goes like this: broad context, of where we’re working. The specific program that we’re working on. The solution we’re bringing to that problem, and then the ask; which is why we need your help to get this to happen. Start with context because we want the audience to understand what area we’re doing the work. Many supporters already know this stuff, but it gets viewers into the right frame of mind to understand what you’re doing. You don’t need lots of stats here – and it should only be a couple of sentences long. Now explain the problem, in that context. There’s something that’s broken, or there’s an opportunity to do something better. You could tell the story of a particular person you’ve worked with that’s experiencing the problem you’re about to solve. Again, keep it short. Make sure you explain the issue on its own terms before you explain your solution to it.

Next, the fun bit, we get to explain what we’re going to do about it. Again keep it simple and specific. and don’t use non-profit buzzwords Seriously, no buzzwords. Nobody knows what you’re talking about. When talking about your solution, don’t be afraid to talk about how this is going to make a really big difference. It’s your soap box moment, but make sure you keep it human and relatable. The more “real” you can make your story, the better. If you’re building something, show them a sketch if what it’s going to look like. If you’re running a program, show them a photo of the last time you did it. You want people to picture in their head, what your solution looks like.

Next, like any good pitch, we need an ‘ask’, or call to action: Be crystal clear on how much you want to raise and what you’re going to do with those funds. You don’t need a line by line budget, you just need enough detail so people know where their money is going The project description or story is the bulk of the campaign page. You’re going to want a bunch of pictures and information there. You’re going to spend a lot of time working on, getting this right.

Now we get to define some perks. Perks are rewards your supporters get for donating. That means they get something tangible back for giving to your campaign Think about how fun shopping for shoes is and imagine if you could bring that into your campaign Describe what they are, add some nice pictures of them into your story, and tell your audience how unique they are. Realistically, you should have won your audience over before they start looking at perks, which means they’re not making cost / value judgements about them like you would a personal purchase.

Now there are some personal details that you need to add to any crowdfunding platform such as are you taking donations as an individual or on behalf of an organization This is all pretty obvious – its in the template. You’ve now drafted all the information needed for your campaign page, some sections will be blank or incomplete. Share it with your team now, get their input on the page. You can start developing your style and branding Remember upbeat and personal – Giving is awesome, you don’t need to guilt people into it. Putting stuff online is actually quite easy, the hard part is figuring out if you’ve got the right project for crowdfunding, and how to market it.

Pre Launch – crowdfunding tips

Now let’s start a marketing and communications plan. This plan shows all the communications you’ll send for the campaign, who you’ll sending them too, what channels and who in your team is responsible. We use a spread sheet split into the main phases of a crowdfunding campaign. Then sort your entire mailing list into a few sections, kept on separate pages. We write down the subjects of our drafted emails, which are kept in a simple text document. Drafting all the communications, who you’re sending them too, and when, gives you a chance to refine the language so you’re not scrambling during the campaign. We’ll be starting with our core believers, drafting the emails for “pre-launch.” Using only your own mailing list is only going to get you so far.

But imagine if you could multiply yourself 15 times. Think about all the people you could reach. People who actively do work for you, like engaging their mailing lists on your behalf, will be your “Core Believers.” Start by writing down people who are already involved in the project and people you know who have already shown enthusiasm about this particular project. But to find as many Core Believers as possible, you’ll want to send a call to action to your entire mailing list. You’ll draft this email up in your marketing plan, under the pre-launch phase.

Here’s an example email:

Hey everyone, we’re planning on launching a crowdfunding campaign soon and I’d love you to get involved. We’re going to re-unite refugees with their families (a tangible focus), and we’re looking to raise $35,000 over a 4 week campaign (fixed outcome) To get involved, just email me back or give me a call. I’d really appreciate it if you would forward this on to your own mailing lists so we can more people involved.

That last line is key. People who are willing to take action, like forwarding your emails to other people, are really highly engaged. Notice the structure. The context, what it’s about, then a focus, the bit you want them to remember, and then what you want them to do, or, call to action. If someone takes action on your behalf, congratulations, you’ve found a core believer. Treasure these people, write their names and details down in your marketing plan! If you get no-one responding to your call to action, that’s ok, and not uncommon. Reframe your message, try again and just try and focus on getting your audience more engaged. Once you’ve built up a little tribe of excited people, get them involved in campaign design. Make them part of your team.

One effective method is to have your core believers help you design some perks. During the Pre-Launch phase you’ll want to send out an email to your Core-Believers; Let’s write a draft for this email too. “We have these tiers of rewards, and we’ve thought of a few options, but what would you like to see?” The structure here is, *choice* of involvement, *Examples* of ideas, and again, a *call to action.* Using their ideas for perks gets them involved, and removes some of the guesswork from deciding on perks. If you listen really carefully your core believers will actually tell you whats important to them.

As you develop ideas for your perks, add them to your Campaign mockup. Now we’re going to find a few Key Influencers. These are people who already have large audiences. It could be a celebrity ambassador or a partner organization you already work with. Brainstorm some organization and contact names, and write those contacts down now, so you’re not scrambling for a list at crunch time. It can be worth checking that your contacts are still with the organization, and that they remember who you are. Create a new sheet for each of these influencers, they’ll need need a lot of personalized attention. Here in the pre-launch we’re going to reach out to each of these influencers with some flattery. This process takes some time, but doing it well makes the next steps easier.

The Launch – crowdfunding  tips

Getting the launch right is one of the most important parts of your crowdfunding campaign. It sets up the momentum that determines whether or not your campaign is going to be successful. We’ll be writing drafts for all the communications, you’ll send around the launch of your campaign to ensure that momentum. First, email your Core Believers on exactly how they should communicate during the launch. For example, one week out you might write.

“Hey Everyone, Launch is really important we want to be 30% funded by the end of the first day. I’m going to send you an email Sunday night. On Monday please forward this to 100 of your friends, post the video to facebook, and tweet this link.”

The structure: The *importance* of the launch, setting *expectations* correctly. and then a *checklist* of things to do. And write another draft for the day before launch reiterating the instructions. We’ve given supporters concrete tasks, told them why the launch is important, and reaffirmed their alignment with us, so they can understand their role in the bigger picture. With emails like this, you actually want to include the text you want people to pass on, it means their passing on the right message, and they don’t have to do any work!

In the lead up to the launch, you’ll find people who are already interested in donating. Keep track of them in your communication plan. They make up the second segment in your mailing list. The pre-committed, ideally you actually want to get to a quarter of your goal, with those pre-commitments even before you launch. Now, at launch its time to send those pre-committed people a personalized email. Turn that soft yes, into an actual donation. Another draft you’ll write for launch day is personalized emails to every pre-committed supporter. Something like:

“Hey, great to catch up last week. The crowdfunding campaign I was talking about launched today, and we’ve already got some great momentum. I’m just following up because you said you were interested in donating. Here’s the link to the campaign.”

The structure, *Personalization, the *context* of the email, and then the *call to action.* If you get amazing momentum straight out of the gate, you’ll need to be ready with a communication, congratulating the pre-committed and core-believers on their hard work, so nail down a draft for that as well.

You may feel like you’re spamming your mailing list, but people generally enjoy lots of communication during a campaign. They’ll feel like they’re backing a winning horse, and a good communication plan means happy supporters. One thing many non-profits find tricky, is communicating in a personal way: Don’t talk to supporters from an organizational point of view, with formal, corporate language. People want to hear from a person, so don’t hide behind your organization or brand. You want people to feel like they’re getting a hand-written letter from an old friend.

The Lull – fundraising tips

So after a week of excitement, you’ll post on facebook, you’ll send out emails and all of a sudden nothing will happen. Thats totally normal What’s happened is the momentum from launch has dropped off, it’s time to concentrate on your Influencers. There are two main ways to do this. Leveraging your momentum, and personalized perks. First: Leveraging your momentum. Our draft email to a partner organization might say:

“Hey! Check out the momentum we’ve built already. I think your audience would be interested in our campaign, and here’s three bullet points why, plus a link to the campaign, and some nice pictures.”

And the structure: Evidence of *momentum*, the *relevance* to their audience, some *evidence*, and the *call to action.* That’s why the launch momentum is so important. Its harder to get big influencers on board until they can see that momentum. Next lets work on some personalized perks Personalized perks are a great way to get the larger, risk averse organizations on board for your campaign. Now you can draft a communication during this lull. These organizations can have much larger mailing lists and budgets, so call them up directly and say:

“Hey, we have this great perk you’d love, do you want to get involved?”

The structure, some *personalized* attention, couple with a clear *ask*. You can get some big donations and attention without a huge amount of effort, you only need a couple to really boost your numbers. It’s hard to plan, but draft sharable communications like news articles, campaign milestones and major sponsors to send to everyone during the lull. This is a good way to keep the social media communication happening during that boring middle part. The middle of the campaign is the toughest part – not a lot happens. If you use this time to contact your big influencers and corporate partners, you’re going to be in great shape for your final week.

The Finish – fundraising tips

You’re almost at the finish line. This is where things get exciting again. Let’s draft all the “big announcements” we’ll use for the final week of the campaign. As you enter your final week, you want to be 75% of the way to your final goal. So start the week with an email about how it’s 7 days to do and we’re 75% funded. Another draft might cover securing a major sponsor, whilst another might include some great pictures of beneficiaries, or a personal story. The structure might be a rallying message for your supporters, a focus (Something sharable) and a call to action (Link to the campaign or pledge button) You can even record announcement videos or take pictures advance so you have upbeat, sharable content for the final push. You’ll be emailing every segment of your mailing list, and posting to Facebook every day, so have plenty of content ready to go across all the segments.

There will be people who told you they were going to donate but haven’t gotten around to it yet. There’s nothing like a deadline to motivate people to action. Go back to your list and send them a personal email or give them a call. When the big day comes, you’ll finish your campaign, have a party and finally get a good night’s sleep. Drafting your big congratulations and thank you email means you’re not trying to write it whilst holding a glass of champagne. Don’t forget the personalized thank you for core believers and big influencers. Now, the bulk of campaign communication is done, but there’s still work to do.

After Campaign – fundraising tips

We can draft communications for after the campaign is over. Every 2 to 4 weeks, make sure you send campaign updates to your supporters. Updates don’t need to be technical, complicated or even particularly long. You want the tone of these emails to be like an email that you’d send to you friend not a report you’d send to a foundation. Post campaign communications are all about community building, so send lots of personal updates to show how you’re delivering on your promises. Try for at least once a week for the first month, and then perhaps every month or so for the first year. Try and include shareable content like videos and pictures, so it’s easy for supporters to spread the word. For example, if you’ve started producing a perk, take pictures, and write a breakdown on details of that perk, and why you’re excited about it.

Get supporters involved, maybe ask them to post pictures of perks that arrive in the mail on Facebook or Instagram? You won’t be able to plan out all your post-campaign updates, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Working through post-campaign communications can help you improve your campaign before you even start. If you keep people updated, they’ll feel like they’re part of the team. And next time you run a campaign they’ll be more than happy to get onboard.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve roughed out an entire marketing and communications plan, draft communications you’ll send and the information for the crowdfunding pag. Having this plan means you’ve got a great starting point for running a successful campaign. Think of the plan as the scaffolding – it’s up to you and your core supporters to personalize it together. If you’re willing to put in the work, you actually can pull off a great campaign without a lot of money. This is the one type of fundraising where you’re actually have the advantage as a small non-profit. You don’t need a big budget, you don’t need a big marketing team. It’s just you, and your core supporters pull off something amazing.

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