The Climate of Crowdfunding
Part 2: How to Make it Work
Last week, we covered the topic of whether crowdfunding was worth your organization’s time.
What’s important to note is that the numbers concerning donors show that crowdfunding is becoming increasingly popular, especially in younger generations (Millennials and Generation Z).
To highlight crowdfunding’s ability to attract large donations (usually through numerous lesser amounts), here are a few recent success stories:
· Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire has raised $107,421 for the hiring of a postdoctoral fellow to analyze data related to eradicating Ebola.
· Project EPIC has raised $35,341 to help assemble and distribute packs containing Essentials, Provisions, Information, and Care to help the homeless get back on their feet.
· A Ray of Hope has raised $258,003 to build the first educational and therapy center for special needs children in Tiruvannamalai, India.
Unlike many commercial crowdfunding initiatives, attaining the goal isn’t always necessary to engender change. Of those three campaigns listed above, none have reached their goal, yet the money can still further their causes. Crowdfunding, because of its reliance on numerous, often anonymous donors, is rarely used as the only source of donations for a specific project, so in a lot of cases the goal is an ideal amount but not the end of the project if the campaign falls short.
Those campaigns look impressive with their large dollar amounts, but how did they get there? What steps were taken to lay the groundwork necessary for success?
Although there is an endless stock of tips and tricks depending on who is speaking (or writing), here are three big ideas that you should prioritize before going public with your campaign.
1. An involved, active, and social media-savvy committee
What do we need for all fundraising events? A committee. Crowdfunding is no different in that respect. There needs to be a group of dedicated individuals with connections who are driven to make sure the campaign succeeds.
Are they posting and sharing campaign information on social media? Are they attending meetings? Are they donating? Do they know their roles? Be sure you ask yourselves these questions—and know the answers!
Because Crowdfunding is still new for a lot of people, it’s important to be sure that the committee members are aware of what they are signing up for. This type of campaign requires a lot more internet know-how and willingness to engage on social media.
An inactive committee will doom the campaign before it launches.
2. The Soft Launch
This committee’s first and perhaps most important responsibility will look familiar to anyone who has launched a fundraising campaign: The Soft (or Quiet) Launch. After determining the goal for the campaign, and quietly launching the campaign’s online platform, the committee should get to work securing donations. It is ideal that as close to 50 percent of the campaign is funded when it goes live. Ideal but not required—more is always better.
The reason is simple enough: As the campaign spreads through social media to individuals unaware of your organization, it becomes more difficult for them to be convinced to give; however, when someone sees that a campaign is nearing its conclusion, their small contribution feels more worthwhile—they are contributing to the final push over the finish line. An online campaign circling the net with little money donated looks like a dead cause. Notably, according to Tony Haile of Chartbeat, 55 percent of internet browsers spent fewer than 15 seconds on a page. This means there is little time to grab a potential donor’s attention, and if the first thing they see is a great distance to the goal, then those 15 seconds are over and they are out.
3. Planned Engagement with Social Media
Social Media engagement represents the most critical aspect of a successful Crowdfunding campaign. Most individuals understand what Facebook and Twitter (I’ll focus on those two platforms as they are the most recognizable today) are, and most of those people probably know how to post or share on those platforms—at least to a serviceable level. But participating on social media with the intent of sharing a crowdfunding campaign is much more complicated than posting about your dinner or sharing a funny story.
The committee, staff, and volunteers need to have the social media engagement planned from the beginning. What types of media (pictures, video) will be gathered and posted? How often should the campaign be shared across each platform? Should everyone share or should individuals take turns? Who is responsible for producing new and updated content so that the same tweets/posts aren’t being recycled throughout the campaign’s life?
Those are a lot of questions to consider. What I recommend is creating a weekly social media calendar that specifically lays out what media is being posted and when, who will share it, and what platforms will be used. By having an organized schedule, it will be easier to track the activity and effectiveness of the engagement. Perhaps the activity on Twitter is getting very few likes and retweets—examine why that might be and change what individuals are tweeting.
The popularity of social media is not an accident. It has power because of its ability to connect everyone. Don’t treat your campaign’s posts as afterthoughts or accidents. Treat them as conversations with potential donors.
The takeaway, if it can be simplified, is that Crowdfunding is anything but simple. It has enormous potential based on its ability to reach an audience wider than any other form of fundraising. That potential, however, comes at a cost of being reliant on the generosity of internet strangers who may have no personal connection to your organization or cause. This makes the appeal difficult—how do you convince someone to give your cause money even when they may not feel any connection to it? A question like this is too large to answer right now, but perhaps it can be up for discussion in a later post.
Good luck in your crowdfunding endeavors.