My crowd funding experience began in May of 2012 when a friend and her three children were threatened with eviction from their home after months of inability to pay the rent. I told her that I had seen several people raise money on Tumblr and Facebook by posting their stories with a PayPal link. With her permission, I posted a link to her PayPal account with a short explanation of her situation: she and her children, having escaped an abusive household situation with her ex-husband, unable to find jobs, and receiving little or no child support, needed money to pay their rent lest they go homeless.
While the link was distributed widely by many Tumblr bloggers, we only raised twenty-five dollars out of the twelve hundred dollars she needed. She and her children were eventually evicted and homeless. We failed.
In August, after nearly two months of homelessness, she and her children found a new start in a new state. But, again, she needed funds for such a big move. She contacted me and asked if I could run an online campaign to raise the funds.
This time I knew the campaign must be better organized. After researching various options, I decided to use IndieGoGo as a platform from which to launch and manage the campaign. IndieGoGo was ideal for several reasons. They are one of the most well-known crowd funding sites next to Kickstarter. They offer several fundraising tools and tips to help people reach their goals. They allow flexible campaign options. Perhaps the most important reason I chose IndieGoGo is of ease of use. The site is intuitive and, at every step of developing your campaign, they offer tips and incentives to make fundraising as efficient and successful as possible.
The campaign went live from September 30th until October 11th, and we raised $1,550 of the $1,500 goal. After the campaign, she and her children moved to their new home in a new state and began rebuilding their lives. More recently, when she and her children needed to raise funds to go back and retrieve their belongings that they had to leave behind, they were able to raise $4,161 of the $4,059 goal using the same site and methods.
But, while the campaigns were successful, there are several things I would do differently if given the chance.
Ten Tips for Successful Crowd Funding
After trying to help a friend raise money three times, failing the first time, and realizing how I could have done it better the last couple of times, I have a few tips for anyone who may be interested in crowd funding and utilizing social media. They are by no means exhaustive, and I am by no means an expert. But, keeping these in mind may help your cause.
- Line up a “point” person. Several people may work on the campaign, and the more people who help, the better. But, there must be at least one reliable person to manage the campaign from beginning to end. This person will likely delegate tasks, monitor or generate the “marketing” and answer inquiries.
- Do your research. Are you starting a business? Kickstarter may be right for you. Are you raising funds for personal use or for a project? IndieGoGo may be right for you. There are several crowd funding sites out there. Pick the one you think best works for you and make sure it is legitimate, well-known, and easy for potential funders to use.
- Figure out the details. How much money do you need? How does the cost break down? When do you need the money? How long will you run the campaign? Who will write the pitch? How often will you update? What will you offer for perks? What will you do when the campaign is over? Knowing these details will help you in the long and short-term, and the budget will be useful when writing your pitch.
- Start your campaign right by writing a great pitch. You only get one chance to make a first impression. When you share your campaign with others, the first thing they will see is a small picture and a short blurb. You have to hook them with this picture and this blurb. But, it does not stop there. If they visit the page, there is space to expand on your story. Use your words wisely. IndieGoGo has a great template along with many tips on making your pitch memorable. We used IndieGoGo’s template, a loving picture of my friend’s children, and made sure to start off by explicitly stating why we needed our funders’ support.
- Offer perks. We found that people did not necessarily care about the details of the perk so much as that they were getting one. Also, having preset donation amounts attached to these perks made it easier for people to donate. The less clicking they have to do, the better.
- Share your campaign widely. IndieGoGo encourages you to share your campaign through social media, blogs, email and other websites. You may also connect sister pages (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) to the page. Share as far and wide and possible, and do not stop. It is easy to post a link once and forget about it, but make sure you post the link several times, along with a compelling blurb, and really drum it home. Ask friends to share and ask them to ask their friends to share. Use flyers, cards, word of mouth, and whatever else you have at your disposal to get the word out.
- Update, update, update! IndieGoGo encourages many updates and demonstrates that campaigns that update regularly tend to raise more money. Make sure to update at least a few times a week to let your funders know how the campaign is coming along and that you appreciate their support. Updating with pictures or videos is even better and adds a human element to your missives.
- Monitor the campaign closely. Sad as it is, you may get nasty comments. We did, and we made sure to delete them immediately without response. But, we mostly received lovely and supportive comments that needed replies. We also wanted to keep track of money coming in. Even if you do not update every day, check the page and the dashboard each day if you can.
- Follow up with your funders after the campaign ends. This is crucial. When the campaign is over, whether or not you have reached your goal, update your funders and thank them for their support. Reiterate what their funds have made possible. If you have promised tangible perks for donating, make sure you deliver those in a timely fashion. Even months after the campaign, it is possible to update. Consider, down the line, updating one last time to let funders know what you have accomplished with their donations. This will also be helpful if you need to conduct a follow-up or new campaign in the future.
- Work with others on their campaigns. Fundraising, especially for social justice causes, is typically a means to an end. The real goal is to create change and help people in need who may not have access to such help elsewhere. One way to work toward accomplishing such change is to work in coalition with others. It also does not hurt to make contacts with others who may be able to help you with future fundraising efforts. If we want to help make the world more just, it is a lot easier with support.
There are many ways a person, organization or community can raise funds for their projects. Those options may be dictated by resources, time, the nature of the work of the group and other circumstances. I appreciated crowd funding for several reasons: we looked to individual donors instead of foundations; we had much room for creativity in how we conducted the campaign; and the fundraising efforts were always in our hands.
Readers, what experience do you have with fundraising? Do you have any tips?