When Kickstarter launched in 2009, the fundraising landscape shifted. Today, crowdfunding is a way of life. How many campaigns have you been invited to on Facebook asking you to support a charitable cause, underwrite an athletic event, or donate to a friend in need?
If you’re looking for a way to raise money and find new donors, odds are you’ve considered crowdfunding .Maybe you even have a campaign going right now. But crowdfunding is far from a fundraising magic bullet!
While globally over $34 billion dollars have been raised through crowdfunding, all you need to do is browse one of the nearly 200 crowdfunding sites in the United States to see dozens of campaigns far from reaching their funding goals. According to the Crowdfunding Data Center, nearly 80% of crowdfunding campaigns don’t meet their goals.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t launch a crowdfunding campaign! A well-planned campaign can be a powerful fundraising and marketing tool. If you want your campaign to be one of the 20% to succeed, make sure you avoid these five all-too-common mistakes.
Mistake #1: You’re Not Telling Your Story
Good fundraising is about good storytelling.
When a potential donor clicks through to your campaign, you have a few seconds to grab her attention and tell her why she should invest in your cause.
If she is faced with a poorly written wall of text, a gift is unlikely to follow.
But if, instead, she digs into a campaign that includes a succinct overview, emotional video, and compelling narrative you’re giving her the chance to fall in love with your campaign (and inspiring her to make a gift. Does you crowdfunding page tell donors:
- Why you are raising money. Be specific! Dig into your programs and the work you do that sets you apart.
A bad example is “we are raising money to rescue dogs,” while a more enticing pitch might be “we’re raising $5,000 to help 10 abused Golden Retrievers find new homes. They’ll get checked out by a vet, spend a month in our sanctuary, and eventually be ready to find their forever homes.”
Be as clear as you can as to why your campaign exists and who it will benefit.
Exactly where the money will go. Along with why you are are raising the money, tell donors how you will spend it. Transparency and clarity in where their dollars are going will inspire donors to give. Get specific: how much will it cost to transport those dogs and pay for medical bills? How much money do you have already, and how much do you need to raise to make this project possible?
Why their gift matters now. Your should have a sense of urgency that isn’t just the expiration date of your campaign. Why is it important that this money is raised now? Why do those dogs need to be rescued right now?
Take a look at the Finish Line Fund, a great campaign on indiegogo. This campaign works for so many reasons, and it’s no surprise they’ve raised nearly $75,000!
The campaign tagline is descriptive and compelling. “Crowdfunding scientific research to cure my daughter’s rare disease.” is the first thing you read. Right away you know why money is being raised.
Their video and the images they use throughout the campaign are equally as compelling and professional.
The overview is short, well-written, and easy to understand. In four brief paragraphs we learn what they’re doing (the hashtag is a great addition!); why they’re fundraising, why the money needs to be raised now, and what they’ll do with it. They end with the call to action “are you able to help?” and if you’re anything like me you’re thinking “Damn straight I am able to help! Where’s my wallet?”
The campaign story is as compelling, and well-written as the rest of their campaign, tying in personal anecdotes, strong emotional appeals, and scientific research.
Telling Your Story
Your story is key to your fundraising success. It’s the lifeblood of your campaign. No story, no money.
Before you launch your campaign, spend time crafting your story. Make sure you have a tagline, overview, and narrative that are well-written and descriptive. If you feel you aren’t a strong writer or the thought of this project has you running for the hills, rope in a volunteer, ask a friend, or hire a copywriter. It’s worth it.
And that video? You may think you don’t need one, but campaigns with videos raise, on average, four times more.
Mistake #2: You assume people will want to give
When was the last time you donated to crowdfunding campaign without being asked? What makes you think your campaign will be any different
The number one reason people don’t give to charitable causes is because they aren’t asked. Crowdfunding is no exception! Don’t assume people will stumble across your campaign and be inspired to get out their credit card, or that a few Facebook shares will garner dozens of donations.
Don’t forget to ask. People won’t give unless you ask them, so make sure you have a plan to solicit donations. Create a targeted list of family and friends you can ask for support. Empower your volunteers and Board of Directors to ask their networks. Make sure that through every step of the campaign you are asking for money. Your crowdfunding campaign is the vehicle for accepting donations, but you asking is the reason they’ll give. .
Be realistic about the donations you’ll get. As you're putting together your list of potential donors, make sure you have a realistic estimate of how much they’ll give. The average gift to a crowdfunding campaign is $88 so unless you know for sure someone is going to make a $1,000 donation, don’t bank on it.
Have a marketing plan. Crowdfunding marketing is more than just sharing on Facebook. You can’t launch your campaign and sit back, expecting it to operate on autopilot. Make sure you know how and when you’ll solicit donors for gifts, send emails and update your campaign. The more time you spend promoting your fundraising, the more successful you will be.
Mistake #3: You start off too slowly
The same is true of crowdfunding. No one wants to be the first to give, and the longer your campaign goes on with just a few — if any — donations, the more stale it seems to potential funders.
Get the ball rolling by making sure you have at least 25% to 30% of donations made within the first 48 hours of your campaign. If you’re raising $10,000, shoot to have at least $2,500 raised by the end of day two.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Make a list of key supporters you know will give, and ask them for a pledge before the campaign launches. Then, when you go live, follow up with them and remind them to make their gift!
Take a look at the momentum of the Support Dingo Team. They raised over $1,100 from 18 backers in the first two days of their campaign, standing out on the front page of Indiegogo. That’s 32% of their goal in the first 48 hours, meaning they have a month left to raise the rest!
If you’ve eagerly launched your campaign to be met with radio silence, it’s not too late. Make that targeted list (better late than never!) and start writing personalized emails and facebook messages and making phone calls. You need that boost of momentum and influx of gifts to boost your campaign.
Mistake #4: Your fundraising goal is unrealistic
The average crowdfunding campaign brings in around $10,000. If you set a goal of more, whether $15,000 or $150,000 without a clear plan, odds are you’ll be one of the 80% of campaigns who doesn’t hit their fundraising goal.
No matter what your fundraising goal is, make sure it is realistic. It’s wise to set a lower limit with a clear budget to accompany it so you can tell donors exactly why every dollar is needed, and how it will be spent. Conversely, a pie-in-the-sky goal may turn off donors who aren’t clear why you need that much money.
But more importantly, unless you know you have the donors to meet your goal, it’s simply harder to raise more money and you’ll need a strong list of pledged donors and a killer marketing plan to make your goal a reality.
Maidraigos, Inc. set an ambitious goal of raising $100,000 in under a month. While they have a compelling story and strong supporters, they’d only raised $16,000 in the first week, meaning they had less than 10 days left to raise nearly $84,000. Not impossible, but unlikely!
If you don’t know how much money to raise, start by creating a budget. How much money do you need to fund your project? If the number is higher than $10,000, can it be raised in stages? Can you launch a $5,000 campaign for a specific part of your project now, and raise the rest later in the year? Or, do you have a strong enough story, great video, and marketing plan to backup your ambitious goal?
Mistake #5: You didn't plan enough (or at all)
You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, right? So why would you launch a crowdfunding campaign without a plan for success?
At the end of the day crowdfunding is just another form of fundraising, and has tried-and-true best practices that are powerful tools to achieve success. You need a roadmap to guide you from idea to funding success.
This means a written fundraising plan, marketing strategy, and production calendar. Give yourself actionable objectives and a clear timeline so you know what to do, and when. This can (and should) include details like:
How much money should be raised, with an accompanying detailed budget;
What content needs to be written, what it needs to contain, and who will write it.
A list of volunteers that will help get out the word.
A calendar of when the campaign will go live, when updates will be published, and how often you post on social media.
If you jump blindly into launching a crowdfunding campaign without a strategic plan, list of supporters, and production calendar, you’re facing an uphill battle. Instead of launching a campaign and crossing your fingers that gifts will come in, take the time do the leg work that will elevate your campaign into a purposeful fundraiser.
What questions do you have about Crowdfunding? Leave a comment and let me know what challenges you've faced raising money, and what you want learn!