How to crack the crowdfunding code

Lauren Griffiths

So you have a killer idea and are ready to hit “Create” on that crowdfunding campaign. But how can you make your project as attractive as possible to potential backers?

Build your community

While you might be impatient to get your campaign online, keep in mind there’s a bit of groundwork to do before launch day. At the top of the list is the all-important support network.

Sydney-based digital publishing and crowdfunding consultant, Crowdfund it! author and Crowd Funding Institute of Australia (CFIA) director Anna Maguire says building a community is crucial to the success of a campaign.

“I’m constantly speaking to people and recommending they delay launching until they have a large, engaged following who care about their success,” she says.

Organic growth isn’t necessarily achieved quickly, so Maguire suggests planning a social media strategy, keeping in mind that your network shouldn’t be courted exclusively in the hope of supporting your campaign.

“Research your target communities based on your eventual campaign, and then work out a strategy of how to engage with those communities and what you can offer them,” she says. “It may be content, interactions, support for what they’re trying to achieve.”

“I’m constantly speaking to people and recommending they delay launching until they have a large, engaged following who care about their success.”

Independent producer and co-director of Jungle Love Festival and Brisbane Street Art Festival, Lincoln Savage, is well versed in using the power of community to get a crowdfunding campaign over the line. His advice is to start small.

Pozible runs workshops a few times a year in each city and they’ll tell you that the first place to start is friends and family, then grow out from there.”

Building a simple landing page with a mailing list sign-up pre-launch is a clever way to stay connected to your community during and after the campaign, while also enabling you to prime followers and increase the chance of early pledges.

Craft a good story

From the headline to the pitch to the call to action, your prose should be catchy, entertaining and speak to your audience.

Prashan Paramanathan, founder and CEO of international crowdfunding platform for social causes Chuffed and advisor at CFIA, says it’s important to create a pitch based on what your network cares about – not what you want to sell.

“We see a lot of campaigns that believe their audience is ‘everyone’ and so they come up with a generic, bland pitch,” he says. “This is guaranteed failure.”

To do that, you need to know exactly who your audience is. “We see a lot of campaigns that believe their audience is ‘everyone’ and so they come up with a generic, bland pitch,” he says. “This is guaranteed failure.”

Keep the campaign page uncluttered and your pitch succinct, including a link to a separate site with further detail. “Don't make it sound like a grant application,” adds Paramanathan. “This isn't about the ‘worthiness’ of your project or the research evaluation that you undertook – it's about creating an experience that's fun for your community.”

Pay attention to the visuals

Not only will a compelling video and images add to the overall appeal of the page, but they will also pique reader interest, possibly pull on those heartstrings and help tell the story.

“Never overlook the video,” says Maguire. “That’s crucial to help people connect with you and your passion for the project. Keep your video short, take the time to storyboard the script and make sure it describes your project and rewards. Show your passion!

Get creative with rewards

While your family may support you regardless, the perks you offer will be crucial to gaining support from those outside your immediate circle.

Keep the rewards tangible and the quality level high. The exclusivity aspect can’t be underestimated either – get creative and offer something unique that only your project can.

“[Chuffed campaigns] have had dinners with celebrities, gardening workshops with Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia, postcards from Antarctica, a James Bond-esque silhouette of [backers] painted onto a cinema wall, a two-day bush trip with Indigenous artists in remote Western Australia and of course who could have resisted a tour of Manly's beautiful little penguins,” says Paramanathan.

He adds that one of the most impressive campaigns he’s seen on Chuffed in terms of backer appeal was by Edgar’s Mission in 2014. “[They] spent two to three years building an audience before launching the campaign. Through that, they deeply understood what their audience wanted and through the perks created a way for their fans to join in the story by sponsoring part of the sanctuary. It was like people were playing Farmville in real life.”

Maguire suggests offering ‘early-bird’ prices for pre-order campaigns, as well as a wide range of pledge price options. “Make sure they’re good value and personalise as much as possible.”

“Maguire suggests offering ‘early-bird’ prices for pre-order campaigns, as well as a wide range of pledge price options.”

Promote, promote, promote

You can be your own best publicity machine – but you have to be willing to self-promote and put in the effort to help generate excitement.

Stay active on social media and encourage your network to share the updates and countdowns so the news spreads beyond your immediate circle.

Brainstorm creative ideas to get more people reading your posts and watching your videos, and get in touch with relevant media contacts and bloggers.

Get your story out there in any way you can, remembering that you ultimately want two things: people to share the updates and donate to the campaign.

Maintain the momentum

Develop a strategy with a story arc so your campaign gets consistent energy boosts to keep the excitement up. If you know you’ll be receiving significant donations from your inner circle, for example, time them so they give your project an extra push if the interest starts to wane.

Keep your network up to date on the amount left to raise and the deadline countdown – it could be the incentive they need to pull in those last-minute donations. 

Lauren Griffiths

Lauren Griffiths is a Queensland-based freelance writer who writes about marketing, media and entrepreneurship.

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