Crowdfunding: A step-by-step guide for charities
Crowdfunding has become a hot topic for fundraising teams, as more organisations channel their efforts towards a more democratic approach to raising their funds.
It’s tempting to think of crowdfunding as a simple, hassle-free way of raising thousands of pounds for your cause. The reality is that 60% of campaigns on Kickstarter don’t get funded, and on Indiegogo, 9 out of 10 campaigns don’t reach their target. Successful campaigns require a great deal of preparation and attention – and in the guide, “Make It Rain,” the process has been broken down into three stages.
Make It Rain, produced in partnership with JustGiving and the Institute of Fundraising, features interviews and case studies with organisations including Hollaback!, the Royal Academy of Arts, and Doctors of the World.
Preparing for crowdfunding success is more than just filling out a page on a fundraising platform. Crowdfunding shouldn’t be used for general fundraising activity, but for a discrete project or cause – it needs to have mass appeal. Your message needs to be compelling, concise and informative – and tailored to appeal to your target audience(s).
Goals need to be articulated clearly, and justified to your supporters. Why have you decided on a specific amount? A successful campaign has a sense of urgency around it. It should inspire and drive donors into thinking that, without their support, a specific project might not take place.
Compelling visuals – like a video – are crucial, especially when it comes to condensing your mission into a succinct, shareable format.
Another common theme identified across successful campaigns involves ‘stacking the deck’ – asking supporters and existing donors to donate at the very beginning. This is something that Alisha Miranda, co-founder of high-street fashion transparency app Not My Style, did successfully. “Each of my co-founders and I put together a list of about 150 people, and we went to them a week before our soft launch,” says Alisha. “We pushed them to give quite a bit at the beginning, which was great, because once we officially launched, we had already raised about £6,000 of our £20,000 target, and that was before we went public with anything.”
The work doesn’t stop once the campaign has gone live – there’s still a lot to be done, and it requires a robust strategy. The ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality does not apply, and thinking strategically and proactively is key.
According to Michael Eldred, deputy director of development, sponsorships and partnerships, resources need to be allocated for it to be successful: “Be prepared to work very hard. Setting up a successful campaign, maintaining the momentum during the campaign and delivering the rewards all takes a lot of person hours. For us, it’s not a way that we are going to replace our usual fundraising streams, like sponsorship, but if you have the right project then it’s absolutely worth doing with the added benefit of helping you reach new audiences. We also completely underestimated how much good feeling it would generate towards the organisation and how motivating this was for the whole of the Academy.”
Acknowledging supporters throughout, reaching out to press and social media influencers, and repurposing content to be shared across your social channels are a great way to get more visibility.
This is something the Royal Academy did exceptionally well for their Ai WeiWei campaign. By working with influencers, and tailoring their content distribution strategy to appeal to their target audience, they were able to generate a lot of buzz. They saw a spike in donations after releasing a video of Stephen Fry making the ask, and a Twitter chat campaign (#AskAiWeiWei) gave fans access to the artist directly.
Even if you weren’t successful in achieving your target, there is a lot to keep you busy – crowdfunding is not just about fundraising, after all, but gaining supporters. It’s vital to keep identifying, cultivating and soliciting new donors – and to keep the crowd updated on the progress of the project. If it didn’t get funded – what’s going to happen? It’s also important to keep the crowd updated even if things don’t go to plan – in our research, we’ve seen several crowds turn against organisations due to the lack of transparency and communication.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s not a quick-fix solution – it’s hard work. But when you’re successful, it can raise your profile, build lasting relationships with donors and a sense of community – all while raising funds to help make a greater impact.
This article was written by Carlos Miranda, Founder and Chair of Social Misfits Media