The good guide to crowdfunding

Online crowdfunding platforms connect social entrepreneurs with a whole new world of potential backers. But when it comes to attracting pledges and smashing stretch goals, it’s not as easy as pressing publish. Why do some campaigns flourish while others falter? We caught up with the people behind Indiegogo and StartSomeGood to find out their top tips, as well as those who’ve had success to find out what they’ve learned…

1. Pick your platform

Tom Dawkins, co-founder and CEO of StartSomeGood – a platform focused exclusively on social entrepreneurs and campaigns for social change – says the most successful fundraisers “understand how crowdfunding works, and put in the work required to create their own success.” However, one of the biggest stumbling blocks he sees comes from choosing the wrong model.

CEO and co-founder of StartSomeGood Tom Dawkins

When it comes to selecting the crowdfunding platform that’s right for you, it pays to do your research. Creator of Torchlight System – a new way to stimulate conversation about and recovery from depression and anxiety – Kevin Braddock, chose Indiegogo as a way to manage pre-orders and for its ‘in demand’ function. This enabled him to continue raising funds for further products after meeting his original funding goal. Amanda Brinkman, on the other hand, selected Kickstarter to raise funds for her Nasty Feminist card game due to the large gaming community already active on the site.

Unlike Indiegogo, all Kickstarter and StartSomeGood campaigns operate on an all-or-nothing basis, which means unless they meet or exceed their pre-set goal, none of the funding is released. Dawkins says this model can prove more attractive by reducing risk for potential backers, particularly when a product or company has a limited track record.

2. Craft a compelling story

Braddock attributes much of Torchlight System’s success to the personal and relatable nature of his story, and says video is a great way to show, rather than tell.

“Spend time getting your intro video right. Make it clear what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how people can help. I had to shoot our intro video about five times before it felt ready to go.”

This sentiment is echoed by Brinkman, who says video helped her shed light on details that could otherwise be buried in the description.

“I wanted to communicate that Nasty Feminist is fun, funny, and upbeat and can be played by men and women. I did a simple storyboard, wrote a script with an intro, a what and a why and built the visuals to match."

“I wanted to show friends around a table drinking and enjoying the game, so I asked a group of friends to be in the video together. No acting, no lines, just real and authentic reactions to people playing the game for the first time.”

3. Set realistic goals

According to Indiegogo’s Crowdfunding Field Guide, “setting a lower, more realistic funding goal often means you’ll raise more money in the end. People want to be a part of successful campaigns; generally they don’t stop funding once a goal is reached.” However, you do need to ensure that you don’t sell your campaign short.

Brinkman identifies setting a funding goal as one of the most difficult aspects of her campaign.

“I didn’t want to set it too high or too low, but rather be realistic with how much it would take to produce and ship the games, pay the Kickstarter fees and recoup the costs paid to my illustrator, designer and filmmaker,” she explains. “With a physical product, the costs can quickly rack up so I needed to make sure the pledge amounts fully covered all the costs.”

4. Offer interesting rewards

Dawkins says, “rewards bring an additional level of human motivation into play.” They’re certainly a great way to attract and thank your backers. But both Brinkman and Braddock say simplicity is best.

Nasty Feminist backers received the game as a reward

“Mixing physical rewards can create a shipping nightmare for you or increase your shipping costs if you’re using a shipping company,” Brinkman explains. “I wanted to make the process simple and quick, so I only offered the game as a reward.”

5. Partner up for credibility

Indiegogo stats show campaigns run by two or more people typically generate 94 percent more funds than those run by an individual. Director of UK and Europe at Indiegogo, Joel Hughes, says when running a successful crowdfunding campaign, the preparation phase is crucial.

“Firstly, you must create a solid base of supporters ahead of launching your campaign. These can be friends, family, work, fan or community networks. These are people who are highly engaged with you and your objectives,” he says.

Dawkins also suggests increasing the credibility of your project by partnering with likeminded organisations and individuals to help you spread the word.

“There’s no way I could have done it without a team of helpers around me,” Braddock says of Torchlight. “Torchlight System is a whole bunch of people who’ve helped in one way or another right from the start: designers, editors, tech people, clinicians, friends and so on. We’ve all done it voluntarily and in our spare time – although I quit my job a few months ago to commit to the project fully.”

Torchlight Systems products encourage open conversation about mental illness

6. Promote beyond the platform

Hughes also stresses the importance of building your community as a way to generate 30 percent of your goal within the first two days. “This early momentum increases your chances of campaign success considerably,” he says. But don’t expect the crowds to flock to you without some extra work.

As a journalist, Braddock turned to the press to help raise awareness for his cause and also took to social media to generate support.

“For us, it was really about drawing up a huge list of everyone we knew who might be interested and reaching out to them by email to begin with. By far the most powerful channel was Facebook, and my own group of friends on there. Torchlight is a very personal project with a universal message, so putting myself right in front of the campaign seemed to be the best way forward.”

Finally, Brinkman says her biggest learning is that crowdfunding platforms are not the same as shopping portals.

“People who contribute to your campaign are putting money behind your idea and helping you bring that idea to fruition. You can continue to tweak and improve your project, just remember to communicate those improvements with your backers. And remember, people who back your project are into it, so don’t be afraid to ask them to share it with their community as well.”