Apr. 21, 2016 12:36 pm

Here’s why Media Mobilizing Project’s first crowdfunding campaign failed

A too-ambitious $20K goal and the wrong crowdfunding platform were two reasons why the nonprofit bailed on its Kickstarter campaign. Here's what it learned in the process.

Still from 'Groundwork.'

(Courtesy photo)

Crowdfunding is hard. Just ask the folks at Media Mobilizing Project (MMP).

The nonprofit, which uses media as a tool for organizing activism around poverty, recently pulled the plug on its first Kickstarter campaign.

The campaign sought $20,000 to take MMP’s “Groundwork” — a documentary highlighting organizing efforts and community engagement in Philadelphia — on the road to 20 communities across the country.

After raising close to $6,000, MMP abandoned ship.

There are a few reasons for bailing on the campaign besides not being on track to meet the goal in time for the deadline, according to Executive Director Bryan Mercer.

  • The goal was too ambitious. Mercer said $20k was “probably outside the reach and scope” for MMP’s donor base.
  • Crowdfunding platforms are not great marketing tools. Besides two unfamiliar names, those who contributed funds were already regular MMP donors. The nonprofit had trouble marketing outside that base.
  • Kickstarter was just the wrong platform. The “all or nothing” fundraising rule Kickstarter imposes did not work for MMP. Mercer said another platform like Indiegogo, which allows fundraisers to keep a portion of the money even if they don’t raise the full amount, would have been a better fit.

All things considered, why MMP would set a huge fundraising goal on a short “all or nothing” deadline is the biggest question.

“We were estimating out what it would cost to do the tour and the number of cities we were thinking of and pinning it in the $20,000 range, so we set the goal around that,” he said. “That’s a goal that needs to resonate with the audience and what they see as the overall value of the project.”

What MMP didn’t anticipate was the size of the average donation. The nonprofit was banking on pledges from $50 to $100. What they got was more in the $25 range.

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"We were learning a lot about the process."
Bryan Mercer

“I think we would have probably set a lower goal if we would have done a little more thinking up front about what our average pledge size was,” Mercer said.

The critical takeaway here, he said, is the marketing aspect of crowdfunding.

“I think the thing we should have done was focus on press and public awareness, getting the word out before the Kickstarter or much earlier on in the Kickstarter,” Mercer said. “We should have focused on lining up some news hits about the project. We just weren’t getting outside of who we already know.”

But not all is lost — MMP is reaching out to people who did make pledges with direct asks. The group is also creating ways to collect donations at tour stops on the road. It’s a much more intimate way of fundraising, and one that the grassroots organization is much more familiar with.

“This was our first crowdfunding campaign,” Mercer said. “We were learning a lot about the process.”

Those lessons learned will inevitably prepare MMP for future campaigns. For now, those interested in supporting the Groundwork tour can visit this site to make a direct donation.


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