(Illustration by Hannah Agosta Illustration, based on a photo by Jessie Fox)
“How to Give” is a monthly column by local philanthropy wizard Lansie Sylvia. In it, Lansie answers readers’ questions about millennials, philanthropy and engaging the next generation of givers. To ask her a question, tweet @FancyLansie.
THIS MONTH’S QUESTION:
I have a cool idea for a social impact project that combines place-making with underserved populations but I don’t know how to get it funded. I’m considering starting a crowdfunding campaign to get it off the ground, but I feel bad asking my friends for money. When is it appropriate to ask your network for financial help?
My first thought is if someone can get a potato salad funded via Kickstarter, then you definitely have a chance at getting your project funded on the Internet!
Crowdfunding can be a great way to help realize your delicious-raspberry-pie-in-the-big-blue-sky dreams, but it can also be incredibly stressful and disheartening if your project doesn’t get funded. From personal and professional experience, I can tell you that two things will make or break the success of any potential campaign: storytelling and network.
Before we get too deep, let’s address this “feeling bad about asking for money” thing. Fundraising is not a bad thing. It is not cowardly or weak or lame or immoral. Asking people to support awesome projects via their financial contributions is a good thing to do! It builds community and gives people agency in this wild world of ours.
You are inviting people that you care about to contribute to causes that they care about. In this way, money becomes a tool to express love and joy and devotion to something greater than one’s self. Asking people to join you on this adventure is an awesome, noble, exciting thing to do.
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It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Why? Because crowdfunding demands constant attention for the length of the campaign. You mentioned that the project would happen during nights and weekends, which indicates to me that the crowdfunding would be done on nights and weekend.
Prepare thyself. This is going to be a grind.
Here are my top five tips for raising money for creative endeavors via crowdfunding:
Choose the right platform.
In retrospect, I should have gone with IndieGoGo for the NSD campaign. Kickstarter has become a platform primarily for product development. Most “campaigns” are actually project pre-sales where a backer is giving money essentially to buy a product early or at a discounted rate. This means that your campaign, which is more about societal impact and good vibes, might not resonate with that latent audience. IMHO IndieGoGo has a more social impact-y bend to it, so you’re more likely to find potential backers for your cause.
Tell a really, really, really good story.
My friend Amy Hoy over at Unicornfree has an excellent video case study about her experience helping (the now-wildly successful) Rooster Soup Co. back when it launched its crowdfunding campaign. I can’t tell it any better than she does (seriously, she’s a Wizard of Awesome) so check it out and thank me later.
Assemble your advisory council.
As I’ve mentioned before, in online fundraising, your network is your net worth. You can’t just post a few Facebook updates and expect the money to come pouring in. You’re going to need help. Your advisory council will be an invaluable tool.
Assemble six to eight very smart and opinionated people. This will be your advisory council. Invite them over for fancy drinks and pizza. Pitch your campaign platform. Wait. Let them marinate on it. Get their feedback. Answer their questions. Pitch it again. Get more feedback. Pitch it again. Do this until the fancy drinks run out and you’ve identified every single Frequently Asked Question that could get asked frequently.
Thank them for their time and request that they commit to helping you for just one more hour per person. Now you have six to eight people that you can support you in your campaign when your have questions or hit stumbling blocks.
Recruit your campaign cheerleaders.
This will be your Army of Goodness on social media. Recruit 10 to 15 people that already know you, like you, and will be supportive of your idea. It helps if they’re particularly strong with social media. Create content for them to post, amplify and champion over the course of your campaign. This will help create momentum and keep the campaign top-of-mind to a variety of peer groups.
Commit to constant, benevolent harassment … and don’t take anything personally.
You’re going to have to remind your friends to contribute to your campaign … a lot. You’ll send out emails from your campaign platform. You’ll send text messages. You’ll send personal emails. You’ll call people. And some of them will tell you that they’re totally going to back you. And those same people totally won’t do it.
Try not to take this personally. Even if people have $25 to give, they might not feel like they do at this exact moment. And that’s okay. There’s likely to be the same number of people that will be ever so grateful that you gave them a final nudge to give before the deadline, because they honestly forgot.
Do not dwell on people who don’t give to you. Instead, celebrate, uplift and express boundless gratitude for those who do. You really will not know if this campaign will be successful until you try. But with preparation and a tireless spirit, I’m willing to bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much support you already have.-30-
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