Donations on my Indiegogo campaign for my book Still.
Last January I ran a successful Indiegogo campaign to crowd-fund a book that I wrote and my mom illustrated. Before launching my campaign, I did extensive research about the crowd-funding process by
1. Googling lots of search terms like “How to run a successful crowd-funding campaign”
2. Talking with friends and colleagues who had run successful campaigns themselves, and
3. I was also lucky enough to have a long phone conversation with the head of marketing at Indiegogo, who allowed me to pick his brain and geek out on crowd-funding stats and charts with him.
There are some really helpful resources out there to get you started including these tips from the CEO of Indiegogo. But here are 5 things about crowd-funding that I had to learn myself.
1. Be realistic about what kind of project you have: viral or non-viral.
Viral projects are selling a product that the public may want to buy or representing a cause that the public may want to support, regardless of whether or not they know anything about you. These are the campaigns that are pre-selling an invention or spreading the word about a buzz-worthy cause.
Non-viral projects are not going to be appealing to people who don’t know you. These are the campaigns funding things like first novels, trips to Europe, music videos for your up-and-coming band, etc.
You may have 50,000 Twitter followers and still have a non-viral campaign, if it’s the kind of thing that only your 50,000 Twitter followers are going to care about.
Be brutally honest with yourself about which of these two categories your project falls into, and know that IT’S OKAY if your project falls into the non-viral category. But you do need to adjust your marketing and expectations accordingly.
For a potentially viral campaign, you’ll want to blast your pitch link out to as many people as possible in whatever way you can. Friends and family are a great starting point, but you want strangers finding and sharing your campaign on a mass scale. It’s all about getting as many eyes as possible on your campaign, where your pitch should speak for itself.
For a non-viral campaign it’s more personal. Don’t waste lots of energy on looking for press or blasting out your campaign to complete strangers. For a non-viral type campaign, even if you were able to get a million strangers to see your pitch page, there’s a good chance that nearly zero percent of those views would convert into a donation. Instead of focusing on massive numbers of strangers seeing your campaign, you need to focus on being genuine, appealing and persistent with the people who know you or are in your direct networks, to convert as many of those people into donators as possible, with the highest donation amount possible.
2. Set a very forgiving delivery date range for non-time sensitive products/ideas.
And be prepared to refund donations for missing deadlines on tech/gadget products.
I learned the hard way that there were many more delays in the world of self-publishing than I had allowed for, and ended up delivering my product well past my expected delivery date.* People were mostly understanding, but I did receive a few concerned or even nasty emails from disappointed supporters. I felt horrible to disappoint people and the whole thing got a little stressful in the final weeks as I waited for my books to arrive so I could send them out. So leave yourself much more room for delays and hiccups than you think you’ll need.
However, if your campaign is about funding any kind of technology, gadget, or any item or service that’s time sensitive, you better do plenty of research about when you can guarantee your product will be delivered and stick to it. No matter what, even if that means losing money. Many of the most exciting tech campaigns are exciting because they are groundbreaking in some way and people are supporting you in order to be the first to have your product. If you deliver a late product after the market has been flooded with similar items, you’ll (sadly) deserve the grumblings and bad press that you’ll get, and ultimately you may be better off refunding contributions rather than burning permanent bridges with investors.
3. Get a realistic idea of how much you can expect to raise.
This is a rule of thumb that I came up with by combining several other rules of thumbs: Figure an average donation of $70 per supporter, with a participation rate of 50% percent of your personal friends/family, 10% of your acquaintances, and 1% of your outside networks (Twitter followers and Facebook friends who you don’t know, etc) This is just a rough guide but should help you get an idea of the ballpark range you can hope to raise.
4. Don’t be shy about promoting, but also don’t be entitled.
Even though I felt like I totally saturated my networks with asking for donations, there were still several friends who approached me after the campaign was over saying they had not seen it and felt left out. Think about the different avenues that people may prefer to be contacted: of course there’s Facebook and Twitter but also don’t discount direct personal emails and even phone calls. It’s more work to contact people that way, and it hurts more to get rejected directly, but crowd-funding is just not a place to be shy and fearful.
However, and this is really important – do a gut check before you send out any plea for donations. Do you expect this person to donate? Do you feel you deserve it, or that people should donate to you automatically?
You are not entitled to anybody’s money.
The number of successful crowd-funding campaigns we see all around us has made it seem easy. Seems like all we need to do is make a pitch page and tell people about it, and the dollars will come rolling in. But that’s not how it is. Your friends and family are getting hit up for money ten times a day and money is tight for many people. If the answer to your plea for money, among all the other pleas for money, is no: be gracious. If the answer is yes: be incredibly grateful, no matter how small the amount.
5. Prepare your loved ones for the fact that you WILL become obsessed with your campaign for the duration of it, no matter what you do.
Running a crowd-funding campaign is exciting and fun and addictive. Every other part of your life will get less attention until the campaign is over, no matter how much you swear it won’t be that way.
Enjoy it! : )
*at the time of publishing this blog I am waiting for my books to come in the mail from the publisher so I can ship them out to my patient donators. Any. day. now.