How to Successfully Crowdfund Your Idea

Crowdfunding can get your project off the ground, but only if you do your homework

Update: Since writing this post I consulted on a follow-up campaign for the Borley Rectory film, which reached its target in the first week of campaigning.

The amazing growth of crowdfunding means everyone wants a piece of that action. But although the industry is worth an estimated $5 billion globally, it’s not all about the money.

Sure, crowdfunding can lend a hand in providing much -needed financing for your idea, but it can also be the perfect launchpad for “the next big thing”. Oculus is a case in point, a company that began life as a Kickstarter campaign and went on to be acquired by Facebook for $2 Billion this year.

With so many great ideas to choose from, however, getting noticed in the crowd is also getting a lot harder. Gone are the days when you could get away with badly spelled copy, boring rewards and sloppy videos. Those are now the minimum standards for any campaign worth its salt, and there’s really no excuse, as platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter make it easy to put together a nice page. On top of these basics, there are 3 key things that can really make a difference to crowdfunding success, and while working on several campaigns I learned from people in the trenches what they are:

1 — Set your target amount low, and exceed it early

A high target can put some supporters off, especially at the start of the campaign, when it can seem too large a mountain to climb. Ideally, you want to reach over 30% of your target amount in the first few days of the campaign. That gives you a lot more chance to get promoted in the platforms, and creates a buzz of excitement around the campaign. You can always exceed your target, and that looks good too. The trick is to go as low as you can, while still being confident that the minimum amount you set is enough to keep your promises to the community, so keep this realistic, and be honest with your supporters.

2 — Communicate constantly and creatively

It’s not a Monty Python restaurant, so Spam is definitely not on the menu. What you need is to have a solid plan of how you will roll out relevant content across all your social media channels, engaging your existing supporters and encouraging them to bring new ones on board. Shareability is key, so think interesting visuals, video, multimedia, games, and text content that will intrigue and delight your community. Someone at Indiegogo once told me that “Crowdfunding is just another word for marketing, and a successful crowdfunding campaign demands around-the-clock promotion. In today’s technocracy, that translates to constant tweets, relentless Facebook status updates, email blasts up the wazoo, sleep strikes, the occasional hunger strike, and any other means by which to keep your project on the minds of your friends, family, and supporters”.

3 — Leverage influencers

Think long and hard about what the audience is for whatever you’re crowdfunding. When you have that picture firmly in your head, start thinking about the type of person that audience is likely to listen to, especially on social media. They might be celebrities, or simply trusted influencers in their field, but getting them on side is key to energising your campaign and giving it that extra reach and momentum. Do your research and find things about yourself and your campaign that would interest those people, and reach out to them proactively with any means at your disposal.

Remember that there are many benefits to crowdfunding when it’s done right, and these certainly go beyond reaching your money target. Film director Ashley Thorpe from Carrion Films, currently producing an animated short about Borley Rectory, used his Indiegogo campaign to grab the attention of the likes of Julian Sands and Reece Shearsmith, who are now taking part in the project. He’s in no doubt that crowdfunding elevated his company’s status and potential in spite of the campaign falling short in financial terms. “With the reward costs and fees deducted, we were left with about half of the film’s budget in the end, but I have raised the profile of what I’m attempting to do tenfold, and made connections with groups of people that I never thought I’d get to work with”.

So, what are your crowdfunding tips?

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications