I've been fascinated by the rise of successfully crowdfunded projects through sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I think nonprofits can take lessons from them to apply to their own fundraising. So I when I read a thorough analysis of Brett Scott's successful Indiegogo project, I invited him to share some of his lessons learned here. Brett is the author of the forthcoming book ‘The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance’. This is adapted from his article called Kickstarting the gogofactor: Top tips I learned from my crowdfunding campaign. You can follow Brett on Twitter @suitpossum
6 channels to call in the crowds to your crowdfunding campaign
By Brett Scott
Want to run a crowdfunding campaign? Here are six channels to call in the crowds.
I recently ran a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a small school for financial education. I managed to raise double my initial target, which is a great, but it took a significant amount of effort to make that happen. You can have a fantastic pitch on a great crowdfunding platform, but nothing is going to happen unless you ask individual people to go see it and to help you share it. Here are six channels I used to call in the crowds.
Channel 1: Email
I started out by sending emails. I sent around 100 personal emails, plus a few group emails. I discovered that group emails don't work. Personal emails do. Sending personal emails was also a useful means to contact people who I haven't had a chance to catch up with for a while, so the campaign was a good excuse to remind people that I exist. I was careful to word my emails so as to offer people different ways of helping out – not everyone feels financially stable enough to contribute cash, but they can certainly help spread the word.
Channel 2: LinkedIn
Not everyone is a big LinkedIn user, but I've got 500+ LinkedIn contacts, so this was an important channel for me. I only chose contacts who I wasn't personal friends with though (I used Facebook for friends) and I ended up sending about 95 personal messages to people I thought would be particularly interested. I prioritised this before Facebook, because more distant contacts generally take longer to respond and so need to be contacted earlier. Indeed, I got some good contributions via LinkedIn, but mostly it was several days after I sent the messages.
Channel 3: Facebook
I did a big messaging and posting blitz on Facebook. I've got around eight hundred friends on there and I sent around 460 personal messages to people. Yes, that sounds like a lot, and it was pretty time-consuming, but it was well worth it because I got a lot of traction via Facebook. I also learned that if you send a load of messages on Facebook, the platform begins to suspect you're a spamming machine and requires you fill out CAPTCHAs to prove you're not. The way to combat this is to space the messages out over several days. Also think about when people are most likely to use Facebook – for example, I found that Sunday evening was a particular good time, but not Saturday evening.
Channel 4: Reddit
I posted the campaign link to Reddit. It didn't get much traction there, but Reddit is a slightly unknown entity to me that I have not yet mastered. The Reddit community is quite unpredictable, but it could be an amazing tool if you can choose the right sub-Reddits and get a campaign voted up a page. It's potentially worth exploring other social bookmarking sites like Digg and Stumbleupon too.
Channel 5: Articles
I wrote a few articles about the campaign, firstly on my own finance blog, then on the UK site Liberal Conspiracy and another on Max Keiser's site. I also got some coverage from Pluto Press and the Italian site Non Con I Miei Soldi. It's hard to quantify the impact of these, but certainly this is worth doing.
Channel 6: Twitter
Twitter was a big source of traffic for me. I tweeted from my @suitpossum account regularly, encouraged others to tweet and finally, I sent direct messages to about 200 followers. In the direct messages, I wasn't asking people to donate, I was asking them to tweet the campaign out. That got a lot of twitter coverage for me, which is turn captured contributions from people who I have no personal connection with.
So all in all, I sent roughly 850 personal messages to get the campaign revved up. An important element was getting those contacts to share the campaign on social media so that strangers could see it. Indiegogo also encourages you to generate social media activity in order for their algorithms to assess the popularity of your campaign (what they call 'gogofactor'). I managed to rustle up a fair amount of gogofactor, reaching the front page of their London section and their Education section, and I also managed to get on their weekly roundup blog.
In the end I managed to get 168 contributors. 68 were friends, constituting around 40% of the total number of donators, but interestingly, they accounted for only 35% of the money raised, suggesting that on average they gave smaller amounts than more distant contacts. 43 were (relatively friendly) professional connections, constituting around 25% of total donators and around 20% of total money raised. 57 were distant contacts, or 2nd and 3rd degree connections. These are people who I did not directly contact and who heard about the campaign via social media, friends and articles. They constituted around 33% of total donators, but, importantly, around 45% of the total money raised, suggesting that they gave comparatively large amounts.
The moral of the story thus, is this: Your friends and direct connections will donate to campaigns, but larger amounts come from more distant connections who hear about it indirectly. This again highlights the importance of social media and getting your friends to share it. Good luck!