Years ago, a young man by the name of Blake Mycoskie traveled to Peru. He was struck by the poverty and particularly the fact that so many children had no shoes.
He made a commitment to do something about that. The end result was the founding of Toms Shoes – a for-profit company with a higher purpose. Mycoskie began to make and sell shoes, as a retailer. The one caveat was this – for every pair of shoes purchased, he would donate one pair to a needy child.
Mycoskie’s timing could not have been better. Millennials were beginning to demand that companies become socially responsible, that is, support the improvement of humanity in some way.
Toms Shoes skyrocketed to success, based in large part because of his one-for-one giving program. Since then, many other businesses have adopted this model as well.
Why is this important to those looking to launch a project via crowdfunding? It’s important because it points to a key psychological need most humans have to do good in some way. Whether that need comes from our faith or our “social conscience,” we want to contribute to the betterment of human conditions.
When Mycoskie founded Toms Shoes, crowdfunding was in its infancy. He relied on private investors to grow his company and meet his goals. And that was mightily successful.
But crowdfunding has now become a major way for anyone – an individual, a business startup, and a charitable organization – to raise money for their projects. Many of these are successful, but many also fail. Doing it right involves several steps, each of which will contribute to your success. Use these tips as a checklist as you launch your project.
Lots of Research – Don’t Scrimp
When you have an idea for a project, it is understandable that you have a good amount of passion for it. This is great because your enthusiasm will carry you through the work that must be done.
The first order of business is some careful research – not on your idea, but, rather, on crowdfunding itself. What do you really know about crowdfunding? There are rules; there are strategies that others with similar projects have found successful.
You need to dig deep into the concept and into the successes (and failures) of like projects. You will gain a lot of important insight before you begin to develop your plan of action.
Set Your Funding Goals
Do the math. You have a project but you also have to have a very clear idea of the cost of that project. This is a critical part of any plan. Have you done the cost analysis to know exactly how much every phase of the project will require? Suppose, for example, that your project involves after-school tutoring for inner-city children who are not meeting the school’s academic goals? Here are the budgetary factors that you must consider:
- Where will this tutoring occur? Will you have to pay rent?
- How many students will be involved?
- What is the going rate for qualified tutors and how many will you need?
- Will you be providing learning materials, snacks, transportation, etc.?
Crowdfunders want to know how much you need and exactly what the breakdown of that money will be. You need to get as specific as possible when you launch your project proposal.
Choosing the Right Platform
There are generic crowdfunding sites, such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe. But there are plenty that are specific to types of businesses and other niches, such as non-profits. You need to do some solid research here, to find the platform that is successful with projects similar to yours.
When you choose the perfect platform for your project, you will naturally be put in touch with the right audience and will connect with potential investors.
You Need More Than Just an Idea
Here is where reading other crowdfunding project proposals helps. Once you have found your platform, seriously review the proposals that others have written that are also getting some good “play” in terms of funding. You will quickly see that these project leaders have far more than just an idea. They have specifics; they have visuals; they have timelines for the project launch. You will need all of these things too. And you will also get a clear picture of the format your proposal must take.
Writing up that proposal can also be a tough part of the project. If you are uncomfortable, then get some professional help upfront. There are a number of freelancers and professional writing services that can take your ideas and weave them into a great story.
Creativity in a presentation engages an audience. Check out Upwork for freelancers or some writing services. They have grant and funding proposal writers with years of successful experience with both crowdfunding proposal writing and other marketing materials that you may want to use across the web.
Rewards – Yes, You Need them
High-end for-profit startups can offer significant rewards to their investors, once a project has been funded and the business off and running and realizing a profit. If you are a non-profit, however, you cannot promise such rewards, and investors will not expect them.
When people donate to the ASPCA, though, they receive a T-shirt. Some small token is not a significant reward, but it is a symbolic testament to their participation in a worthy cause. Find some small way to reward your funders.
Especially with not-for-profit crowdfunding, many funders have been scammed. Recently, a woman in Alabama raised funds for her cancer treatment, and it was discovered that she never had cancer at all. Crowdfunders, especially for non-profits, are more hesitant than they are for companies that have tangible products to show.
It will be important to provide as much evidence as possible to demonstrate that you are the “real thing.” Getting recommendations from known, reputable people who have been successful in similar crowdfunding efforts and have the results to show will help some.
Keeping investors up to date all along the way will help too. If they can see progress, they will come to know you as legitimate, and they may even recommend you to their friends. Let’s go back to the tutoring program for a minute. Suppose, you were able to show a video of the first school you plan to go into with the program. And suppose that video includes the school itself and some comments by the principal about your proposal and how much it is needed.
Provide personal information about yourself – your background, your passion for what your project will accomplish, how you came to this idea, etc. When people know you personally, they develop more trust. This will be important for them to feel comfortable donating.
Once you have launched your campaign, it is time to market it. You do not have to spend money on marketing materials. Set up social media accounts, and keep posting information about your project; create a short home-made video and post it too; set up a website for the project, showing the intended recipients of your good work and telling their stories too. Drive people to that website via your social media posts.
Tell friends, family, and anyone else you can speak to. Have them spread the word among their communities. Try to get some press coverage – go to HARO (help a reporter out) and tell your story. A journalist or two may pick up your story for a human-interest item.
Have a great press release written and send it to as many online news sources as possible – include a photo. Jim Coleman, marketing director for TopWritersReview is sold on press releases. “Whenever we launch a new product or service, we prepare a compelling press release, creatively crafted by one of our experienced journalists. We send it everywhere, and almost always, a few will pick it up.”
Now It’s Up to You
So, here are your eight steps. If you incorporate all of them as you design, develop, and launch your project, your chances for success are far greater. Be thoughtful, determined, and get feedback from others every step of the way. If your project is truly worthwhile and you believe in it wholeheartedly, you will have the passion to make it work.