This step actually starts way before your crowdfunding campaign launches. The most successful campaigns have already built up a network before they even start to craft their crowdfunding pages. Usually that network exists on social media - Facebook, Twitter, or wherever their community exists - and they can tap directly into those communities when it's time to start raising money. Khaled Allen recommends in his post on Cause Vox that you start one to three months before launching in order to build the kind of community and buzz around your project that will carry it on to success.
So how do you determine who's in your network? Fundable points out that there are three different tiers of connections that you have to consider when you're figuring out where you'll find your funders.
- First Tier Connections: These are the people you're closest with, including friends, family, and colleagues. They're the people who will support you simply because they want to see you succeed. They'll also be your biggest promoters, sharing your story and page with their friends because they're invested in you.
- Second Tier Connections: These are the people who don't necessarily know you personally but they do know someone that you know. That translates into a certain level of trust that's absent with a total stranger. Customers or followers that you have developed over time (like during that awesome pre-launch social media building period) also fall into this tier.
- Third Tier Connections: These are the random strangers who stumble on your project through a combination of media outlets, social media, or because someone just told them, "You should totally check out this awesome project I just funded!"
The majority of your funders are most likely going to come from the first two categories, unless your campaign has some crazy universal appeal and gets picked up by news outlets worldwide. While that's a lovely goal to shoot for, the reality is that most of the money will probably come from your family, friends, and friends of friends so keep that in mind when you're crafting the content for your campaign. If you're finding that your first and second tier connections just aren't enough, check out this post from Khaled Allen on how to expand your tribe.
People were raising money way before crowdfunding ever became an option. You probably did some of that offline fundraising yourself when you were a kid, right? Who can forget going door to door selling overpriced candy bars or collecting sticky, smelly beer bottles to return for nickels.
While it may seem old school, raising money offline is still a great option. You can do it in addition to a crowdfunding campaign, (or as a way to fund your online crowdfunding effort. There are often expenses you'll need to make before you receive the money for your successful crowdfunding campaign), and as a way to boost funds once you've already started your project and times are lean, or just as a standalone thing. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started raising money offline.
1) Ask for money instead of gifts on holidays - Put it out in your network that you don't want gifts anymore but would love some cold hard cash for your birthday or Christmas or whatever other holiday you celebrate that includes gift-giving. Don't be afraid to ask for that money in advance of your actual birthday or holiday.This can be a nice little supplementary stream of cash and also a great way for your family and loved ones to get involved in your project.
2) Run a bottle drive - It's old school, but it works. Every bottle is five cents more toward making your dream a reality. Get a team of helpers and start going door to door asking for bottles. Include a little pamphlet explaining what you're doing and you'll get the added benefit of expanding your tribe while raising money.
3) Bake - Bake sales are great! You can make delicious desserts and the markup is awesome, meaning you bring home a nice little chunk of change. Obviously this one isn't going to bring in thousands of dollars, but it can be a good way to fund smaller parts of your project and is also another opportunity to get out the word about what you're doing and connect with your community, so don't forget those pamphlets.
4) Create and sell merchandise for your project - Does your project have a hot logo? Or do you have artist friends who could create some great imagery for you? Plaster it all over everything from t-shirts to tote bags to jewelry and sell it to your friends and supporters. Obviously this method has a bit more cost up front than some of the others but if you buy your blank items in bulk, you can really reduce costs.
5) Do a restaurant or bar percentage night - You can set up an arrangement with a bar or restaurant so that with mention of your organization, locals will get a discount if they eat or drink at the establishment on a set date. You can also work out deals where a percentage of all sales for a certain night go toward your organization and then hype it up so that the bar or restaurant is filled. The bar or restaurant benefits from having a packed house, while you raise money and get even more connected to the community. Check out this post from Restaurant-Fundraisers.com for more details
Who To Reach Out To:
Probably not some big whig famous rich person. While they undoubtedly have the cash, why would they care about your little project? Or, more importantly, why would they care about you? The harsh truth is that they probably just don't care.
Instead, turn your focus on well connected and wealthy individuals in your community. You're more likely to have a secondary or tertiary connection to them and they're also more likely to care about what you're doing.
Another thing to consider, of course, is whether or not these community members would be interested in what you're doing, but how can you know that? Well, you have to do some research. This type of pre-pitch research is called "prospect research" and includes everything from networking to making contacts to checking multiple sources.
One great way to gather info is by researching your local media sources. If this person has enough money to be a potential donor to your project, chances are they've donated somewhere else before and their name has been in the paper. Go find those articles! Your local library will have them or for more recent news you can plug their name right in to Google. You should also look them up on all of the major social and professional networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, to start. You'd be amazed at what you can dig up about people simply based on what they allow to be public on their profiles.
How To Convince Them To Give You Money:
Instead of focusing on specific numbers linked with specific needs - like "I need $1,000 to replace the windows in this rural school" - link donations directly with the social impact that your project will make. It's a subtle difference, but it's an important one. You need to convince your donor that their money is not an investment into your organization but rather into making meaningful, impactful social change.
Nell Edgington gives this example in her ebook Financing Not Fundraising of an after school program for at-risk kids in order to illustrate how to connect your ask with the greater social change instead of a specific need.
According to the nonprofit's theory of change, they translate dollars into positive outcomes for the children (increased student achievement, fewer high-school drop outs, fewer behavioral issues). If the organization were to fundraise around the organization's needs it might sound like this: "Help us reach our goal of raising $100,000 for our program." But if instead they were to fundraise around a message of social impact, it might sound like this: 12 "Invest in our work to give kids a better future, making them contributing members of society and our community stronger and healthier." The first message is about strengthening an organization; the second message is about strengthening a community. The message of impact is not just something nonprofits should use for major donor asks. It can be used to varying degrees in all campaigns, large or small, and in all channels (social media, direct mail, email, in-person). In so doing, the organization is creating a loyal following of donors who believe in the change the nonprofit is creating and view themselves as critical partners in making that change happen.
Finally, once you're further along in the conversation, don't ever accept money from donors who want you to do everything you pitched them, but for a lower price point. Stick to your guns and make it clear that you've spent the time working out the costs and less money will equal less impact, period.