June Spark Session: Crowdfunding – Making It Work

Sounds great: Unleash the power of art and artists to teach liberty and pro-freedom change. Host an all-day celebration of liberty, Arts and Minds in liberal Portland. Invite everyone to come, paint, party, and learn. Involve lots of organizations working to reform the creaky Oregon criminal justice system. Transform an ugly wall into a public mural.

Also great: Expand a premium coffee roasting operation so it doesn’t have to turn orders away. Holler Roast has reached the limit of customers it can provide with yummy small-batch, custom-roast coffee beans. The next larger coffee roasting machine costs thousands of dollars, not hundreds. Also, if Holler Roast sells very much more coffee, it must become a state-licensed food vendor. The business needs some up-front capital.

Both project champions chose Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns to launch their projects and attract public attention and $$ support.

The Kickstarter method is that no backer is charged unless the campaign reaches its goal. This means that Arts and Minds and Holler Roast both put a lot of advance planning into their campaigns. One campaign not only reached its investment goal, but almost tripled it. The other, unfortunately, failed to attract enough investment.

This month’s Spark Session evaluated both campaigns in order to describe how to field a successful crowdfunding campaign.

FIRST: Plan a crowdfunding campaign like any program launch. You need a good strategic communications plan. Backers want to know why their money is crucial, how it will be spent, and what they get in return. When you think about it, this is just what any marketing effort must demonstrate.

SECOND: Engage personally and regularly. Backer updates… Facebook posts (if this is a great medium for your audience)… newspaper, radio, TV, or newsletter coverage… Arrange ahead, so these break during the campaign, not afterward. Email every backer, personally.

THIRD: Unfold the story over time. Holler Roast did this well. Soon after the campaign launched, they met the $1,500 goal – but Nicole was ready with a challenge goal and, eventually, another challenge goal. Each provided tangible results for additional involvement. Her frequent backer updates conveyed the excitement of success and reaching higher, and each update suggested a single, strong, possible call to action.

First, last, and always, though, take great care of backers. With their contribution, they become a first-time client or donor. You must involve them from this time forward, turning a backer into a long-term friend.

Want help launching a crowdfunding campaign?