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Crowdfunding has become a popular way to raise money for special projects, including events. There are even technologies and online registration systems designed specifically to support crowdsourced events. In this article we look at how to be successful with crowdfunding - although it's not limited to that. Crowdfunding is all about marketing reach and most of what we talk about here could be easily applied to all your event marketing efforts.
The appeal of crowdfunding is that it is a risk-free and easy way to raise money. Rather than get a bank loan, or take a personal risk on an expensive endeavour, crowdfunding provides a way for hundreds and sometimes thousands of people to make donations to source the project.
It sounds like an event planner’s dream: You create an event and if enough people register it happens, and if they don’t then everyone gets their money back. But is it really as simple as that? Why are some crowdfunding projects successful while others take a nose dive? What can you do to improve your chances of success?
Over the last month I’ve been working with an event planner on a crowd-funding campaign to add high quality broadcasting capabilities to his venue. It's been an exciting, roller-coaster of a journey and we are on the verge of meeting our funding goal. Here are some of the things we’ve learnt along the way about how to run a successful campaign
DO: Create a plan
Crowdfunding is not easy. Random people are not flocking to Kickstarter to make donations to your project. In fact, most of the people who fund will be people you are already personally connected to or are one or two degrees of separation away. The most critical element in your success is your ability to reach large numbers of people.
Take time ahead of your campaign to create a marketing and communications plan. Just like an event, once the campaign gets going you won’t have much time to think - so do your planning ahead of time.
DON’T: Do it alone
To be successful, your crowdfunding campaign is going to be your full-time job for at least a couple of months. Even so, you will need a team around you of people who are also committed to winning the game. At the very least you’ll need a videographer, graphic designer and social media guru. Campaigns run by a team are 94% more effective that those done by individuals. With a team you can share the workload. Just as critical is that each new team member expands your network and reach.
In addition to your core team, it also helps to foster partners and allies. These may be sponsors, vendors, keynote speakers or other people who stand to benefit if you are successful. Let these people know what you are doing well in advance and ask for their support in getting the word out.
DO: Your research
There are lots of platforms available for crowdfunding, each with different capabilities. Variables are the length of campaign you can run, the percentage that you will be charged, whether you can keep the money even if the campaign does not reach it’s target and the countries that are supported.
There are a handful of systems available that are focused specifically on crowd funding for events. These allow people to register for an event, with the understanding that it will not actually happen unless enough people register to reach critical mass. These event-centric systems provide a familiar registration experience for the audience, although they don’t offer all the functionality of some of the larger more general systems. Do your own research to figure out which will be the best fit for you.
DO: Make a video - or two, or three!
The most successful crowdfunding campaigns appeal to both the heart and the mind. What works is to tell a visual story, with video being the most effective medium. Campaigns with video raise over twice as much money than those without. The video needs to be engaging, entertaining and succinct. Funders are attracted to personality and are looking for a connection with the project creator so you need to put yourself in the picture. Humour, intelligence and creativity are highly rewarded. The video also needs to clearly describe the project and what the money will be used for.
Once your campaign is up and running, its a good idea to add updates every week or so. Video updates engage your audience and give them something easy to share with their network.
DO: Offer great perks
Perks are the rewards people get for funding. An attractive set of rewards will draw people in and many funders will put in money just to get these rewards. For an event, perks might include a discounted ticket, a sponsorship package or VIP seating. Think about your attendees and sponsors and what will appeal to them. Be imaginative and find special exclusive rewards for people who donate large amounts. For example, you could arrange a reward where an attendee gets a one-on-one lunch with a keynote speaker.
DO: Communicate often
Before your campaign starts make sure you have a well organized mailing list. Direct emailing is one of the most effective tools you have and elicit larger donations than any other medium. The ideal is to email your list once a week, and even more often as your get close to the end. Be sure to send regular updates as to how the campaign is going and celebrate every time you reach an important milestone, such as your first $10,000.
Your social media is also vital. You are likely to receive 20% of your funding from people clicking on social media posts.
DO: Set a deadline
A deadline creates a sense of urgency and catalyses people into action. In general, 40-45 days is a good campaign length, this is long enough to get some traction but not so long that you run out of steam.
However long you choose, you will also need to decide whether to or a fixed campaign (where you only keep the money if you reach or exceed your target). Most people seem to think that a fixed campaign attract more money, as the “all or nothing” approach is inspiring.
DON’T: Give up
A typical the funding for these projects follows a U-shaped curve, with the most money coming in the first and last weeks. If the funding slows down in the middle, don’t worry. Keep on going and get ready for a big push at the end.
Crowdsourcing is a risk-free way to litmus test your event. There are two huge benefits:
(1) Firstly you get to find out if there is enough financial support to make you event happen; (2) You get lots media attention, with people buzzing about your event and rooting for its success.
However, be prepared, it’s also a lot of work. If you are going down this route make sure you do the same kind of research, thinking and planning ahead of time for your campaign that you would do for the actual event.