Sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have helped people raise money to get all sorts of passion projects off the ground, from books to art collections, films, web series, video games, cool tech products and more. But if you’re thinking about turning to crowdfunding to raise money for your project, you may have questions about where to start and what you can do to ensure that your campaign is a success.
Earlier this month, we sat in on a crowdfunding panel at VidCon to glean some advice from experts, including Corey Vidal, who raised over $200,000 on Indigogo earlier this year for his film Vlogumentary, Jenni Powell of Pemberly Digital, who helped with crowdfunding campaigns for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Welcome to Sandition, and Indigogo’s Gaming Vertical Lead John Vaskis.
We’ve broken down what these experts had to say into a list of nine tips, which we hope will help you in your own crowdfunding endeavors!
1. Be genuine in your pitch
One of the biggest questions that people thinking about launching crowdfunding campaigns ask is “how do I keep from sounding desperate?” Asking people for money is scary and a lot of people shy away from it for fear of sounding like beggars.
So how do you keep from sounding like your begging? Let your passion shine through! Vidal points out the fact that when you are raising money through crowdsourcing, it’s different for asking for money for something like a car payment or a new toy you really want. You are asking for money to bring a passion project to life – presumably something that won’t only be fulfilling for you, but will also be fulfilling to those who donate and believe in you, your product or your vision. When raising money for Vlogumentary, he made it clear that “I really want to make this film for us. I really believe in it.”
It’s important to remember that you aren’t forcing anybody to donate. People will donate because they believe in you and want your project to succeed as much as you do. Vaskis says, “Be genuine in your pitch.” If you are genuine and your passion shines though, potential backers will be more likely to hop on the bandwagon.
2. Tap your super fan base to help spread the word
Before you take your campaign public and start promoting it everywhere, it helps to pad it with some donations to give it legitimacy. If potential backers see that others have already donated, it helps build trust.
This is where your super fans come in. Share your campaign privately first with a base of fans, friends and family that already know and trust you. They’ll get the donations ball rolling so others will be more likely to hop on board. As Vidal says, “It validates the campaign by the time the public gets it.”
3. Keep your backers in the loop
Have you ever given money to a crowdfunding campaign only to have it fade into oblivion? The date a product you backed was supposed to be completed passes without a word? You have no idea when you can expect the perk you were promised? It stinks, and it’s definitely not something you want to do to your own backers.
Vaskis says, “Update the crowd as often as you can. Even after the campaign’s over, you still want to be actively talking to your fans.” They’re more than your fans – they’re your investors and they deserve to be kept in the loop when it comes to the product they’ve invested in. Vidal recommends sending out an exclusive newsletter to anyone who donates.
4. Factor in hidden costs when setting goals
When setting a goal for your campaign, you may have to take more into consideration than just how much money is needed to complete your project. There’s the cut that the crowdfunding platform will take, the cost to produce and deliver perks and, even once you’ve taken those things into consideration there still may be hidden costs you hadn’t thought of.
According to Sahil Patel of VideoInk, who moderated the panel, for every $100,000 that Freddie Wong raised for his successful Video Game High School Kickstarter campaign, he actually only made $40,000 after charges and perks, and Powell shared a story about how she had to deal with distributing money to SAG actors after raising more than $400,000 in excess of the goal for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries DVD Kickstarter campaign.
The moral? Just make sure to do your research and crunch the numbers when setting your goals.
5. Be transparent about your spending
It’s not uncommon for people who don’t have experience in a certain field – be it software testing, computer programming, video production, or something else – to have no idea about the costs that go into producing a product. For this reason, it’s important to be very transparent about why you’re asking for the amount of money you’re asking for and how it’s going to be spent. Transparency will help your backers trust you and keep them from thinking you’re taking their money and spending it on things like fancy dinners and vacations.
Back in 2012, Freddie Wong’s company Rocket Jump broke down the costs of the first season of Video Game High School in a great infographic that breaks down how every cent of the money raised was spent.
6. When it comes to perks, ask fans what they want
Before settling on your perks – i.e. the rewards you give your users in return for backing your project – it doesn’t hurt to check with your fans to see if they’re actually interested in what you’re offering. The panelists pointed out that some physical perks cost a lot more money to produce in small numbers than in bulk, so if you think a lot of people will want a specific perk and it turns out that only a few are interested, it may end up costing you more to produce less.
7. Come up with cheap or free options for perks
Just because your backers are paying money, doesn’t mean that your perks have to cost a lot of money (or any money at all). Try to think of cheap or free options to reward backers with – who knows, you may even be able to come up with some free options that are actually more valuable to your fans than items that cost money!
Powell says that naming things after people (like a character in a web series) is a great free option. “They really like it because they get part ownership,” she says.
Vidal says that for the Vlogumentary campaign, one of the perks they offered was Skype dates with popular YouTubers. You’d be surprised how much money fans will be willing to donate to get to meet their idols, whether it’s in person or via video chat.
8. If possible, don’t ship anything
If you’re raising money to create a product, odds are one of the perks will be shipping that finished product out to backers that donate enough. However, for non-product-based campaigns, Vidal offers a word to the wise – “Don’t ship anything.”
Stay away from offering physical objects for perks as much as possible. For instance, if you’re raising money to make a film, offer digital downloads instead of DVDs. This will help save on both money and manpower – it costs to produce all those physical items and on top of that it costs to mail them. Packages don’t mail themselves either, and it can take hours, days or weeks to ship out perks depending on how many backers you get.
If you do need to ship out perks, make sure to double-check addresses before you send them out.
9. Give yourself lots of time to fulfill perks
On that note, Vidal also suggests giving yourself lots of time to fulfill perks. You don’t want to have to put off actually working on your project because you’re too busy taking care of making and shipping out your perks. He says that, for Vlogumentary, they told backers that they would be working on the film for the next year, so it could take up to two years for perks to be delivered. “Don’t start making promises unless you know you can fulfill them,” he says.
Have you run a successful crowdfunding campaign or are you thinking about embarking on a new one? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
Image credit: Imfoto via Shutterstock