How To Crowdfund Your Journalism Project

Crowdfunding seems to be happening everywhere these days. From small art-projects to large scale hardware ventures, the Internet community is eager to send cash towards a cause they believe in, and it’s a great way to fill in the financial gaps when pursuing an in-depth project on behalf of a publication (say, a trip out to the Middle East for a local paper) or to start a completely new publication.

And, given the recent (and major) successes of journalism projects like NPR and Public Radio Exchange’s 99% Invisible and long-form science feature magazine Matterthere’s plenty of stories out there that prove funding a journalism project can work. If you’re strapped for cash and looking to make your dreams happen, crowdfunding is one of the best ways to do it.

However, it’s important to note that a funding campaign for a magazine is very different from a funding campaign for an iPhone-linked smart watch. Because there isn’t a high-value product on the line, people won’t necessarily be clamoring for your work alone.

Here are some smart tactics you should consider when embarking on your own crowd funding. Good luck!

1. Make a Video That Shows You Off

Here’s a piece of Crowdfunding 101: If you want to get funded, make a video. Staticstics show that projects with an engaging video attached to their funding appeals boost their chances of full funding to 50%. But, it’s not as easy as it sounds — creating a dynamic video about an unmade (or as-yet undeveloped) journalism project can lead to lot of head scratching.

However, don’t think of taking the safe “viral” route by making your video flashy or funny — it won’t help you on a crowdfunding website. Instead, do your best to honestly explain the goals of your project and let the stylistic storytelling draw the viewer in. Your video should not only show off your qualifications to receive funding, but show off your project’s qualifications. If you make your subject matter interesting, people will turn out their pockets.

For a great example, check out the funding video for 99% Invisible:

2. Reward Your Backers With Involvement

The second part of the crowdfunding puzzle is a reward system that works. Offering gifts or incentives to fund isn’t only necessary to start a crowd funding campaign, it’s the only scalable tool at your disposal that can draw high-rollers as well as people who are willing to pledge a few dollars. Having smart and desirable objects that will pique potential funders’ interests is essential but also very challenging, since there’s only so much someone will pay for a preorder and a custom tote bag.

One of the best way to reach top-tier funders is by involving them in the process of developing your magazine. For example, any funder who contributed $1,000 dollars to Matter was given a “Co-Pilot” status:

You’ll get the chance to be a guest editor, joining our team on an assignment and helping us shape a story from the very start.

Never doubt the appeal of the journalistic equivalent of a “ride along,” showing your process to those who are backing your project with big bucks and giving them an opportunity to participate. If people care enough about your project to turn out that kind of money, then they will be thrilled at the opportunity to help you work.

It’s a unique experience that very few crowdfunding projects can claim, so take advantage of it!

3. Get Support From High Places

The wonderful world of journalism lends us to forging plenty of connections, and those are key in building a base of potential funders. Having smart, talented, and influential friends who are eager to help in your cause is a trump card: You can not only use their skills for rewards (for example, a popular illustrator designing a custom graphic for a high-rolling funder), but also to draw their fans to your project.

The best thing you can do, especially once your project is out there, is to connect with those people who can drive funders to your page. It could mean the difference between a funded project and an almost-there failure.