5 things I learned from being part of a successful crowdfunding campaign

It’s Day 5 of Small Charity Week 2015, and today is all about fundraising. I’ve offered to write about crowdfunding. There are no shortage of articles, blogs and even whole books about crowdfunding out there. Becky has shared some useful links on the last slide in this presentation. I’m not going to repeat what is already out there. I thought it might be useful to share what I learned from actually being involved in a crowdfunding campaign. A bit of background follows, feel free to skip to the learning points if you wish, and let me know what you think.

How it began

Back in autumn 2013 I went along to some informal pizza suppers and conversations in coffee shops in Birmingham which were open to anyone and shared widely on social media. The sessions were convened with a view to finding people who would contribute ideas and work together to build a community of innovators, creatives and entrepreneurs and create a home for them in Birmingham.

A group of around 15 people emerged as being committed to taking things forward, and we met over a period of months to develop our thinking. 12 months later we were ready to start planning a crowdfunding campaign to help our vision turn in to reality. By this time a few more people had joined the team, crucially some amazing film makers, a designer and one of Birmingham’s best photographers. We aimed to raise £50,000 from our networks, by far the highest target to date for a Kickstarter project in Birmingham.

Kickstarter

#EpicBrum Kickstarter rewards image

Some of our Kickstarter Rewards

We got together for a 48 hour crowdfunding design lab to look at other crowdfunding campaigns, figure out what we wanted ours to feel like, make key decisions, create video storyboards, generate design content and shape our rewards structure to get us to our target. We launched on 4 December 2014. The first two weeks were amazing, then we plateaued at the £25,000 mark (50% of our target) for over a week, way past Christmas, with only 8 days left to our deadline. Something important to consider in crowdfunding is that platforms like Kickstarter are all or nothing. If you don’t hit your target no money is taken from the people who pledged support from you.

We re-grouped just after New Year’s Day and put in a final, monumental effort, reaching out as far as we could in our networks, following up any likely leads, and still remembering to have fun together. (Fun included some guerrilla gardening style placing of plants around Digbeth, where we wanted to make our home.) Thanks to the relentless positivity and effort of the whole team we hit our £50,000 target a matter of days later, leaving us 2 days to try and hit a stretch target of £65,000. Which we did, with minutes to spare! We had successfully engaged a community of 586 backers, all of whom have an interest in everything we’ve been doing since, many of whom are now signed up members of our Impact Hub community and amazing space.

What I learned 

I learned a huge amount being part of this Kickstarter campaign, and below I’ve attempted to draw out 5 of the most important things I learned.

1. You need to invest in your networks if you are going to ask them to invest in you

It took years of investment in relationships, countless conversations and coffees and 3 mind-blowing TEDx events in Birmingham to create a network and team strong enough to do something this audacious. If I was looking to raising just £5,000 through crowdfunding I would spend at least a year building genuine face to face and online relationships. That means saying ‘yes’ to all sorts of conversations and invitations, and thinking hard about how well your existing relationships are being maintained.

Wellington boot with a plant in it and “#EpicBrum" painted on it

Kickstarter campaign plant propaganda!

2. Being ridiculously optimistic definitely helps!

A strong, well networked and ridiculously optimistic team was crucial. Our team used a WhatsApp group to constantly encourage, celebrate, scream with excitement, be silly and talk tactics. Without that willingness to communicate at all hours of day and night and be hugely supportive of each other I don’t think we’d have achieved what we did.

3. Our secret sauce: diversity

A really diverse range of skills and experience was our secret sauce. A huge amount of credit is due to Immy Kaur, who convened this diverse team, spotted gaps and knew who to lure in at the right times!

4. Know your talents and step up

You have to step up. When things are this big and bonkers you can’t wait for someone to ask, or give you instruction. You have to know your strengths and talents and use them. For example Verity developed a wonderful photography project which got picked up by the Birmingham Post.

5. Amanda Palmer’s book helped me to really understand what we were doing

I think it is really worth reading Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking. You can get a flavour of what she has achieved in her TED Talk, however the book will give you much more of a sense of what it means to fall in to your crowd and ask them to catch you. In order to ‘crowd fund’ you need to make sure you have a crowd, and they are ready to catch you. Which takes me back to learning point 1 above.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, let me know if anything surprised you, resonated for you or just doesn’t feel relevant to you.

If you are embarking on crowd building and crowd funding I wish you the very best of luck!

And if you’re interested in Impact Hub Birmingham, the community and collaborative workshop I’m part of, please do let me know, I’d love to introduce you. You can get me on twitter: @dosticen, call, text or WhatsApp on 07501 722255 or good old email: lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk

2 thoughts on “5 things I learned from being part of a successful crowdfunding campaign

  1. Brilliant Lorna, chronologically set out and achieved, great teamwork, should be interesting when December 4th 2015 comes along “Kickstarting” again – 6 months into the project already ahead !! Results and potential looking good, with foundations laid.
    Well done, Tom

    • Hee hee, well spotted Tom, I’ve corrected the years! I do like to focus on the future, but I haven’t got a time machine yet!

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