I’m delighted to report that my crowdfunding project was a success. It really came together during the last couple of days with a huge surge of pledges, bringing it from under €4,000 to the goal of €6,000. It reached the goal with 15 hours to spare and ended up at 101% with 191 pledges.
I’m going to evaluate what worked and what didn’t during my 35 day crowdfunding campaign for my upcoming self-published book ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’
Advantages of Crowdfunding
- Financial – it helps you to raise funds towards a project you are passionate about. Projects can be for creative ideas or for business ideas but the crowdfunding sites differ for each. Sites are now being set up to offer loans in a crowdfunding manner such as LinkedIn Finance.
- Build awareness about your project amongst funders and non-funders.
- Ambassadors (those who love your project) will spread the word and hence make it more successful when it is launched.
- Gain publicity for your project (in the press) before it is even created. Publicity post production will then jog people’s memories and should increase sales.
- Test the market – see if people are genuinely interested in your project before you yourself invest significant sums in it. Not achieving your goal doesn’t necessarily mean failure – your idea might only need tweaking or it may need a total overhaul.
Which Crowdfunding Website?
I’ve analysed three popular crowdfunding sites that are used for creative projects.
Kickstarter seems to be the main one for those in the US and UK (those not in those countries can’t use Kickstarter so being Irish, I was disqualified). It’s a hugely popular website with numerous projects. The number of people visiting the site and pledging is impressive with many pledging for numerous projects. A current project about a Bacon cookbook by Eat Like A Girl has a goal of £20,000, achieved 25% in the first week and a significant proportion of pledges were from those in the Kickstarter community.
Kickstarter’s rules are that every penny of the goal has to be achieved or the project owner doesn’t get anything. The Kickstarter community invests in various projects which is a positive but Kickstarter has so many projects, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. Your project needs to get significant attention to become a featured project on the home page or within the section pages. It is easy to navigate and the sharing buttons (particularly when you have pledged ) are very visible meaning that funders are likely to share the news that they have pledged. Apparently 44% of Kickstarter’s projects are successful and reach their goal. To be honest, I thought the percentage reaching success would have been higher.
Indiegogo is global and is open to people from almost any country. It is also for creative projects. It accepts paypal as well as most credit and debit cards and people can make payments in four currencies. With Indiegogo, you get to keep any money you raise. If you reach your goal, the charges are 4% and if you don’t, the charges are 9%. If your project is getting significant attention on the social media channels, it has a much higher chance of becoming a featured project and hence, gaining more attention. If you don’t raise any money, you can cancel your campaign. If you reach your goal, you can set another one.
Fundit (Irish based and the one I used) is also for creative projects and has a growing Irish community that fund projects and support them by spreading the news on social media. It only accepts payments by card and in Euro for SI projects and in sterling for NI projects. Because it doesn’t have as many projects as the other two, there’s a higher chance of becoming a featured project on the home page. Fundit’s success rate is 73% which is good.
You cannot alter the project in any way once it is live (such as adding new rewards, you can only mention them in the updates). While there are sharing buttons for funders to click when they have pledged, most people didn’t seem to see them. The social sharing buttons need to be much more visible. I’d have liked my username to be included in the pledger’s tweet too so I could have connected with them. The support you get is very good from the Fundit team and they really monitor your application well and provide good feedback.
While some might think that the Indiegogo concept of paying out no matter what you achieve is an advantage, I’m not so sure. The ‘all or nothing’ means that pledgers are protected and there’s more chance of the project being fulfilled which must mean that pledgers are more confident, knowing if other people don’t believe in the project, they won’t lose their money. If it is going to cost a creator €5,000 to create a film and they only raise €1,000, are they really going to be able to create it and then, what do the pledgers actually get?
The ‘all or nothing’ of Fundit meant that there was huge excitement as my project neared its goal, it was late at night and there were so many people refreshing the page, tweeting me, messaging me on facebook, sending me DMs as it went from 6% to 2%, to 1.35% and to the goal. It also might mean that the creator is more realistic when deciding on the goal and perhaps that they work harder to ensure it succeeds.
Pre-Crowdfunding – What I Would Recommend
- Do not presume that people will flood to pledge when you put your project live – it needs significant preparation.
- Tell friends and family about it in advance so they are primed to pledge once it goes live ( I told very few – I tend to be impulsive, decide on something and then announce it when it is ready)
- Email or message various friends, family and contacts when it goes live and ask them to support you by pledging and by sharing it with their friends and contacts ( I didn’t do enough of this at the beginning either)
- Plan and draft the content for your press releases.
- Create a video – it is essential
- Consider every aspect of your target market for the project – their age, gender, location, demographics, spending power and use that information to inform your rewards and which crowdfunding website you use.
- My larger rewards on the project were really aimed towards Americans but perhaps because of the limits on currency and payment methods plus they didn’t ordinarily visit Fundit, I received very few pledges from Americans (and I knew most of them). Impossible to tell now and it doesn’t really matter because it succeeded anyway, but it may have received more American support (and hence pre-orders) if I had used Indiegogo. As a result, none of my larger rewards were booked.
- Apparently the average pledge size tends to be about €40 /€65 so ensure you have at least one reward around that price. I haven’t received the full list yet but the €15 and €25 pledges (hard copies of the book) were by far the most popular. It was great but it takes a lot of €15 pledges to get to €6,000. I had estimated I’d need 300 pledgers but it just wasn’t going to happen. (more on rewards below)
Why A Video Is Essential
All the crowdfunding websites recommend including a video and it has to be good. It’s worthwhile investing time and some money in creating a good video. It will show your passion, your voice, your personality, your surroundings and text on the video will add weight to your calls to action for pledges. Amanda Webb of Spiderworking creating my video and apart from her technical knowledge, she came up with some good ideas for the content too. I couldn’t have done it on my own.
Length of Campaign
Most people tend to opt for campaigns that are about a month in length depending on the amount they wish to raise. If a crowdfunder is well known and have run successful projects before, they may opt for a short campaign such as 7 days but would need to have a strong contact list and be confident of their support. I’m not sure of the value of having campaigns that go on for over 40 days. Most campaigns tend to lull in the middle, having surges at the start and at the end. My campaign was 35 days and while I needed every single one of them, I don’t think a longer campaign would have helped. It is hard to keep up the momentum too, it’s very easy to feel that you’re annoying people with the constant tweets and updates, yet you have to keep it up.
How Much Should You Look For?
Again, this needs to be realistic – both in terms of what you need to create your project (so you must have realistic costings that you share with your potential pledgers) and what you think it is possible to raise.
Check out the charges of the crowdfunding website and remember to build them into your costs too. Fundit’s charges are 8% in total (5% to Fundit and 3% to cover credit card expenses). They take the 8% from the total collected. It is important to bear in mind that a tiny proportion of the pledges may fail because of the volume of cards being charged on the same day. Fundit do contact pledgers in this instance.
Importance of Community & Support
I cannot overemphasise the importance of community to the success of your campaign and I would argue that most of the support will come from online communities. I didn’t ask anyone to pledge who isn’t normally online to a reasonable extent. Although it is a relatively straightforward and quick process to register and pledge, it is something that those offline tend to procrastinate about.
Ask good friends to pledge early on in the campaign so that it has a good start but be realistic, some will put it on the long finger so ensure they know how important your dream is to you and how important it is to the campaign to have a good start.
I co-founded a bloggers network 3 years ago and have been organising free monthly meetings whereby small groups of bloggers in four counties come together to learn more about blogging. I co-organised Blog Awards Ireland last year and am continuing to do so this year. These communities were extremely effective in sharing and tweeting as well as supporting the project by pledging.
Success breeds success – once it starts to do well, others will gain confidence and will pledge too.
Role of Social Media
This campaign would not have been a success but for social media, particularly twitter. I’ve been writing my Irish Farmerette blog for almost two years and have a significant amount of ‘blog love’. I had almost 300 fans on facebook starting the campaign and about 1500 followers on facebook. While I can go a couple of days with very little tweeting, I tend to tweet fairly frequently and enjoy having conversations about farming with farmers in Australia, America, Canada, the UK and other countries. Facebook served well in terms of ambassadors and friends sharing and I updated the facebook page usually once a day with how the campaign was going. There was bound to be some overlap between twitter and facebook but I calculated that over half of the pledgers (almost one hundred) came from twitter. Some have become friends since we met on twitter and if I have met them frequently offline, become good friends or they merged with my ‘community’ pledgers, I didn’t count them as ‘twitter pledgers’. Therefore, many pledgers were friends of followers or I’ve had conversations with them occasionally over the last year. In some ways, my heart did an extra skip when I saw the name of a twitter follower – it meant so much that someone who only knew me online, who didn’t necessarily read my blog posts that often, who I’d chatted with a few times, either wanted to support me or really wanted to read my book (or both). Twitter can get negative press but it is also a wonderful provider of a supportive community.
Some project owners will set up a twitter account specifically for the project and will use it to tweet about the campaign only. If that is the case, it needs to be set up at least 3 months before the campaign starts in order to target suitable followers, potential funders and likely influencers. I used Followerwonk to determine the likeliest of influencers amongst my followers.
A common ploy is to ask for retweets but I’m not so sure that it works as effectively as one might suppose. I have always baulked at asking for retweets but tried it in the early days of the campaign. Those tweets may have received more retweets but not substantially more. Having said that, I may be more likely to retweet a tweet if I see ‘Pls RT’ at the end of it but I believe if a tweet is retweeted with ‘Pls RT’ still included in it, it loses the power of the message.
I included a variety of hashtags in some of my tweets, mostly so that farmers or avid bookreaders would see them. These included #agchat, #agchatirl, #agchatuk, #bookclubs, #amwriting, #bookworms. I engaged in conversation with various followers, old and new, and tried engaging with new followers once they followed me. Engagement and conversation really were the main vehicles to pledges I believe.
A number of Irish American bloggers wrote posts about my campaign and these resulted in some pledges too. Irish Central included an article on my original blog post and I also published it as a story on WorldIrish. Although these are aimed at online audiences and included a link, I think they had limited success. The American audience didn’t engage to the extent I had hoped and perhaps if I had hosted the campaign on Indiegogo, it may have gained more attention and pledges from that audience.
Role of Offline Publicity
Publicity in newspapers (unless it is a very popular online newspaper which I didn’t achieve so can’t evaluate) is great for giving the project credibility but won’t necessarily result in pledges.
Crowdfunding is still a relatively new concept in Ireland. Many of my target audience for the book would have encountered it for the first time in their reading of the newspaper articles about my campaign. Hence, while they may like the idea of the book and purchase it when they see it as a hard copy, the concept of going online and pre-ordering it was an alien one.
Evaluation of Rewards
The most popular rewards that received pledges were the single copies of the book, €15 and €25. The number of pledges for the ebook increased in the last few days as it received more pledges from abroad.
The higher priced pledges didn’t work in this case but I would still recommend having one or two higher priced rewards of significant worth as if they do receive a pledge, it will make a huge difference to the campaign.
I added two new rewards – one worked and one didn’t. I added a reward of an ebook containing 6 of my favourite and trusted recipes which would include the recipe for my coveted and secret biscuit cake. All funders pledging €25 and over will receive the ebook – the aim was to increase the number of American funders and perhaps some of those who had pledged €15 might increase their pledge.
I’ve yet to receive the full list of pledgers from Fundit so am unable to tell if many increased their pledge but I don’t think it happened. The inability to add it into the details of the rewards as seen on the home page hampered its success too in my opinion.
The other additional reward, that of a free sidebar advertisement on my new website for a year, was much more successful and may have been the difference between success and failure. As I could only add it in an update, this reduced its visibility but I emailed or messaged a number of agricultural companies that I either knew or had retweeted my tweets. A couple of companies had expressed an interest in my We Teach Social Advanced Pinterest online course and I contacted them to see if they would like the added bonus of the sidebar ad and they did. I believe it is 9 companies that pledged for rewards between €100-€250 and this made all the difference in the final 4 or 5 days.
Apparently, projects with more updates tend to be more successful. I wrote 5 in total. I didn’t like the idea of asking people to pledge more or to ask their friends to pledge as in one way, I feel they have supported me already. However, from the second update on, I did ask but it was part of a relatively long update. I have no idea how many of the pledgers or potential pledgers read them and it’s a shame there isn’t a commenting facility from pledgers but a few funders definitely did increase their pledges. A few people told me they enjoyed reading them which was good to hear.
How Fundit Might Improve
I feel Fundit have a great website and I see they are trying to spread the word abroad to encourage more people internationally to support Irish projects. I feel if their website could be improved, it would make it easier but I appreciate that some of these incur significant costs.
1. Make the sharing buttons more visible for pledgers.
2. It does have two currencies available. Adding a dollar currency so American funders can see what it is at a glance (whereby the website recognises the destination of the potential funder and changes currency accordingly but this can be expensive to install).
3. More payment options for international pledgers.
4. The ability to make one or two changes during the campaign. It was quite restrictive just adding in the two extra rewards in an update whereas if they could have been added in the rewards section, they would have been much more visible. However, they are thinking of the funders and wish to ensure that all is transparent and funders receive what they are promised. In my instance, I was reacting to circumstances. Hindsight is great but I should have thought of offering those rewards before I put the project live.
Having said that, Fundit has a remarkably high level of success and I would recommend them wholeheartedly.
Main Ingredients for Success
What aspects were most influential in making my crowdfunding campaign a success? Being part of an online community, a loyal blogging readership, good friends who offered support (and kicked ass occasionally), social media especially twitter and creating an offer that some businesses were interested in.
Which Crowdfunding Website?
If you are in Ireland and are planning to use a crowdfunding website for a creative project, you won’t be able to use Kickstarter. Whether you use an American-based one like Indiegogo or the Irish one Fundit, really depends on where your main following/community and your target audiences are based. Do not underestimate the amount of time required for your crowdfunding campaign to succeed – it is a constant job for the entire timescale.
Have you run a successful crowdfunding campaign and can you add any tips? If you are planning your first campaign, do ask any questions below.