12 Things I Learned Crowdfunding

During the month of August, our team at Té Amo took on a pretty cool fundraising challenge.  Since our development during this summertime was not overly great, we wanted to find a notable way to cap it off.

It was July 17th that I officially decided to crowdfund come August 1st.  If you know anything about crowdfunding, you know that this is NOT enough time to masterfully plan a crowdfunding campaign.  The task at hand involved preparing for our campaign with only a 15 day lead time.

Our cause was noble - to support our own tree nursery in Haiti.  As this was our catalyst for our end goal of raising $4,000, our team set a pact of unwavering faith and extraordinary effort towards this goal!

This past weekend, we successfully completed our campaign raising a total of $5,028!  ($4,578 online and $450 in in-person cash)  I've decided to compile a list of 12 things I learned while crowdfunding.  As such, this is sort of a "guide to crowdfunding from a noob who tried it".  These things go as follows:

   1. Create a crowdfunding team - This was my greatest decision.  I assembled a great team of "co-hosts", as I thought of them.  I knew that since my base was not overly big, I had to leverage other people's base.  In return for their assistance in co-hosting, I wrote them a badass letter of recommendation from a "startup CEO" to add to their repertoire.  I specifically chose brilliant college-aged students who were more motivated by a larger cause and pursue great experience over their personal monetary gain.

  2. Have a planned schedule - Here is how our team's schedule ended up looking like.  It was pretty packed and filled with meetings, but it was worth it!

  3. Delegate tasks/deadlines - This is simple.  You only have a finite amount of time to raise the money, thus you only have a finite amount of time to contact people.  If you have 400 people to contact and 4 weeks to crowdfund, make sure you're contacting at-least 100 a week.

  4. Host a launch party - I planned my launch party 5 days before our launch date.  This was recommended to me by 2 experienced crowdfunders and was a HUGE PART in us reaching our goal AND the minimum $1,000 we had to raise in the first 3 days to be able to remain funding on the website.  Since I'm a bartender/waiter at Sports & Spirits, home of the best wings in Butler County, all I had to do was ask the owners which kindly allowed me to host a launch party there.  It was awesome - the place was packed and everyone loved the food.  Our team member's parents attended and were naturally the first people to donate to our campaign on day 1!  A bar is a good place to host a launch party because tipsy people donate more.

   5. Ask well - You should have 2 big "asks" that should be perceived equally as valuable: to contribute and to share.  To share means to talk to your network about the cause and to post about it.  If they can't contribute, they will most likely share.  If they don't feel like sharing, they may contribute.  It all depends!  One thing is true however: you can't get any contribution/shares without asking.  Let's not forget - even if someone doesn't donate or share the first time you ask - awareness is the first step in every sale!

   6. Video makes it or breaks it - Our crowdfunding video was solid, it emotionally pulled with that classic mother/son charm and endearment.  Your video should make views laugh or cry - this is what moves people.  If you can't do editing, there are a ton of people who do!  Just ask around.

   7. Network / continually meet new potential contributors - Throughout our crowdfunding month of August, I still sold tea at vendor shows BUT I promoted our crowdfunding page while doing so.  My awesome business associated Cameron Suorsa even made this sweet lock screen so that strangers can easily be prompted to scan the QR CODE and view our page.  Atleast 20% of the money we earned was through connections I had barely made THAT MONTH!

   8. Don't be afraid to ask for money - Every business asks for money.  They all do it in different ways.  The best businesses make it seem like their product/service is worth the value.  Make your value proposition CLEAR and make your need for money CLEAR on your website and social postings.

   9.  Plan the plateau - Your crowdfunding campaign will plateau, if it doesn't then it will dramatically slow down AT LEAST!  This is normal, so try having events or posts to spur engagement throughout the campaign.  For example, Té Amo hosted tree planting events twice to spur activity and have proof on social media about effort being put into the campaign.  They were really fun!  THANK YOU Rock Falls Park and Batch for allowing us to plant trees on their land.

    10.  Communicate! - Communicate every step of the way.  You want to make your team, followers, and contributors feel like they are a part of your startup story - because they ARE!  Make sure you put out more communications through social media, email, phone, and in-person than you typically do.  Everyone's ideas were always heard, as to utilize the advantage of a dynamic startup team every step of the way.

   11. Get reposts - Weekly I'd send update emails sending people images to post on social media for their audience as well as a sample caption/text.  You should make it very easy for people to repost your stuff!  I didn't do this very well, but if you distribute businesses like I do, make sure to leverage their audience too!

  12.  The most important thing: directly contact adults - Why ask broke college students to contribute?  The most $$ we raised from people our age was $5, and that's OK!  Don't ask college-aged peers to give you money, they won't.  Ask them to SHARE it on their page.  Ask them to ask their parents to contribute to something awesome.  What you really need to do is send personal emails / LinkedIn messages / Facebook messages / in-person / phone calls / text messages.  There are SO MANY WAYS to directly contact adults, but just make sure the message is personalized to them.  Use their name; recount a good memory in your intro to the message to give it a personal touch/let them know the message is JUST FOR THEM!  AND contact them all - everyone you know; leave no stone unturned. 

Crowdfunding is a full time job, so treat it as such.  I was lucky with my timing - Té Amo was the only project crowdfunding on www.PieShell.com during our crowdfunding time!  We got the limelight.  Also, it was my last month out of college - if I tried doing this while in college I'm confident it simply wouldn't have been successful.  

I had a lot of people help me out whilst crowdfunding, so if it's something you have ambition towards, feel free to contact me for advice.  ALSO - if you were interested in my crowdfunding project, you definitely would be interested in this project that is currently crowdfunding from an amazing Pittsburgh Startup named Thread.  

Thank you for reading,

Mark

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