Successful crowdfunding campaign

Anne Mattila
Photo by Sara Vallioja

Well planned is half done; and the other half is a serious job

I made a successful crowdfunding campaign last fall (5012 €, 108 donors, the average sum about 50 €), and since then I have been asked about how it succeeded. In this lengthy text I will give some of the main points. In addition to reading this, I recommend googling other articles and analysis of successful projects (worth a study, for example, Amanda Palmer’s case).

People would love to have very specific advice, such as how many Facebook updates one should do or if they should do this or that.  What I think is important are these two things: a good and realistic campaign planning, as well as showing determination and inspiration during the campaign. The way to implement this depends very much on the personality of each person and project.

In my case, the long-term networking in social media media (especially Twitter and Facebook) was very central to the success of the campaign. On the other hand, it is noted that more than half of the donors were friends and relatives – that is, people who do not have anything to do with my web presence. Neither should therefore be neglected. The third factor was the successful use of media and wider networks, which gave my campaign credibility and boosted the enthusiasm around it.

1 Campaign Planning

The most important thing is a well-planned campaign. This includes, among other things, the number of funders, the funding goal and sub-goals, any events and appearances that are conducted during the campaign such as interviews and performances, and marketing.

Timing of the campaign

It is important to consider what is a good time for your campaign. Things to consider depending on the project can be something such as Christmas and Midsummer, or school holiday weeks. Summer holiday and the holiday season can be a challenge for the campaign, as people have their thoughts elsewhere. Also you might not want to time your campaign at the same time you have an important work project. You should think about it from your own as well as others’ perspective. When would I be most receptive for a fundraising campaign of an acquaintance?  When do I have the resources to focus on campaigning?

Duration of the campaign

When analysing various campaigns I came to the conclusion that the most duration for a campaign is about 4-8 weeks. The longer the campaign is, the heavier it is – also for the public. Concise and well designed crunch, in general, seems better than a long campaign. The campaign remains a fresh and exciting “game” from beginning to end, and inspires people to follow it through.

It is also good to note that going through a crowdfunding campaign is mentally a surprisingly cumbersome process, so the longer the campaign goes on, the more resources are needed. The longer the campaign, the greater the risk for it to fall flat. A brief campaign,  on the other hand, requires considerable planning in advance, and it might seem that it ends before the campaigning even properly begun. Four weeks is perhaps a little short, and more than 8 weeks too long. This is the rule of thumb, which, of course, is flexible.

Strategy or the timeline, the target amount

Well planned is half done, also in crowdfunding. When you know in advance how many euros or funders you need in a day or a week, you are all the time aware how the campaign progresses. Above all, this way you are able to adjust your actions according to how well the campaign is going (“damn, today I have not had to any funders, I should call my cousins, and ask whether they already remembered to tell their friends,” “You know, we are ahead of this week’s goal, so let’s continue the good work! “).

I figured out that typically the crowdfunding campaigns take the shape of the so-called U-curve: at the beginning and at the end there will be more funding coming in, and at the  center it is very slow. This means that in the beginning it is important to get all those involved to fund, in order to persuade, at the end the campaign, all those strangers who are hesitating, to also fund. Crowdfunding psychology is easy: people join the crowd of the winner, and they do not want to jump into the losing project. It is therefore important to be able to build that first spike of the U-curve, which again makes the ending another spike. This also makes pre-marketing important, to which I will return later in this text.

In other words, all the friends should be aware of your crowdfunding campaign even before the start of the campaign, so that they could jump in from the day one. If this happens, the start of the U-curve will look like in the graph above, and the campaign gets a cheerful and enthusiastic start, which has a great impact on the general mood of the campaign.

Target sum

In order to know how many friends, relatives and acquaintances you actually need, it is good to determine a target sum. Of course, your target amount should be what you actually need for your project, but it is also good to play a bit with different sums, in order to obtain a realistic picture of what the total can be, and what is even realistic.

Contrast to what some seem to imagine, crowdfunding is not an ingenious system that grinds you money coming from generous strangers, while you do something else in the meantime. On the contrary, most commonly about 50-67% of the funding comes from those close to the campaigner.

When we have the target amount, but also some idea of the average funding sum, we can make calculations on how many funders we need, how many of them should be our acquintances, and how much funding should come at any given phase of the campaign.

Based on an analysis on North American crowdfunding platforms, I made ​​the assumption that the average funding some is around 35 euros. In my own campaign, the average purchase rose even higher in the end, but in other cases, the average purchase may be closer to 20 euros. In this example, I will however use 35 as the average purchase.

Example: Targets: € 1000 (“minimum”), € 2500 (“realistic”) and € 5000 (the “dream goal”),

The required number of funders, the average purchase being € 35:

€ 1000 / € 35 per person = ~ 30 persons

2500 € / 35 € per person = ~ 70 people

€ 5000 / € 35 per person = ~ 145 person

If we estimate that ⅔ of funders must be our acquaintances, we will discover this:

For 1000 € we need 20 acquintances to fund (plus 10 people via networks/audience).

For € 2500, we need about 45 acquintances to fund (plus 25 people via networks/audience).

For € 5000, we need about 100 acquintances to fund (plus 45 via networks/audience).

And when we realistically say that probably only half of the people we ask to fund will want to or are able to participate, the number of acquaintances we need to ask to fund doubles:

For 1000 €, we need 20 40 people we know

For € 2500, we need about 45 90 people we know

For € 5000, we need about 100 200 people we know

With these numbers now figured out, we can begin to list all our stakeholders. Doing this, it soon becomes clear how many people we really can include. You can again assess and reassess the overall pot, remembering at least half of the campaign’s funding comes from people you know. Myself, I found it difficult to list even a hundred acquaintances, and at the end the campaign did have 108 donors. Average purchase, however, was higher than expected, which is why my goal was exceeded quite briskly.

Designing the rewards

I first explored what kind of rewards others have had. I wondered what kind of rewards could actually be really cool in my opinion, and what kinds of things I could actually stand behind. I divided my rewards in four categories (you can create your own similar, or different, categories, which helps to see the combination of rewards more clearly):

  1. music (digital downloads, CD, LP)

  2. prints (sheet music, photographs, a magazine)

  3. merchandise (fashion designer Camilla Mikama cooperated by creating a t-shirt, a scarf and a 3D-printed piece of silver jewelry)

  4. immaterial experiences (private singing lessons, song writing sessions, lectures and concerts)

In addition I did the pricing so that there was something in all price categories. If a potential funder would be willing to invest in the project, say, € 20, but there are only 5 and 25 € rewards available, they will probably choose the cheaper, and in this case, 15 euros would have been lost. So I made sure people could buy just as big or small a sum that they wished. (It should be noted, however, that there are beautiful exceptions to this rule, with many good campaigns which there is just one reward).

I interpret the average reward issue so, that while 35 euros is the average sum, the most  commonly acquired rewards are still in the range of 20-25 euros.

Partners and team

I did a campaign in co-operation with fashion designer Camilla Mikama. It is good to think about with whom the campaign could be done together. When the team becomes bigger, the more people there are with a natural motivation to talk about it to their acquaintances.

Moreover, aid is usually necessary, in the least because no one knows how to do everything. Camilla’s beautiful shirts and scarves were more attractive rewards for the campaign as, say, ordinary t-shirts. In addition, I had a graphic designer friend help me with the visuals in the campaign, with the skills as well as the software to do them with.

Moreover, there were other people on my team to help the campaign in both the planning and execution phases. This included someone handling media contacts for me, and booking me to television and radio to talk about my projects, which accentuated the campaign rhythm nicely.

2 Pre-marketing

The goal of pre-marketing is to create a sense of anticipation. In addition, the concrete task is to get a good start, that is, as much funding as possible during the first days of the campaign.

Your close circles

It is important to realize that approximately 50 to 67% (ie, closer to two-thirds) of the funders are going to be your buddies. So I listed all my acquaintances according to which of my social groups they belong to, and decided on the best way to approach each group. You should always look at it from the other person’s point of view, and think about the best way to hand the message. My pre-marketing included being active on Twitter and other social media, but also phone calls, e-mails, letters, and sitting with friends at cafés. I was honest in all communications, polite, positive, constructive and purposeful. If you are too embarrassed to ask for money for your own project (ie, talk about it and believe in it in public), you should consider if the project is really good enough, and if crowdfunding really is the way in which the project should be funded.

Networks

It is good to contact your wider networks already before the campaign starts, although their role becomes more important only as the campaign progresses. With networks I mean, for example, all kinds of media contacts, as well as networks that open up via people you already know.

Any kind of media coverage for the campaign creates credibility, so scheduling, in advance,  interviews, visits, blog postings, and other similar events as part of the campaign is desirable. Of course, these can emerge out of enthusiasm while the campaign is already on, but they do not appear just by themselves – someone (ie you or your friends) needs to book them. In my campaign, I can say that the media coverage did not correlate directly to the number of participants in the campaign. A radio or television interview did not transform into any kind of rush of funders. I thought about this afterwards, and came to the conclusion that these appearances where important mostly in terms of convincing those people who already knew about the campaign but were still pondering whether to join. These were mostly friends or my friends, people who knew me from social media, or such friends who first had a negative attitude towards my campaign but who at the end got excited by the campaigns success and ended up joining in. Excitement is contagious.

Personal networks are also extremely important in crowdfunding. It is good to think about what kind of parties could benefit from cooperation, or who could help in some way. My colleague is coaching the figure skating team of her daughter, maybe they would be interested? An old school friend is now the editor of the local paper, what if he could write a story or hint someone else about it? Could I host an exclusive event to my funders in my friends restaurant, if that gave the restaurant nice publicity? Do my friends know about some small companies that could somehow contribute? Ideas are endless, as long as they are not dug up. Ideas are also unique according to each project and to each campaigners networks, so there are no ready-made templates available. If you find the brainstorming difficult, you should browse the web for different mind map and association exercises. Opportunities are endless, as long as they are dug out and brought to discussion.

Finally, I need to point out that a credible presence in social media months prior the campaign was critical to the success. However, how to do that is itself worth another article. Here, it suffices to say that everyone should consider opening up a blog, Twitter account or some other form of engaging with people in the social media. Web is full of hints and tips for this.

3 Campaign

I carried out my campaign in accordance to my plans (ie. the U-curve and the calculations). The six-week campaign was divided into three parts, of which the first and last time was to phase when I intended to gather ⅖ of the funding (or the funders: I watched the progress in each category separately); and during the middle, or quiet phase, ⅕ of the funding.

Beginning

Sunday was selected as the campaign start date, as people would be free, on a good mood, not in a hurry and easy to reach. Over the weekend, I reminded all those acquaintances to whom I had sent a letter or e-mail, about the campaign start-up. I was also active in social media on a daily basis.

Center

I kept up the excitement by reporting about the campaign’s progress in Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis. To those who had already funded I sent a newsletter every two weeks, about the progress of the campaign (here you need to be careful not to overdo it by contacting too much), and here I also let them know about opportunities to help me by telling their friends about the campaign (Again, I was no begging, but offering opportunities to share their enthusiasm, suggesting, for example, sentences such as “Incidentally, I participated in this project, and here is an interview with the signer I supported…”)

I always tried to be positive, inspiring and determined in all my messages. I never apologized. I think the “I’m sorry that I contact” or “campaign may be irritating” implies that I know I am doing wrong or being incorrect, but still behave inappropriately. Instead, I made ​​it clear that I do not expect anyone to be involved or that I don’t be offended by refusal, but that this is a great thing and I take my project very seriously and therefore, I hope for help, as I will not make it alone. Also begging is mostly annoying, so boldness and honesty are good to remember through the campaign. It also works in a tight place: “This is a great project, but we are falling behind the target schedule. As little as five euros enables you to participate too, and it would be a very important thing right now. Thank you!”

Six weeks was a long time, and there was time for my feelings to change many times.  several times. I continued to persevere daily social media updating and contacting people (friends and networks) by email and phone, and I was confident that the slow phase would turns into a successful final stretch, as long as I build the basis in advance.

Final Spurt

I knew that many doubters would join only after the target sum would be achieved. For me, it was important to reach that level well before the very last days, so that the marketing would get a whole new level and spirit. People got really into following how much more money we could reach. More and more people became involved, knowing that they were now in the winning team.

At this final phase, a couple of gigs were also booked after a couple of weeks’ negotiation, and these bigger funding sums significantly raised the pot. (It is important to note that there were dozens of small businesses and other interested parties, to whom I offered lectures and concerts during the campaign.)

As with the campaign start date, I also set the end date to be a Sunday. In this way I could concentrate on the end for the whole weekend, and people were laid back and active. Overall, the campaign went well. Plans made in advance were very important, also when expectations and reality were not met (in which case I made fine adjustments and corrections to the plans.)

4.Community

The most important thing in crowdfunding is a sense of community. Hey, we carried out a project together! So it is not a matter of someone to give money to you so that you get to do, but of feeling that we all enable this together. For this reason too it is important to avoid negativity and all forms of passive-aggressive coercion (“if you do not participate then this will not work”) and begging, and instead remembering the importance of your message and staying effective.

As a nice anecdote from my own campaign, it happened that I begun to shout on a daily basis, on Twitter (and also on Facebook ), when I noticed that the pot had increased. I did this as a silly habit, out of sheer joy that I felt, but, surprisingly, people started communicating back to me:

Me: “It is now 1930 €! Thank you Unknown!

Twitter follower:” Look, again, now it is already € 1950!

“Me:”Oh, thank you! And hey now it is 1955 €! “(Someone else has funded in between.)

A distant acquintance,” Well, I went to help the pot over two thousand. I look forward to my singing classes!

‘The essence of crowdfunding is to ask yourself how could you be creating and managing a campaign that inspires people to join. Few people actually care about the end product or the reward. Above all, people want to be involved on an emotional level, carried out by a story that brings good mood to everyone-

It is very important to be active in social media on a daily basis, and contact people (friends and networks) daily (note: not terrorize). Because campaigning is really really intense, it should not be ​​too long. It makes sense to make up all kinds of events and activities alongside the campaign, which gives you something to talk about (media coverage, events, whatever), and gives the campaign shape and concrete stepping stones. The campaign is best viewed as a game, then it becomes fun and you don’t take yourself too seriously.

Crowdfundig is, at its best, a great way to realize projects, but the lack of understanding of its mechanisms has left many good projects without funding. A good, realistic plan and its determined and happy implementation are the most essential factors for a successful crowdfunding campaign. The way you make use of your contacts and networks, and how you build your community may vary, but not matter what is your style, endurance, daily activity and determination are the cornerstones.

Good luck!

Send a comment for Anni on Twitter @annimattila!

Anni Mattila’s crowdfunding project (In Finnish) and her website (In English)