On Thursday, December 7, I led a hands-on workshop for Miami University faculty, staff, and students interested in using Miami’s homegrown crowdfunding platform, HawksNest, to fund a research, scholarly, creative, or service project. I’m sharing the highlights here.
After I gave them a tour of HawksNest, participants discussed what they currently think or know about crowdfunding. Many seemed to recognize that, despite superficial appearances, crowdfunding might not be an easy, hands-off way to raise money.
In fact, as I shared, there are three keys to a successful crowdfunding campaign:
- Images and video
- Strategy for targeting prospective donors
Every crowdfunding campaign must tell a clear and compelling story. This is accomplished through:
- An engaging, non-technical title
- Friendly, easily accessible language
- Descriptions that invite visualization
In addition, projects that have cultural relevance to a specific geographical area can be compelling.
Images and video
All images and video must advance the narrative. Video should be included whenever possible, and — thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets — it’s almost always possible. It’s important to remember that in crowdfunding, authenticity matters more than glitzy production value. It’s possible for almost anyone to shoot good, inexpensive video by following these tips:
- Good lighting + good sound = good enough. If your video is well-lit (shoot outside if you can) and the people talking on it can be heard clearly, then you can use that video for your crowdfunding campaign.
- Make sure your video runs no more than 2-3 minutes long.
- Keep your messaging tight. Answer these questions: Who are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Why are you crowdfunding it?
- Include a clear call-to-action. Explicitly ask viewers to support your project and to share it with their online social networks.
Strategy for targeting donors
Successful crowdfunding requires engagement from the project owner(s) before, during, and after the actual campaign.
Prior to campaign launch, team members need to activate their personal networks. That means recruiting active champions who will help you spread the word about your campaign and reaching out directly to your personal contacts.
Evidence suggests you should aim to raise 30% of your funding goal directly from your team’s personal contacts because that’s the point at which strangers have enough social proof about the worthiness of your project to take a chance on its success. Statistics from crowdfunding sites show that raising 30% of your funding goal in the first week of a campaign translates into an 80% chance of fully meeting your goal, while raising just 5% of your goal in the first week reduces your ultimate chance of success to just 50%.
On average, you can expect just 3% of the people you and your team contact personally to donate to your project, so it’s important to contact as many people as possible. The following formula will give you a target number of contacts:
- Divide your funding goal by $25, which is the most common crowdfunding contribution. That gives you the number of $25 donations you need to reach your goal.
- Multiply the number you got above by 10 to account for the 3% average response rate and the goal to raise 30% of your target amount from personal contacts.
- $1000 funding goal/$25 = 40 (number of $25 donations needed to raise $1000)
- 40 x 10 = 400 messages
With a 3% response rate, a team can expect about 12 donations to result from 400 personal contacts. At $25 each, 12 donations total $300, which is 30% of the $1000 funding goal.
Together, team members should spend 1-2 hours each day “working” your campaign. Suggested activities include:
- Sharing and engaging on social media channels
- Posting updates to the crowdfunding project page
- Following up with active champions recruited during the “before” phase
- Hosting an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) on Reddit
- Writing and sending press releases
- Planning and hosting a campaign-related event
Be sure to thank your active champions and your donors. This helps them feel good about what they did and may make them more likely to support your next project. Also be sure to post updates on the crowdfunding project page. That lets donors know you’re following through on what you promised to do. Sharing results on the project page — when you have them — lets donors know what they “got” for their money.
Case studies and campaign tool kits
Following the “lecture” part of the workshop, participants studied the following project pages on Experiment to identify the ways in which they did and did not look like successful crowdfunding campaigns:
- Illuminating the firefly genome
- How do companies repair their reputation after scandals?
- Mapping and dating one of the most important early human settlements in eastern North America
Finally, I distributed campaign tool kits, stocked with resources for running a successful crowdfunding campaign, and participants got a chance to begin using those resources in support of their planned projects. Among the resources in the tool kit were:
- Campaign planning worksheet
- Activity planning calendar
- Video storyboard
- Social media channel comparison chart
Anyone at Miami interested in learning more about HawksNest can attend one of the following events:
- “Introduction to HawksNest Crowdfunding” session at the Regionals’ Winter Recharge on Thursday, January 18, at 1:30pm on the Middletown Campus.
- An encore presentation of the “Crowdfunding on HawksNest” workshop on Tuesday, January 23, from 10:30am to noon in the Advanced Instructional Space (AIS), 134 King Library.
Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director of Research Communications, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.
Crowd photo by Moses via Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons license.