Artist James Thatcher ran his first crowdfunding campaign, which was quite successful. It was also more emotional, difficult and surprising than he imagined. James shares his experience, and offers tips and encouragement for running a campaign that works.
You can do this.
You’ll find plenty of coaching on the websites as you create a proposal, but I want to share some observations after finishing my first successful crowdfunding campaign.
It takes a lot of work, much of it writing. It takes perseverance, and absolute confidence. It takes love, nurturing and patience too. It is very emotional. Lulls are common during these fundraisers and can be challenging.
Before even looking at a website, contact your biggest, most faithful supporters. Don’t even mention your plans or your project, but establish contact for the sake of the relationship. The dictum “People don’t support art, people support people,” is true.
Consider what type of funding website will work best for you—are they strictly for arts projects or a general crowdfunding site? What is their success rate? Look at several proposals, the applications and make notes. Begin to talk about it with your peers. Ease into this because it will suddenly happen and you want to have folks ready to support you.
Write and re-write.
Read your proposal out loud in order to check the wording. This is very important–if it doesn’t flow off your tongue, change it. Beware of awkward phrasing and overusing big words. You need to communicate clearly and concisely. People relate to your project through your words.
After some revision and with no warning, I received website approval and my fundraiser was “going live”. SURPRISE! I went right to Facebook and announced that my mural was accepted on this great website for fundraising! Mistake… take your first week to get your heavy hitters lined up and on board.
Talk to your lead donors personally, over coffee or on the phone; tell them about your idea and be direct about needing their contribution. Contact the sponsor website for some advice before having these lead donor conversations.
I got a couple dozen “Likes” for that original Facebook post but no one contributed. Ouch… nonetheless, your communication is planting the seed for each person’s help. Notice the positive spin there?
Keep it positive.
To break week-long lulls, I had to do mass emails and send personal messages to every friend on social media. People give based on their emotions—some at the joy of learning about your new venture; others only during the urgent pleas of the final few days. Send donors thank you messages quickly after receiving their gift. This lets people know that they are an important part of your campaign.
Short weekly emails to your entire address book stimulate people to become a part of your work and engage their interest. Don’t be afraid to be direct. Finish with, “Can you help me with a donation of $25-$50? Please donate today.” Always include the link to your project page after your direct appeal.
Remember that getting no response is not rejection; keep updating, give your midpoint report, tell special stories, and always thank those who have already given to your project.
The home stretch.
Most crowdfunding websites use an “all or nothing” funding model—you will not receive any of the monies contributed unless you reach 100% of your target. This urgency is the final message and motivator for your campaign.
Typically, the final week is when your network will come together for your cause. Let people know that you are closing in on your fundraising goal and deadline. “We are all in this together, these are the last days, and it won’t be possible without all of your contributions!”
I was able to reach my minimum funding level of $5,800 in 6 weeks, through 68 donations. Contributions ranged from $10 to $1,000; and I needed each one. I didn’t get a single donation from my lead donors.
A couple of the $10 gifts were precious—I knew their situation and they truly gave the most. When $1,000 came in unexpectedly, I cried; but my “Priceless” moment was when I realized that what I had thought was possible had been changed.
This is a roller coaster ride—expand your network, gird up your loins and believe.
You can do this.