What I learned from a $32k crowdfund
Written by—Serena Lee
Crowdfunding—a concept that is equally as terrifying as it is exciting. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is the process of funding a project or venture from a large group of people, typically via the internet. A great example of small efforts working together to make a big difference. It's a journey that many young companies will go through, as well as small projects and personal ventures.
I'm not afraid to admit that the decision to crowdfund the companies first 3 Farmwalls was made with apprehension and fear. We had been pouring our hearts and souls into the startup for about a year, so throwing the idea out into the world was petrifying. Many questions buzzed through our minds,
'Is it too soon?', 'What if we fail?', and if we do fail, 'What will this do to our reputation?'
I can only say now, in post-campaign relief, I have these answers. The scope of what can be crowdfunded is so broad that it can never too soon, it all comes down to how ready you are to commit to the cause. If you don't reach your target, then what a great experience to learn about what your potential audience/customers respond to—so you can fix it before you try again! Don't worry about the negative nancys and the naysayers damaging you or your brand. Just suck it up and believe that your community is more forgiving than what you give credit. On top of that, people are really forgetful!
Always have a plan B.
We definitely did not do enough planning, which ended up in A LOT more work. If you're like me, leaving everything to the last minute and somewhat comfortable with the anxiety of the unknown, you'll be fine—as long as you have a plan B. Things won't always go according to plan, your expectations will transform and your assumptions will pivot. So have a well-thought out guide, but when you're run sheet starts lagging and milestones aren't being met—don't freak out, just have a backup!
Example: We had 1 week left and still $10k to raise, so we pulled out our secret weapon: a pledging sponsor to match pledges dollar for dollar, up to $5k. This not only incentivised previous donors to pledge again, but it encouraged donors who could only make small pledges, and made them feel like they could make bigger difference.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Asking for money is an uncomfortable process, so be prepared to feel uncomfortable when you do it. 90% of your pledges and donations will come from people you know personally. So don't be afraid to reach out to literally everyone! Try not to put a filter on who may or may not pledge as people will surprise you and not all heroes like to wear capes!
Example: Lock in as many people as possibly to pledge on that very first day to get the momentum high before you truly rely on the fate of the unknown. Humans are funny creatures whose actions are unconsciously skewed by the efforts of others. So don't be afraid to explain this concept to your friends and family, so they understand why it is their role to lead by example.
The highs really do outweigh the lows.
Since we closed our campaign, many people have asked have asked, 'How did you find the whole experience?' My face would instantly grimace and I'd laugh nervously, but I always seemed to follow it up with copious amounts of positive encouragement. Honestly, I don't think I've ever experienced a kind of work where your outputs are so directly related to your inputs, and it's exhilarating.
Example: I would get busy for a few days and wouldn't put much into the campaign, and then would realise we had no pledges—it's a real bummer. You feel like you're letting the team down, and you kick yourself for it. But to flip that on it's head, when you really work at it and see the fruits of your labour, the feeling is truly incredible!
Get ready for more work.
So let's assume you did it! You raised the funds to support you doing the thing! Well it doesn't end there. Now the post campaign, campaign begins! Thanking your community, organising the perks, keeping donors updated, are all incredibly important as you have now raised a community of your biggest fans. You're accountable now and all eyes are on you, eagerly anticipating the outcome that you have now raised an audience for. Be honest, humble, and keep your donors in the loop—they will likely become your audience for your next campaign as well!
Example: Between myself and Farmwall's founder Geert Hendrix, our mums turned out to be our biggest fans. I could always count on them like and share every single thing we did. This is not uncommon and don't be embarrassed about it! Having several ambassadors constantly backing you will really help your journey. Activate these people and don't forget to thank them!
So good luck!
And lastly, don't fret too much about which platform you choose. Ultimately, you end up driving all the traffic anyway. We chose Chuffed because we believed in their model as a business, only supporting campaigns raising money for the greater good. So just stay relevant to whatever it is you're passionate about!
You can still check out Farmwall's campaign with Chuffed here!