Crowdfunding as Storytelling with Alex Budak
StartSomeGood is a crowdfunding platform for social change organizations—a Kickstarter for social entrepreneurs. Both nonprofit and for-profit social ventures can create campaigns on the site, with the requirement that funds raised through the platform be used on projects that deliver clear social or environmental benefits. As with any crowdfunding campaign, success is not guaranteed, but there are certain best practices to improve the odds. Alex Budak, co-founder of StartSomeGood, spoke recently at Portland State University about how to create a compelling and successful crowdfunding campaign.
Alex started by asking, Why do we part with our money, and which of those motivations for spending or giving will serve your campaign best?
- Investing: because we have an expectation of future financial return
- Shopping: to purchase a good or service
- Philanthropy: to help create a future we desire
- Relationships: to support our friends or community
You can’t sell shares of your business through crowdfunding sites (yet), so the first option is more or less unavailable. It’s possible you’re selling something to your donors, but it’s more likely that you’re asking them to support others in need through your project. That means philanthropy and relationships are the most important tools for a social entrepreneur working to raise money through a crowdfunding site. The best way to tap into those motivations is through storytelling—and that’s great news for social entrepreneurs.
As a social entrepreneur, you probably already have a great story about the change you want to create and why you’re motivated to tackle that challenge. Start with your theory of change: how the work you’re doing will directly help to create the change you seek. Then focus on one or more elements of your story that really make your organization unique:
- Issue: what is the problem you’re trying to solve?
- Geography: are you serving a specific area?
- Team: have you put together a truly amazing team?
- Approach/innovation: have you created a new way to solve the problem?
- Community/culture: is there a group that would love to help you?
Once you know your approach, put together a short video—campaigns with videos raise, on average, 120% more than those without one! Create a plan to reach out to your immediate peers (friends, family, contacts), your “tribes” (extended networks), and “crowds” (the public). Brainstorm the best way to approach these different groups, and make certain to use in-person events along with social media to reach the widest audience. According to a recent report, 72% of Kickstarter funders back only one project, so don’t ignore your peers—they’re the ones who will be your biggest supporters.
Spend some time deciding what rewards you’ll offer at different funding levels. The rewards should reflect your mission and the culture of your organization, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Put together a project budget (don’t forget to include the crowdfunding platform fees and the cost of rewards), and use that to determine your campaign’s target amount. Choose a campaign length between 28 and 45 days—shorter campaigns lend a sense of urgency, but longer campaigns give you more time to raise money.
Now you’re ready to start! Make certain to “stuff your tip jar:” reach out to your biggest fans and ask them to support the campaign as soon as it launches. Getting some early cash can give you credibility and build momentum. Keep up a steady stream of outreach and events throughout the campaign, and your hard work should pay off. Good luck crowdfunding some good!