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Getting set for crowdfunding success


Thinking of starting a crowdfunding programme at your institution? If so, we’ve put together a crash course in crowdfunding that can help to get things underway.

1. Prepare

Start with a solid plan. A crowdfunding programme can be really intense to manage (think telephone appeals, plus a bit more). But if you approach crowdfunding with a decent strategy, you’ll feel much more prepared to take on what lies ahead.

To help, we’ve listed some of the most common questions we’ve come across when preparing for crowdfunding success.

  • What kind of projects will you support? And who can submit projects?
  • How will projects be selected, and by who?
  • Who around the institution will you require buy-in from to get things started?
  • Could your crowdfunding programme benefit from having its own brand?
  • How involved will your team be in the success and promotion of individual projects?
  • How will the programme be resourced in terms of staff time and responsibility?
  • When will you launch; and will you have a soft launch to see how the first projects fair?
  • How many projects will you launch with?
  • What is the key aim of the programme in its first year? What about in three years time?

If you can answer these questions before things get started, your crowdfunding journey will be a much smoother process.

2. Recruit

You have a plan. Now it’s time to hit the pavement! Take the time to personally scout across campus, far and wide, for projects that have crowdfunding potential. You can (and should) flyer every inch of your institution, advertising your crowdfunding programme to find those who will be keen project creators. However, a proactive approach to finding a greater variety of projects is also essential for creating a steady stream of well-suited projects.

Here are a few places to look:

Sports Teams - A rugby team that needs new equipment or a quidditch team who want to travel to the world championships (trust us, it exists).

The Arts - A radio or tv station, film society, or theatre company looking to take their production to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Clubs & Societies (especially those associated with academic topics) - Maybe you have a formula student team who require funding for this year’s F1 race car or a student outreach team who are teaching science to local schools. These projects are also great if you plan on engaging alumni through crowdfunding is apart of your programme’s strategy.

Research & Preservation (but tread carefully) - Perhaps you have researchers studying sustainable water solutions in Africa or a passionate team of academics wanting to preserve the art of traditional press printing. Projects such as these are great, just make sure the researchers/academics involved are up to the challenge that is crowdfunding.

3. Train

Speaking of being ‘up for the challenge’, all project creators should participate in some form of training before they start fundraising. It’s likely that project creators will underestimate the amount of effort required to create a steadily successful project. And while it would be wonderful if all project creators where natural fundraisers, it’s more likely that they’ll need a bit of support.  

One way that you can support your project creators is by holding regular training workshops. From the moment that creators show interest in crowdfunding, invite them to attend a mandatory workshop where they can learn the ins and outs of what makes a crowdfunding project successful.

4. Create noise

While it is true that the majority of crowdfunding donors, which come from student-led crowdfunding projects, will be friends and family, there is still an opportunity for the central institution to promote those projects to their wider alumni community to increase the support (and success) projects can receive.

Once a project has reached a certain level of support (25% of their total target) start publishing those projects on those channels that might give them the most exposure to your alumni community. This could be through your alumni e-newsletter, social media, targeted email blasts - or all of the above.

5. Follow-up

Taking the time to train project creators is a critical first step towards crowdfunding success. If it’s possible, also make time to follow-up with your project leads - making sure that the success of their project is a top priority - both the creator and the overall programme will benefit.

This is essential for students and academics alike. It’s not that they’re not motivated (although they could be) but more likely that they could be spinning multiple plates. Between managing studies, social commitments or full-time job duties, there could be a lot going on in the lives of your project creators. If, however, they have someone to help remind them of critical steps, important deadlines, or just someone to be accountable to it can be the difference between success and failure.

6. Celebrate

If a crowdfunding project is successful, but no one hears about it, did it ever happen? There are two important reasons to shout about your success.

1 - To encourage others who may be thinking about, or not yet heard about, crowdfunding to submit their project ideas.
2 - To encourage awareness of the programme to a wider pool of donors.

If one of your goals for the programme is to increase the number of projects, as well as the income and donor numbers those projects generate, you’re going to have to share your initial success with anyone who will listen.

7. Create Donor Journeys

All of those wonderful new donors that gave to a project now need a forward journey. What’s next for them? You didn’t go through the hours of project creator training, curating engaging social posts and careful project selection just for everyone to give and then be forgotten about, did you? We didn’t think so!

First, decide who needs a journey and who doesn’t. Not everyone who gives to a project is likely to be a continuous donor, and that’s okay. Only focus your resources on those likely to further engage with the other giving opportunities that are available outside of your crowdfunding programme.

Alumni definitely qualify for an ongoing journey. That step doesn’t initially need to be an ask for another gift, but perhaps a stewardship journey that lets them know about the ongoing success of the project they supported.

Other audiences, such as parents or staff members of the institution, are also audiences you’ll want to consider creating onward journeys for.    

8. Repeat

All great crowdfunding programmes have solid foundations and essential steps that are the life-blood of its success. Once you’ve celebrated your success, it’s time to start over again - redefining and altering the makeup of your programme until you find the perfect fit for what works best for your institution.


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