7 sins of crowdfunding

April 04 2014

My recent indiegogo campaign has elicited a flurry of emails from people looking for support and advice on projects of their own. I’ve attempted a few fundraising efforts — one that failed, one that supported inner city kids (and got me to Everest Base Camp), and another that had me running the 2011 NYC marathon (never again!). I’ve noticed a few patterns surrounding the psychology of asking and giving and hope this compilation might help you think carefully about your next crowdfunding endeavor.

ONE: APATHY. You don’t really care about your cause.

If you aren’t invested in your project, how can you ask anyone else to be? The solar project came out of something incredibly meaningful for me, and my passion is palpable through a screen. If you think your work will make a difference in someone’s life, probably it will. People will believe in you and your work, but first you must believe in yourself. It can be unnerving to put yourself out there, so focus on your goal and what you’re looking to accomplish to overcome any social anxieties. Excitement is contagious.

TWO: GLUTTONY. Stressing helps no one.

With each fundraiser I end up putting on a few pounds, ultimately telling friends “fundraising is bad for my health.” I won’t lie: fundraising is stressful. It can be an agonizing blend of deadlines, public exposure, asking for money, rejection, persistence, hard work, and time. Lots of time.

Keep in mind no one will give you an award for stressing out. Worrying only paralyzes you from accomplishing anything significant; this serves no one. If you are tired or rundown, you’re going to be an inefficient fundraiser, advocate, worker, person. Take care of yourself.

THREE: PRIDE. You’re not going to be successful by yourself; build a team.

You need supporters in your corner for the times you hit fundraising slumps (and you will). Enlist your funders to encourage and cheer you on. Basic mathematics: more people means more energy and effort directed towards your project. And more eyeballs (over 10k people visited the solar project page). You’ll need more than just financial support as you make the final push toward your goals.

FOUR: SLOTH. Fundraising is really like a marathon.

At first, your idea will sound exciting and meaningful and you can’t wait to get started.

Then reality sets in. Is crowdfunding going to work? What if this fails? (Anxious questioning is completely normal. If you’re not at least a little bit nervous, reevaluate #1.)

After you announce your campaign to the world, you will feel empowered and committed. You start telling colleagues, share your campaign on social media channels, and receive positive feedback from friends. This initial spike in enthusiasm will be followed by a slump. Don’t panic.

FIVE: WRATH. You are not getting the response you hoped for, and now you’re angry.

Don’t give up.

You have to work really freaking hard. Sometimes, all of your online efforts aren’t enough. This is when you start looking at offline options. Tell everyone you meet about your project. Plan events — events, fundraisers, silent auctions. At one point, I considered making animal balloons on the street for money. Then I started applying to every micro grant I could possibly find—THANK YOU, POLLINATION PROJECT!—for fear I wouldn’t reach my goal.

Remember #4. It’s a marathon race; pace yourself but be prepared for sudden sprints. You will regain energy and confidence as your deadline nears and you approach your goal.

SIX: IGNORANCE. You don’t know your own story.

You’ll need to get creative. Images and anecdotes create a portrait of what you’re trying to do. Show people why your cause is meaningful and what kind of impact you’re looking to make. Your shared content — photos, stories, ideas, videos, testimonials — will help you move past moments of doubt and remind you why you started this in the first place.

SEVEN: GREED. You got what you wanted.

Just because your campaign ends doesn’t mean your work is finished. Don’t be fooled — donor appreciation takes time and care. People went out of their way to support you and your cause; thank them and keep them updated on your progress and work. Follow up and be timely with updates. It makes you look responsible and reminds people they made the right choice by supporting your work.

Gratitude is everything.