Anyone doubting the potential for crowdfunding platforms to be leveraged for the greater good need look no further than the recent ‘cats not ads’ campaign that recently blanketed a London tube station with billboards full of feline photos.
The Citizens Advertising Takeover Service (CATS) campaign was the brainchild of London agency Glimpse, a self-described open and voluntary collective for creative people who want to use creativity for good. According to the group’s founder, James Turner, the aim of the campaign was to help people think a bit differently about the world around them, and get inspired to change things for the better.
The CATS campaign was funded from a successful Kickstarter project backed by 680 engaged citizens who raised $30,000 for a delightfully simple idea – to make people smile.
And smile they did. Thousands of commuters were exposed to the CATS campaign over its two-week duration, and the world smiled too after several of the world’s largest media houses – including CNET, Mashable, CNN and HuffPost – took notice.
Equally as important, however, is the fact that the sixty-eight cats featured in the billboard photos at Clapham Common station were available for adoption from Cats Protection, the UK’s largest feline welfare charity. A deliberate goal of the campaign was for the cat photos to act as advertisements for a worthwhile cause, for whilst Cats Protection helps 200,000 cats and kittens each year, they still have many thousands of unwanted cats in desperate need of new homes.
James Turner said it was as far back as February when he challenged the Glimpse team with imagining a world where friends and experiences were more valuable than stuff you can buy. Turner says the team began thinking about crowdfunding to replace tube adverts with something else. They considered beautiful forests and time spent with family as themes, but ultimately chose something they knew the internet would love.
The rest, as they say, is internet history.
If there’s anything to be learned from the CATS campaign, it’s that campaigners now have an established suite of crowdfunding platforms at their disposal to shift projects from dream to reality. Every day, literally thousands of people use crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, GoFundMe, Razoo and Crowdrise to achieve their particular goals.
And therein lies the essential crowdfunding challenge – there are literally thousands of people using crowdfunding to achieve their goals. So whilst it’s important to understand that yours isn’t the only idea looking for funding, there are a few proven strategies that can be adopted to give your campaign the best possible chance of success.
First, you need to be well prepared. It’s essential to have a well-developed idea BEFORE you launch your campaign as you only get one shot at making a positive first impression. This means you’ll need to have the project written up in detail, you’ll need a website with a media page for the press, and you’ll want to have some high-quality imagery to bring the campaign to life. Most important of all, you’ll need a pitch video. Video is essential for crowdfunding.
On average, crowdfunding pitch videos raise four times as many funds as campaigns without. Plus, videos are a highly sharable social asset for your campaign. And you don’t need to be Scorsese to pull together a compelling video. A well-lit video, shot with no background noise, on an iPhone can do the job well enough as long as the person talking to camera is calm and making sense. Just remember to keep the video under 3 minutes and make best use of the first 30 seconds.
Second, the campaign needs to be pushed before you launch, all the way through the campaign, and even post-campaign. Prior to launching the campaign, you should seed the idea of the project and start building interest and advocacy across whatever social networks you have access to. Building a solid fan base pre-launch can help build momentum before the campaign kicks off.
With regards the style of communication, the best idea is to keep it real. Be yourself. Let people get to know you. Show your enthusiasm for your project because excitement can quickly become contagious. And remember to communicate as often as you can. You need to maintain momentum and keep everyone engaged because excitement can fade just as quickly as it built up.
Third – and equally important – is The Ask. Much like you wouldn’t be too impressed if a stranger walked up to you in the street and asked for $20, don’t ask people for money right away. Instead, encourage them to follow your cause on your crowdfunding platform, subscribe to your email database or like your Facebook page. You’re aiming to build a community around your project, then, once the community is engaged, it’s time to ask for money.
When you do ask, be crystal clear about what people are supporting and what they’ll be getting in return for their hard-earned cash. Set up a range of funding packages that are attractive and affordable, then start actively selling your project. Regularly communicating the status of your project via your email and social following will keep your project top of mind, and as people see your project taking off they’ll have a natural inclination to support a cause that’s going to succeed.
Crowdfunding is by its very nature a community activity, so remember that many hands make light work. Assemble a team of friends or colleagues with complimentary skillsets who can lighten the load. Finally, it’s important to understand that this, and the above points, won’t guarantee your project gets fully funded, but it will give your campaign the best chance of succeeding.