If you want people to give, you’ve got to drum up excitement. Here are four strategies for building momentum even before launching your campaign:
Build — and mine — your social network. Fundraising season is not the time to be a wallflower. Plan to let anyone who has ever supported your creative endeavors know you’re looking for backers. Don’t have much of a network in the first place? Then build one. Before announcing their crowdfunding campaign, the makers of the comedy film Gone To Pot spent more than a year building a Facebook fan base of 20,000 people by posting fun photos of exotic varieties of ganja, connecting with medical marijuana advocacy groups, and inviting fans to create short videos for inclusion in the closing credits of the film. “It turns out weed has quite a loyal following,” says filmmaker Martin Keegan, who plans to launch his campaign in early November.
Make a great video. When artist Karyn Olivier decided to crowdfund a book of photographs documenting her freeway billboard project in Houston, she was hesitant about adding a video. “I felt like it seems too goofy and will come off as cheesy, but there is something about putting a face to something that makes it seem more sincere.” Her campaign was a hit. According to site stats, nearly 400 people watched the video (shown above), and she reached her initial $3,000 goal in just four days. Thanks to the built-in video recording features on smartphones, a good video doesn’t have to cost a dime either.
Plan perks people want. If you’re raising money for a physical product like a book or a board game, it makes sense to plan on sending those items out as thank yous. (Kickstarter users should avoid posting photorealistic renderings of products that don’t actually exist in order to comply with new restrictions on vaporware.) But people don’t always want more stuff; often, they just want to feel like they’re part of a cool project. The producers of Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa film, which raised more than $400,000 this past summer, offered backers who pledged $250 or more both a studio tour and an early screening of the film in progress. The serialized fiction startup Plympton, which raked in nearly $60,000 in early October, invited backers who pledged $25 to be on its advisory committee for a year. Total cost: $0.
Create multiple entry points. Not everyone has $50 to spare, no matter how nifty your project sounds. So make sure to have lower pledge levels—starting as low as a dollar—to encourage people to participate in and create momentum for your campaign. Likewise, come up with a few over-the-top perks to reward your biggest backers. The serialized digital fiction startup Plympton thanked its sole $10,000 backer with the right to be a co-creator of at least one series over the next year. Not sure what your supporters would like? Ask them in advance. “Some of our high-end prizes were designed with those backers in mind,” says Plympton co-founder Jennifer 8. Lee.