By Sarah McKinney, PGS Alumna
With just a few days left in AMP’s crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, John Lehnert and I thought it might be helpful to share what we’ve learned from our experience. We hope the Presidio community will chime in with lessons from their own crowd-funding campaigns!
1. Find a mentor, and take suggestions. I was lucky to connect with Brian Lamb, co-founder of Swivl, a crowd-funding campaign success story that exceeded its funding goal and used interest generated to secure an additional $1M in institutional investment. He’s been an invaluable mentor to me and strongly encouraged me to invest in a professional-looking video. This led me to contacting my friend Ryan Kushner, a Presidio alum and talented video producer, who brought in Tim Kerns for camera, Mariah Howard for graphic illustration, and secured space at The Happiness Institute for the shoot. I solicited feedback on the video script from several people, including Andy Goodman, an expert in storytelling and all-around cool guy. John did extensive research into best practices across crowd-funding platforms to inform our strategy, content and perks, and we reached out to Indiegogo staff for their suggestions prior to going live. None of this is a guarantee for campaign success, but it certainly helped prepare us.
2. Set a conservative funding goal. We were incredibly lucky that Indiegogo allowed us to change our funding goal from $50K to $30K with one week to go, and I take full responsibility for aiming too high to begin with. Given the challenge in finding technical co-founders, I obtained estimates from two developer/design shops, using detailed specifications. The $50K goal landed us right between these two estimates, but I definitely should have used the lower end for our campaign goal. Reason being, you can always exceed your funding goal if there’s more financial support than anticipated. John provided detailed rationale to support lowering our goal and Indiegogo approved the revision. Lesson learned! Be conservative.
3. Be direct in asking for donations. In the first weeks of our campaign, we heard a lot of “looks great!” and “good job!” People were sharing the campaign link on Facebook and liking our posts, but donations were lagging behind enthusiasm. In reviewing our outgoing communications, John and I realized we weren’t being direct enough in specifying the importance of financial donations. This can get awkward, particularly for those who lack sales or fundraising experience, but it’s for a short period of time — so be direct with the “ask” with regular emails, campaign updates, and social media posts right from the start! Have you donated yet?
4. Actively seek media coverage. This allows you to continue updating your campaign page and social media channels with new information, and to connect with an audience beyond your personal and professional networks. Rachel Fus, the Presidio Communications Manager, approved three posts for the Presidio blog during our campaign run, and John wrote a great press release that was picked up by SFGate, World News, Crowdsourcing.org, Crowdsourcing News, Virtual Strategy, and VentureBeatProfiles. I pitched a story angle to SocalTECH, seeking exposure to the growing number of tech accelerators in Santa Monica who read this blog, and they ran with it. I did an interview with Intent, a website started by Deepak Chopra’s daughter, and contracted with Important Media for three additional blog posts (1, 2, 3). John and I emailed a huge number of other publications. Finally, in our last week, GOOD agreed to use “Five Ways Crowdfunding Makes Market Research Obsolete” as a featured article on their site. Plan out whom you’re going to contact well in advance, and track responses. Don’t give up. You have nothing to lose!
5. Don’t take things personally. Not everyone that loves and supports you is going to fund your campaign. This can be tough to swallow when you’ve put heart and soul into it, so practicing a healthy level detachment is important. Meaning, you are far greater than whatever you’re doing professionally or creatively, and this is just one step in a much longer journey that’s impossible to understand in this particular moment. The fact AMP targets a professional audience interested in sustainability with a solution that’s not yet been experienced made it more difficult than had we been targeting a general audience with the pre-sale of a mainstream consumer product. Check your expectations at the door, stay grounded, and keep at it. Even if your campaign doesn’t “succeed” there are lessons to be applied, and many other paths forward.