Or you’ll probably have a bad time.

Photo credit: Samuel Zeller

 

Unless you’ve been living under a pile of socks, you’ve heard of crowdfunding. Campaigns to raise money online have been a lot more prevalent in the news and on social media as of late, and chances are there’s at least one person currently spamming a link to their GoFundMe page on your timeline.

Of course, your first impression could vary wildly based on whether or not you see a heartwarming story of a foster father who takes in terminally ill children, or some festival organizers attempting to build a giant inflatable Lionel Richie head.

At its heart, crowdfunding is a simple concept. An individual or group proposes (usually via an online platform like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or Indiegogo) an idea or cause they need help financing, and if they’re lucky enough, interested parties throw money at them while hoping it becomes a reality.

And those are two big parts of this equation: luck and hope. Crowdfunding, like any other venture, is fraught with a lot of uncertainty on both sides. This is something most newcomers to this proverbial ‘gold rush’ are failing to understand.

After reading an article about teens who crowdfunded supplies for their local animal shelter, Bob is ready to crowdfund his $100,000 trip to Cancun during Spring Break.

 

I’ve been writing copy for crowdfunding campaigns since 2015. The majority of my work has been on personal projects and startups, which means a lot of my clients are completely new to the game. They’re fresh-faced and bright-eyed and so very ready for supporters to fund their dreams and help them reach for the stars.

Naturally, my first task is to take their blind optimism and throw it into the nearest brick wall.

Because crowdfunding is hard.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re raising money for the coolest gadget to ever grace this side of the hemisphere, a startup positioned to change the fate of the world as we know it, or a life-saving procedure your insurance won’t cover — you can still fail.

Crowdfunding isn’t guaranteed funding. There isn’t an army of persons at their computer screens waiting for you to post your campaign so they can back it. Hundreds of crowdfunding pages are being created each day, less than a third of them will ever be successfully funded, and as the popularity of crowdfunding grows, this number could shrink.

Now, this shouldn’t discourage you. A lot of failed campaigns are of this caliber, so as long as yours is well put together, you already stand a slightly higher chance of success. Still, you need a plan of action going in, not just for campaign creation, but marketing, promotion, and fulfillment.

You should know exactly how you’re going to get people to visit your page, learn about your project, care about your project, and donate. Then it’s up to you to ensure that you can deliver on any promises made — unless your intent was to finesse a cool three-quarter mil and saunter off into the sunset.

Also important: failure is not the end of the world. If anything, it can provide valuable insight into where you went wrong and better prepare you to try again. Crowdfunding isn’t an exact science (nothing involving the human variable ever is) but there are steps you can take to improve your chances of getting it right in the least amount of attempts; ideally, one.

Before you start working on a campaign, there are three questions you need to ask yourself, and your responses should be brutally honest.

  1. Is my idea something that persons would want to support?
  2. Do I have a plan of execution?
  3. Am I committed to seeing things through to the end?

This doesn’t need to be a guessing game. Campaigns for legitimate charities and personal need aside, if you’re creating a product or business, there is always data and market research available to gauge whether or not you have a potential audience. Once you’ve settled on an idea and ran it past a couple people who’ll give you honest feedback — (and I do not mean your kind middle-aged aunt who doesn’t understand what a power bank is but thinks it’s a great idea to attach one to a toaster oven) — then you can start outlining your process from start to finish.

If you don’t have the time to commit to running your own campaign, but you do have the moolah, there’s always the option of paying someone to do it for you. Several crowdfunding agencies offer everything from campaign management and marketing to full-service packages where they develop your products. Be sure that their terms allow you to retain the rights to your ideas, and that you understand their costs and deliverables clearly. An agency that has experience with campaigns in your niche is also a big plus.

Although a relatively new concept, crowdfunding has skyrocketed into a multi-billion dollar industry and shows no signs of slowing down. Now that you have a better handle on what it entails, go forth and hunt your piece of the pie.