How to Succeed in Crowdfunding Without Really Trying

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It's a long way to the top. Make it easy on yourself.

In the musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," an average young man named J. Pierrepont Finch schemes to move up the corporate ladder through a combination of brown-nosing and sabotage. In the end, Finch secures a top position in the company. Finch understood that business success was less a matter of talent and more a matter of striking the right chords in a world ruled by social dynamics. Cynical as that may seem, there is some truth in it.

Crowdfunding is a bit like that, but not entirely. Crowdfunding is a way to raise money for a business, project or cause by building an online crowdfunding profile and promoting it in your social circles. To succeed in crowdfunding without really trying, you will need a combination of social skills, time management strategies and, alas, talent.


    • 1

      Have a project that has broad appeal and a focused mission. The most successful crowdfunding projects are simple enough for anyone to understand, directly improve the lives of others and have either an artistic or a social responsibility aspect. Complicated business models with purely selfish motives are a tough sell in crowdfunding. Never fundraise for "general expenses" either. Tell your potential backers exactly what their donation dollars will buy and how it will make the world a better place. Observing this step will reduce friction between potential backers and your project coffers.

    • 2

      Get someone else to manage your crowdfunding profile. A crowdfunding profile is a place on the Internet (Web page, website or profile on an established crowdfunding platform) where an individual or organization can publish a project description, interact with backers and potential backers and collect donations towards a fundraising goal. The crowdfunding profile must present the project fully and clearly in words, images and video. It must also be updated and maintained as the life of the fundraise draws nearer to the deadline. Finally, when the fundraise draws to a close, you will have to follow up with everyone that pledged money or helped in any way, regardless of whether you met the fundraising goal. It is plain to see that maintaining a crowdfunding profile is a substantial time investment. If you can get a trusted partner, friend or employee to handle the crowdfunding profile, you will be free to focus more on the project itself. Not everyone can afford to outsource this considerable job, nor does everyone want to. You may prefer to retain full control over how your project is communicated. However, if you want to succeed in crowdfunding without really trying, consider assigning the position.

    • 3

      Have a specific, attainable fundraising goal. This means that the scope of your project will have to be less ambitious than saving the world. Calculate the financial cost of success, and carefully compare it to your social circles. Do you know enough people with enough money and enough interest to meet your projected costs? If not, rethink your plan and come up with a fresh figure. Having a specific, attainable fundraising goal solves many problems before they crop up. It also demonstrates to potential backers that you are a realistic and responsible project manager that knows exactly what he needs.

    • 4

      Keep it simple. In all things--from concept to plan to messaging to execution--keep it simple. Your crowdfunding project title should be instantly understandable; its description should be just a few paragraphs long; all images and video should serve to advance the message or story. Nothing extraneous should be allowed to hang out with your crowdfunding campaign. This makes it easy for potential backers to find their checkbooks. Do be aware that simplicity is, in this case, a magic trick. While your crowdfunding campaign should appear effortless, it is the extensive preparation and editing that makes it simple. Keeping things simple is one step that requires trying.

    • 5

      Give proof of what you are doing. Write weekly updates on your crowdfunding blog explaining what you did that week to advance the project. Post photos and short videos of your project in action. Get third parties to give you testimonials or speak on behalf of your project. The Internet is full of scammers, and your potential backers know it. The only way to penetrate this bias is by supplying copious proof--in a fun way--that you are who you say you are and are doing what you said would do. This step may seem laborious, but it is less frustrating than asking a thousand people to back you and getting nothing. Proof is key.

    • 6

      Institute a communications schedule and stick to it. Once a week is a good interval for posting entries to your crowdfunding blog. You may also wish to publish an opt-in email newsletter, which you can use to distribute your blog content to those who wish to keep tabs on your crowdfunding project. Don't communicate more often than you need to, or it will eat up all your time.

    • 7

      Write the perfect introductory mass email and send it once. The purpose of an introductory email is to draw people closer into your digital presence. Link to your crowdfunding profile. Supply your email address and make it abundantly clear that you welcome their feedback. Tell a story, make it interesting and ask recipients to take an action of some kind. Get them to subscribe your email list and blog, connect with you on Twitter and Facebook, and so on. Also, ask for the donation. You may hit a homerun on this first pitch. Whatever you choose to put in your introductory mass email, make sure you polish it and re-polish it until it shines like the stars. First impressions are everything. The payoff of this painstaking step is that you never have to do it again.

    • 8

      Write a list of all the people that are most likely to help you. Call this your inner circle. Include the wealthiest people you know, the most prestigiously connected people you know, the people you know that have large social networks, the most gossipy people you know, and all the people you know that would take a bullet for you. These are all the people you should contact individually and ask to donate to your crowdfunding project. Do not personally contact everyone you know. That is a waste of time. Your mass email covers your middle and outer social circles just fine.

    • 9

      Reward your backers with fantastic prizes that you can easily produce. This is a puzzle. You want to give backers something by which to feel special, because then they will be more likely to tell their social circles about your crowdfunding project, thus compounding your own social circle. On the other hand, you don't want to have to make good on a reward of personally delivering singing chicken telegrams to everyone that coughs up twenty bucks. Be creative. Use a tiered reward system wherein stronger backers receive more elaborate gifts. Give them something to talk about. Just don't sacrifice the project itself for the sake of cow-towing to your support base.

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  • Photo Credit Skyscraper image by ILonika from

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