11 Tips for Crowdfunding Success

At Marquette University, we’ve been using crowdfunding for just over a year, and have raised more than $53,000 for 18 different projects in that time. Here is what we have learned.

1. People donate to a cause, not a website.

It’s easy to get really hung up on which website you should use for crowdfunding. Kickstarter? IndieGoGo? GoFundMe? A customized platform? We used IndieGoGo for its branding, name recognition, and ability to create a partner page. But remember, the website is only secondary—people donate to a cause, not a website.

2. Perks can impact the tax deductibility of a crowdfunding gift.

If this is of concern, monitor perks closely. Encourage creative, non-tangible perks as much as possible. Perks as simple as a Twitter shout out are very well received.

3. Engage your core audience long before you ask for money.

While people may find it annoying to be asked for money, they do want to be part of a movement they believe in. Emphasize the stories behind your campaign and share them through social media. Signal to your audience what’s coming, and ask for their support in spreading the word about your mission, not just in donating.

4. Set realistic expectations.

You can always raise MORE than the goal you set. A goal that’s set too high will simply turn donors off, and it will raise less than its potential because it looks like it doesn’t have momentum. Most of our successfully met goals were in the $1,000-$2,000 range.

5. Expect some level of failure.

About one-third of our projects met their goal. Crowdfunding, like social media, is an experimentation in what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t. It’s okay to take a risk and learn from it because most crowdfunding campaigns don’t have sunk up-front costs.

6. It’s a lot of work.

Crowdfunding is not a magic “if you build it they will come” formula. It takes a significant time investment around devising a communication strategy, creating perks, telling your story, and promoting it consistently. Our campaigns involved university advancement, marketing and communications, finance, and teams of students in a social media analytics class.

7. Service trips are a hard sell.

It’s not impossible to raise money for service trips, but it’s not the easiest type of project, either. The more common the type of project, the harder it is to differentiate yourself.

8. The most successful campaigns are novel.

They’re attention getting in some way. Our most successful campaigns involved building robots to compete in a world robot soccer competition and a triathlon team for at-risk youth.

9. Momentum out of the gate is extremely important.

Statistically, if you raise 30 percent of your goal in the first 48 hours, you will meet your goal. If you don’t, chances are you won’t.

10. Don’t forget about email.

Social media is good for building a buzz and raising awareness, but email is often where people will pause and actually take out their credit card.

11. Face to face is important, even in an online campaign.

When we launched our campaigns, we had a pizza party to involve potential donors. It also served as a reminder that what we’re doing impacts real people, not just Twitter handles and Facebook pages.

Want more inspiration? Check out our SlideShare featuring 20 other crowdfunding institutions!

Tim Cigelske is Social Media Director at Marquette University, ranked by Klout.com as one of the 10 most influential higher-ed Twitter accounts. He teaches Social Media Analytics and Measurement in the Diederich College of Communication, and his class has used social media crowdfunding to help raise more than $50,000 for research, scholarship, service, and innovation. You can read the first chapter of his social media analytics book for free by requesting it here.