How not to crowdfund to an empty room


Throwing out a crowdfunding campaign into the wild of the internet without a plan is the online equivalent of pitching to an empty room. Perhaps you think crowdfunding campaigns draw their funds from random visitors that find you online. Many people actually think this (even when they don’t admit it) – and that’s why they invest hundreds, even thousands of dollars in online advertising for a crowdfunding campaign. While this works for a sliver of organizations, it doesn’t for the VAST majority.

Are you the sliver? Do you save the lives of babies and children or adorable pets? Do you answer the call for an emergency that needs absolute IMMEDIATE action? Go for it. Throw up a campaign, invest in some heartstring-pulling, emotional, visual advertising – then bring in your past donors who see you via those ads, as well as new donors.

Or are you the VAST majority: causes that span the gamut of education, year-round human service, religion, health, …um, pretty much all of you. How do you crowdfund effectively to raise an ambitious goal without an eager crowd, ready and waiting to help?

No crowd? You do what you ALWAYS do / avoid doing: You gather a committee. Someone somewhere just said, “Aw geez…. you mean working with PEOPLE?? I thought that was what crowdfunding was going to allow us to skip!!!!” Not if you want to do it well. You need a crowd to crowdfund the significant mid-tier donations that actually move you toward your goal, and that means building a committee.

Giving is social. “Relationship” gifts – are based on “relationships.” Crowdfunding enables you to engage your supporters in opening their relationships to supporting your cause, on a grassroots level – from anywhere at any time. You need to focus engaging your 1st circle of supporters to become your inner circle. Influencers. To share their passion for this cause with their friends and encourage them to be a part of this change – as their friend.

Engaging your inner circle of 5-10 people to put together the crowdfunding with you in crafting the message, the prospecting list, user-generated content, and recruiting more influencers increases the capacity of your crowdfunding campaign 5- to 100-fold. Not all of them should be involved in all parts. Your business people help you with your prospecting and solicitations. Your creatives help with your marketing. Your socializers help rally their friends. Now you have the makings of a crowdfunding campaign – because your email list, your personal network, and now their personal networks are the targeted and untargeted members of your campaign.

Skip engaging your inner circle as your committee – and meeting your remotely ambitious crowdfunding goal is a shot in the dark. With your committee – and proper planning with them: you can prospect your way to your goal in advance of your campaign, share the message of what you do with way larger circles, and deepen your relationship with your inner circle – which I always recommend.


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