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4 Steps for Creating a Viral Crowdfunding Campaign (Part One)

WRITTEN BY SCOTT COUCHMAN

We’re at a point in time where crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter (kickstarter.com) and GoFundMe have matured into a viable and valuable market. Although these platforms focus on individuals or creative ventures, they have campaign components donors expect and nonprofits should adopt for their own crowdfunding campaigns.

After the initial writing of this article, it became far too long, so I will break this crowdfunding series into four sections, each with their own posts:

  • Preparation
  • During the Campaign
  • The Last Day
  • The days, weeks, months and years after the Campaign

As part one of a four part series, this post will cover Preparation. We’ll showcase four steps that the most successful crowdfunding campaigns take as part of their preparation, before, often well before, they launch their campaign.

4 Ways to Set Your Nonprofit’s Crowdfunding Campaign Up for Success

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Videos

Like it or not, video is the king of media consumption. Video can grab an audience like nothing else, and the best crowdfunding campaigns use video throughout.  Videos can introduce the campaign, showcase past accomplishments, get people excited for the campaign and focus supporters on what it will be about. And that’s just the “hero” video – the first thing the supporters see!

MAMBA Sports Academy Foundation's crowdfunding campaign page with an embedded video

Other videos can be employed to showcase work during the campaign, they can livestream parts or the whole event, provide testimonials, thank you’s, tours of your facility and more. Really, if you’re not using videos, you’re missing a huge component to campaign success.

Goals

Successful crowdfunding campaigns are relatively simple with goals. With $X amount of money, we can do the thing! And then they describe what that thing is, how they’re going to achieve it, and more. Which is perfect content for those videos, but also for messages, emails, and more.

What do you want the campaign to achieve? What is your story that you want to tell so that your supporters can help you reach that goal? Whether it is an explicit goal, like “$10,000 will provide all the school books for a year for this school in Africa” or more malleable, like “for every dollar raised we can help more of the homeless” you need that goal, you need that reason, that story, for your supporters to want to donate.  A lot of organizations get this and have their story in place and can speak to it. Can you?

Mental Health America of Central Carolina's crowdfunding campaign with progress bar indicating a large goal for campaign.

Crowdfunding campaigns started by individuals also do something that doesn’t show up too often in nonprofit campaigns, and that’s the idea of “stretch goals.”  The idea of a stretch goal is what do you do once you’ve reached your main goal? Really popular crowdfunding campaigns  reach their goal in minutes after it goes live.  I have seen many nonprofits have this “issue.”  They significantly underestimated how well their campaign would do, and then scrambled to adjust their goals to keep those donations flowing.  Instead of scrambling and readjusting the goal, consider the stretch goal concept.

Stretch goals can take many forms. In the most successful crowdfunding campaigns, they have a huge number of goals already in place. If they hit their main goal of, say, $10,000, then everyone can celebrate a win right out of the gate, but then a new goal, a new level appears. You can now do the thing you wanted, but with the new goal, you can add on this other piece to the overall puzzle.  Sometimes it is a straight monetary goal. Sometimes it is a number of donors. Sometimes it’s a reach goal: how many supporters can share about the campaign on different social media.

What is the prize for achieving that goal? Why should your supporters care? For nonprofits, there is the main focus of being able to do more, but it can also be fun things. An example of this recently shared was where the head of the school would jump in the lake by his home (41 degree water temperature!) for every $10,000 raised. Other goals could be sharing more videos of the guest entertainment from an event or really anything you put your mind to. 

Have your goal and stretch goals ready so you can feed the flame of excitement with your supporters.

Impact Metrics

In successful crowdfunding campaigns started by individuals and start-ups, there are different levels of support. One dollar puts you on the list so you can follow the campaign as it happens. $50 gets you the “thing.” $150 gets you the limited edition thing or multiple things or the thing and all its add-ons, etc.

Great River School's Blue Heron Bash's impact metrics, indicating what each dollar raised will provide the school.

Nonprofits very frequently do this too. What does a $20 donation do? What about a $200 donation?  Giving these options, including the “I just want to help / keep in touch” option gives your supporters something to hold onto, “I just provided meals to a homeless family for a week.” It gives them a narrative, not just a donation. And often non-profits provide gifts back to the donors at different levels.

Platforms like Kickstarter and MobileCause can get fancy with this. Limit the donation cost to a fixed price and call it the Early Bird level. Have different levels for different types of supporters (can you say sponsors?). And this is very important, let your existing lists of supporters know about those Early Bird levels well in advance of the campaign.

Want to learn more about MobileCause’s crowdfunding and peer-to-peer capabilities?

Communication

By communicating when the campaign will kick off, you get them excited. By letting them know there will be special benefits to contributing “first” they will be sure to mark it on their calendars and watch for when it goes live. If they can see that a level is almost filled, they will be more inclined to donate then and there rather than donating later in the campaign. Give them signup forms to collect their email and their phone numbers so you can text and email them when the campaign is about to go live.

Send a few teasers about the campaign. Make it a production, unveil what you’re doing in stages and build that momentum and excitement. If you’re excited about your campaign, your supporters will be excited, so build that up!

And then keep it going throughout the campaign… But that’s a post for another day.

Sexual Trauma Awareness & Responose's crowdfunding campaign page for their Variety Show.

Scott Couchman
Training Manager
MobileCause

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Our goal at MobileCause is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how MobileCause can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.

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