Entrepreneurs, especially in the tech community are continually looking for financing options. Crowdfunding should be one of them. Here are five tips when considering crowdfunding for your next project.
Since our post, Sourcing from the crowd: a look at crowdsourcing, crowdfunding has been gaining popularity as a preferred means of financing projects and even businesses. It is especially popular among existing and prospective entrepreneurs: those who are hoping to develop an idea into a business, and those who might already have a business going but need financing to take it to the next level – whatever that might be.
Crowdfunding is a means of securing donations, primarily financial donations, from numerous persons (the crowd), under the premise of obtaining small individual contributions towards a larger monetary target. Outside of commercial banks, typically, there are limited funding options, especially in the Caribbean, that would be amenable to supporting an untested idea, or a situation that might be considered “high risk”. Crowdfunding could be a viable alternative, and a number of websites have emerged that specialise in this approach, such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and 33needs. This post highlights five considerations should you wish to use crowdfunding, especially when your requirements cannot be established through one of the established platforms.
1. Clearly establish or understand the process through which financing can be secured
On established crowdfunding platforms, it is likely that a clear process has been established, but as a prospective user who is depending on that channel to finance your venture, it is critical that you fully understand how the platform works; its requirements, conditions, and of course, the fine print. For persons in the Caribbean, it is also important to ensure, inter alia,
- that you are eligible to use that platform
- that suitable avenues exist for funds to be delivered to you, or to other entities as you might specify, and
- that you understand possible cross-border charges that could be incurred.
In the event that an established crowdsourcing website is unsuitable for your needs, you can develop a simplified process to receive donations. Under those circumstances, it is important to clearly explain the process that has been established, along with the applicable terms, conditions and requirements. Contributors ought to be fully aware of the implications of their participation, in order to minimise possible difficulties that could be experienced in the future.
2. Be specific about the project and your requirements
On any crowdfunding platform, you would be required to be specific about your needs, but this becomes vital in a less structured set-up. Although individual donations might be relatively meagre, the contributors are all investors in your ventures. Hence do approach the exercise as if you are pitching to an Angel Investor – be genuine, specific and highlight the potential benefits of your project or idea. Regardless of the sum, you are looking for people’s buy-in, and their willingness to part with their hard-earned cash.
3. Establish a deadline by which support should be given
Setting a deadline can establish a degree of urgency for the project. The deadline should be realistic – not too long or short, as those could be a disincentive to persons to contribute. With a deadline too far away, there might be little confidence that project will be implemented; with one too close, depending on your target amount, it might seem virtually impossible to reach that amount, which can also lead to skepticism. On the other hand, a deadline could further motivate you to pursue a variety of channels to disseminate and lobby for your need, which hopefully, could result in successfully realising your monetary goal.
4. Establish a rewards system
How can you encourage persons to contribute to your venture? Commit to show your appreciation for persons’ investment in your project. It might not necessarily mean offering shares in your venture; some other token of appreciation could suffice. For example, if funding is needed to build an app, contributors receive a free copy of the app (or a one-year subscription) when completed. Or if instead the funds will be used to publish a book, commit to send signed copies to contributors. Regardless of the project, the premise is to create a win-win situation, should the requisite assistance be provided and you reach your target.
5. Provide updates and feedback
Finally, to varying degrees, the crowdfunding process is dependent on prospective contributors identifying with your need and/or your project. Hence, there are benefits to be derived from nurturing that relationship by providing regular updates on progress being made (or lack thereof) to implement your venture, and/or to reach the target amount.
Blogging and social networks can be essential tools in that regard. However, it is important to be consistent with your communication. Post or tweet regularly, and develop the conversation around your venture. Ultimately, what you should be hoping for is that people feel as if they have a vested interest in your success, which would not only foster goodwill, but could encourage others to be part of that “giving” community.