How to crowdfund your dream project

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Deakin University digital marketing team member, Tom Higgins, has first-hand experience crowdfunding a project. And not just any project. He and his former colleagues successfully produced The Weatherman, the world’s first crowdfunded television series. The series was optioned by 20th Century Fox and received global media coverage. He shares insights from his experience here.

So you’ve got a great idea and need money to make it a reality. You’re ready to put it out there on a crowdfunding platform, raise the capital you need, quit your job and chase that dream. I’ve been there, and I know the appeal. When my team decided to make the world’s first crowdfunded television series, The Weatherman, we thought it would be simple. Well, it wasn’t. You can’t just create a Pozible profile and wait for the dollars to roll in – to crowdfund you need to promote the project and constantly engage with potential backers.

Refine your idea
Make sure you have an idea that is worthy of investment. You’re asking people to part with their money, so you owe it to them to ensure the project is carefully considered from every angle. For example, my team produced a proof-of-concept pilot episode before our crowdfunding campaign began, and this formed a major part of our pitch to backers.

Create a strong pitch
No matter what your project, start by creating a compelling, professional pitch that summarises your idea and where you plan to take it once funded. Let the project dictate the shape the pitch takes and use the form that best conveys the goals and concept of your project. Powerpoint, printed booklets, video or a web site are all options, but don’t limit yourself to these methods. The pitch is your project’s initial impression on an audience, so make it interesting and engaging.

Plan the project and set a goal
Plan what the project will entail, the resources needed and then estimate the project budget. Slightly overestimating is always better, but be realistic. Set a funding goal that is low enough to be attainable, but large enough to fund your project. Set it too high and you won’t reach the goal, but set it too low and you might not be able to deliver.

Know your audience
This is important because it will drive the content that you create for your campaign, ensuring you’re engaging with the right people. What sort of person is most likely to fund this project? Have one primary audience in mind, with at least two more supporting. If you’re going down the incentive-based funding path, then knowing your audience will also help you develop rewards for them, based on pledge amounts.

Choose your platform
A critical part to successful crowdfunding is choosing the right platform. With the explosion in popularity of crowdfunding, there are now hundreds of platforms to choose from. Kickstarter and Pozible are two of the most popular, but look for a platform that has the right mix of backing similar projects and a large enough audience for you to reach. In addition to your funding platform, consider if it’s useful to start a Facebook page, Twitter account or blog.

Create a content calendar
Communicate with your backers and potential backers throughout the project: tell them your progress, engage them with interesting content and get them invested in your success. Plan your content, creating a 2:1 content split for your primary to secondary audiences. Mix it up – videos should be a big part of your content plan, but utilise blog posts and social media as well. Decide on the optimal frequency to communicate, and best channels to use. Don’t make your calendar so rigid that there is little room to move if you miss the mark initially.

Engage with your audience
Treat your campaign as a full-time job and communicate with everyone who shows an interest in your project. Everyone is a potential promoter, so treat your audience as part of your team, and hopefully they’ll promote you to their personal networks.

Be flexible in your content creation and engagement. Look for different ways to reach your audience. You’re asking people to donate their money, so you have to give them your passion in return. Take on their feedback. Be open and honest, and most importantly, always maintain a dialogue.

Check out how Deakin University is using crowdfunding to fund critical projects.