Outsource Your Way to Crowdfunding Success

Technology, that doubled-edged sword, has simplified our lives, but it has also drowned us in details, with an endless parade of tiny tasks needing our attention.

Crowdfunding is devilishly full of details that are too much to handle for the average human trying to go it alone. It’s the reason many people decide crowdfunding is not for them — who has the time?

Well, thanks to technology, it’s now easy to get an assistant to help manage the minutia!

Confused

Virtual assistants (VAs) are a cloud-based way to outsource those menial, repetitive, and rote tasks, leaving you to keep your crowdfunding goal on track, big-picture style — which is to say, to greater effect and much more efficiently.

To read more go to my Tip of the Week column on Crowdsourcing.org

 

Need a Scary Platform for Your Next Halloween Project?

I’ve been aware of HauntNav, the only crowdfunding platform specifically designed for spooky projects, but today just seemed like the right one to feature them. What the heck is HauntNav? It’s a platform to raise funds for projects that explore scary stuff. Think paranormal investigations (EVP equipment isn’t cheap, you know), gory films, games, books, comics or graphics—and that’s just for starters.

And they are dead serious about it.

Other than the fact that they are dealing in blood and gore, HauntNav, is pretty much like any other platform. They’ve got a Funding 101 page that takes creators through the fundamentals such as how to define your goal, choose perks, and building and promoting your project. They even have a how-to-make-a-pitch-video tutorial.

Currently live, Scary Peeper Prank Prop could use your help to finalize the creation of something that will scare the bejesus out of your loved ones. Check out how it works here. Contribute now and have your very own Scary Peeper for next Halloween!


It’s Halloween so here’s some TMI for you.  I don’t read People magazine but I’ve always been hooked on the idea of “lifting the veil” to explore other realms that might exist out there. Are ghosts real? Do people really commune with the dead? I indulge my fascination by watching TV shows on the topic. There are tons of them, so don’t be so smug until you watch one yourself; you might just pulled into the vortex of darkness, too.

For example, I love to watch  The Haunting Of in which celebrities who’ve had encounters with “the other side” come clean for the camera—right in the comfort of  my own home. Did you know Joan Rivers lives with a spirit who visits her almost nightly? Yep.

If camp and big hair is your thing you’ve got to check out Long Island Medium. From the response she gets from people when she channels their loved ones, Theresa Caputo is the real deal.

Are you scared yet?

Boo! And Happy Halloween!

Crowdfunding Planning: Strategic Thinking vs. Tactical Thinking

I’ve been guilty of it myself: using the words strategy and tactics interchangeably. Beyond semantics, however, if you’re hazy on the difference, your crowdfunding preparation will be too. So formulate your plan in the correct order.

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Make sure you don’t to jump from your goal, which is the measurable objective—let’s say it’s raising $10,000—and go straight to the tactics, which are the actions you take in order to achieve your goal.

Your strategy is your vision of how to attain your goal. It should be a consciously and purposefully devised plan, and one that you can clearly communicate.

Here are the components of a Strategy:

  • Understanding your story and your brand
  • Having firm grasp of the big picture
  • Having an intimate knowledge of your market
  • Knowing your competition
  • Making a realistic assessment of your weaknesses

Here are some components of Tactics:

  • Tools
  • Logistics
  • Hacks

Have you heard of the “what if” test? It’s sometimes called Sensitivity Analysis and it’s a tool that allows you to test whether you are putting forth a strategy or a tactic. Simply ask the question to determine if it contains an idea. If it does, you have a strategy; if not, it’s just a tactic.

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Let’s say with your $10,000 goal you want to create, and star in your own reality TV show about buying run-down properties, fixing them up and flipping them for a profit. You feel qualified because you love real estate, you have taken a couple of architecture classes, you’re a great bargain hunter, you do great under pressure, and you acted a lot in college and always got the lead roles.

Is all that enough?

Using the above example, ask yourself:

  •  What if I create a reality show to renovate and flip houses? (Strategy)
  • What if I write a treatment? (Tactic)
  • What if I make a great demo tape? (Tactic)
  • What if I move to LA? (Tactic)
  • What if befriend industry professionals like  television agents, real estate brokers, builders, and contractors (Tactic)

Considering there are at least five other similar reality TV shows just like your idea that already exist, if you start to implement all those tactics without making sure you have all your strategy components in place, you won’t get far, right?

I know what you’re thinking: This is a far-fetched example! But it works because it starkly illustrates whether you’re working strategically or tactically—because sometimes it’s really hard to wrap our heads around the difference.

People want to jump into tactics because they are actions, and actions make us feel like we’re moving our agenda forward. With so many tools out there—and more being developed faster than you can bookmark them—creating crowdfunding tactics is, relatively speaking, the easy part. It’s the strategy that’s tougher.

So whether your tactics include marketing automation, split testing, or the latest, hottest hack—all great tools to have in your arsenal—be sure to proceed with a clear strategy before deploying them. Otherwise all those time savers will produce the opposite effect.

Get in front of your idea. (Strategy) Don’t count on tactics to push you to the finish line. (Strategy)

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Image scourtesy of:

What if Explain xkcd

JohnSpencerEllis

 

 

Blogger Fee for Service? Know Your Rights

Tip of the Week

Given all the digital “ink” crowdfunding consultants have given to finding bloggers and influencers to write about your campaign, it’s time to put the microscope on these relationships.

It seems bloggers have gotten into the habit of requesting a monetary quid pro quo for a write up. Fair enough many say, considering the long hours they devote to putting out their product without benefit of a steady paycheck.

With money on the line, however, it’s all the more important that crowdfunders vet those bloggers, establish contractual parameters, and determine that they are operating within the law—prior to payment.

The best way to do that is to read the guidelines set forth by Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for “digital advertising.” You should read the most recent report in full, but here are some highlights so you understand how your blog article will appear when the guidelines are followed:

To continue reading, please go to this week’s installment of my Tip of the Week column on crowdsourcing.org.

How to Grab an Influencer’s Attention and Keep It

This is a guest post by Chris Bashinelli. He wrote me a killer pitch email, which I wrote about, and I thought my readers could learn if he dove more deeply into the idea of writing effectively in order to get your influencers’ attention. Enjoy! And don’t forget to let me know what you think, too.

You want to crowdfund your project. It will help you significantly to have a few influential bloggers behind you. How can you grab their attention?

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Nobody has time to read your email, take your phone call, or watch your movie. There is a never-ending stream of content on the web, on television, and in print.  Why should they listen to you?

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

When someone opens your email, answers your phone call, or clicks play on your film they are often looking for one thing and one thing only—value. What is the value in it for them? Will your content bring them laughter, excitement, or joy? Are you offering them information they cannot get anywhere else? Is your mission so selfless that you’re giving them an innovative way to help humanity?

Here are the rules for engaging anyone from an influential blogger, to a corporate sponsor, to a celebrity you’d like to partner with. This strategy can be used in almost any form of communication—be it written, voice, print or film.

The formula described here is the same formula I used to escort Forest Whitaker from the United Nations, to create a National TV program on PBS and to garner the attention of their blog’s chief editor.

Forest Whitaker was speaking at a panel in the United Nations. When the event ended he was swarmed by hundreds of fans. I grabbed his attention and walked him back to his hotel. Here’s the formula at work:

1. I stopped and screamed atop my lungs “No more photographs, no more pictures, Mr. Whitaker has to leave the building!” I grabbed his attention and offered value by offering to get him back to his hotel. [Cold Open, see below]

2. In this case, I simply ‘acted as if’ I was working for him, and the confidence inspired other people to pay attention. [Credibility, see below]

3. My value to him was getting him away from crazed fans. My project was a series I’d just filmed in Uganda exploring the benefits of fair trade. My ask was to be connected with his personal assistant to set up an interview at a future date. [3 W’s, see below]

The Formula in Action

1. COLD OPEN: In television a cold open is the first moment people see on screen. If done well, it’s an exciting moment that catches people attention and makes them want to keep watching. This moment will often be out of context, but intriguing enough that people will want to know more. It is the most important part of any engagement. If not strong, people may turn off the channel. The same goes for your first email or phone call to a potential project backer.

Your cold open, your first line of communication must offer value to the reader. In the case of a television program, your value can come by evoking an emotion from the viewer.

When reaching out to potential funders you may have to alter your approach. Can you write a guest post on their blog? Are you an expert in some niche field in which they want access? Is your story so inspirational it will make them cry?

Some successful email headings I’ve used include:

“Nat Geo Blog Post”

“Chris from Dr. Jane Goodall”

“Your Company + PBS?”

2. CREDIBILITY: You’ve gotten the viewer’s attention with a strong cold open, now they’re wondering who you are. Are you just another person asking for money? Identify what you have done that separates you from the crowd. Lay in your credentials. If you don’t have a flashy title like “United Nations Guest Speaker” your credibility can come from a passionate connection to your topic.

Perhaps you’re producing a short film to raise awareness about a certain type of cancer. Did you lose someone close to you? If so, share that. Do not do it in a way that evokes pity, rather, do it in a way that evokes compassion. Share how your project will help spread awareness for your cause and how this person’s support will further that mission.

3. WHAT CAN YOU OFFER, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, WHAT DO YOU WANT [AKA the 3 Ws]:
These items are grouped together for a reason. There should be enough of a connection between what you’re doing, what you want, and what you can offer, so that they blend together. Make sure to get to the point. In as few words as possible share what your project is, what you’d like from the reader, and your win-win exchange. It’s very possible that you’ve already stated or hinted at what you can offer in your cold open, and it’s fine to repeat that again.

Make sure that you have a clear request of the person you’ve contacted. They should not have to contact you again to make their decision. Would you like a tweet? An endorsement? A phone call for some advice? If so, ask for it. Keep it short. If your email is less than 100 words, fantastic.

If you found this post useful consider click Here to check out my Indiegogo project. It’s a web series for National Geographic where I’ll be living as a nomad in Mongolia.

An Open Letter To Kickstarter

Dear Kickstarter,

I was recently contacted via Twitter by Juan Carlos Mendoza, the creator of Shelby and the Bread Factory, a short film, for which he ran a Kickstarter campaign.

Mendoza was asking for me to tweet out my support for his new campaign—same film project, same $30K goal—but this one was running on Indiegogo.

Why a second campaign for the same project? The more we corresponded, the more confused I became.

According to Mendoza, his campaign, which successfully funded on May 27, was suspended by you on May 29 without ceremony and, in fact, without any notification whatsoever from your office.

He found out when he began getting calls, texts and tweets from backers asking what was up. They wanted to know why their money had been returned.

“When I logged on to my Amazon account, the majority of the backer transactions had already completed and there was $27,000 in my account.” Shortly thereafter those funds disappeared.

Because you don’t post a contact phone number, Kickstarter, and since Mendoza lives in New York, he headed to your Manhattan office to get some answers.

Here’s how that meeting went.

When Mendoza and I finally spoke I grilled him for possible explanations. He’s had a couple of months to ponder these, of course, and had already spent countless, fruitless hours considering where things may have gone wrong, how he may have possibly transgressed the agreement he’d made with you.

Mendoza admits that early on he did unwittingly break a rule. “I had learned that off line events were a good way of raising funds,” Mendoza says. Some friends hosted an event on April 29, which raised about $900.

“People contributed in cash but we wanted to be able to give them credit for their contributions.” So after putting the cash in his personal account, the friend that hosted the event made separate donations under each backers’ name by using his own credit card to fund the donations.

On May 1, Mendoza received this email from you, Kickstarter

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Mendoza immediately went about correcting your concerns and you sent this follow-up email the following day. So he felt pretty confident you two were on good terms again.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 2.54.49 PMThings continued to hum along, with Mendoza and his team working the usual grueling hours required of any successful crowdfunding campaign. What happened next is another event that may have put Mendoza’s project on a collision course with you. If it is, Mendoza’s willing to take responsibility for it, even though he was not intentionally trying to game the system, he says. You could clear it up in an instant, Kickstarter, if only you were willing to communicate with Mendoza.

“The only thing that comes to mind is this fundraising event that was hosted by Corey Ortega, a New York City Councilman.”  Mendoza says. The contact came through a friend. The filmmaker and the councilman talked. They hit it off, with Ortega ultimately agreeing to host his event.

What prompted Ortega’s support, Mendoza feels, is that because they are both Latino men, Ortega saw Mendoza “as an example of what is possible to achieve in your life when you work hard. And this is a message that is very important to me, too.” Mendoza says.

Mendoza, however, is quick to point out, “I have no particular interest in politics, and I did not endorse Ortega’s campaign or political party. I simply got some help fundraising.”

The event took place on May 25 at Ortega’s office. In order to avoid repeating their previous transgression, and to remain fully transparent, Mendoza projected his Kickstarter page at the event so that each backer could physically contribute him or herself. The event raised $1400.

Could this have been why you suspended Mendoza’s campaign, Kickstarter?

After the May 29 suspension, and because all his efforts to communicate with you were met with same recitation of your policy not to comment, Mendoza scoured your Terms of Agreement. Like many of us in similar positions, he fully acknowledges that he did not read those terms before clicking the “agree” button.

“But even if I had,” he says, “the terms say a creator cannot endorse a political party. It would never have dawned on me that that’s how our event was perceived.” In fact,” he says, “if you go to our update page you’ll see that I posted lots of photos of the event. I was trying to broadcast it to our backers as another one of our hard-won efforts to reach our goal. I was not trying to hide it.” (Updates can only be viewed by backers.)

In an even more bizarre turn, even though you suspended the campaign on May 29, you have also kept it active. This means that to date Mendoza has received three correspondences from you, Kickstarter. The most recent of which appears here.

KS July 8 update

Additionally at least one backer has gotten a notification about how to go about claiming her reward. Mendoza can’t get himself to see if other backers have been similarly notified. “It almost feels like a form of harassment, or adding insult to injury,” he says.

What if this is some grand misunderstanding? Aren’t you even curious to look into this, Kickstarter?

“I wanted to share with you the entry to Kickstarter’s blog, titled “We were wrong,” Mendoza wrote to me by email recently.

As you recall, Kickstarter, it involved the “seduction guide” Kickstarter campaign, which many people asked you to remove, and you declined. The blog post admits you were in error and clarifies that your “processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained.”

Mendoza might beg to differ. The post also reveals some troubling inconsistencies. So read the post in full and then let’s backtrack together on the timing of Mendoza’s campaign suspension.

Of the “seduction guide” campaign you wrote:

The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly.”

And this:

“First, there is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact. When the project was funded the backers’ money went directly from them to the creator. We missed the window.”

In response Mendoza says, “I have no idea when Kickstarter began investigating my project, but I do know that backers had already been charged when we were canceled.”  That means that based on the May 27 campaign completion and the May 29 suspension you did act after the fact, Kickstarter.

Incidentally, it’s also inaccurate to say that funds are “directly released to creators.” If they had been released directly to Mendoza we would not be corresponding now.

Additionally, the We Were Wrong blog post appeared on June 21, which puts it about three weeks after you canceled Shelby and the Bread Factory, so it doesn’t appear that you changed your position between then and suspending Mendoza’s project.

Exhausted, broke, and now working without his core team that he relied on during his Kickstarter campaign (other commitments and similar financial woes prevented it), Mendoza relaunched on Indiegogo on July 12. At press time, and with 15 days remaining, the campaign has raised $8503. Mendoza is sure he can recapture the backers he lost when his Kickstarter went belly up.

But that shouldn’t be the end of it.

“I am as transparent as can be,” Mendoza says. “I have worked endlessly to bring this, my first personal film project, to life. Even if their policy is to not comment, if we violated the terms of agreement at minimal there should be some dialogue. We should not have to go through this.

Yet after numerous attempts to reach you, Kickstarter, you have still yet to respond. I am hoping you will make an exception in this case and get back with Juan Carlos Mendoza. I know he’d love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Rose Spinelli

 

 

 

How To Choose Social Media Platforms To Engage Your Crowdfunding Audience

How you choose social media platforms to engage your crowdfunding audience is crucial. Whatever you do don’t try to be active on all of them.  You’ll be a bedraggled shell of a human in your valiant attempt but it won’t get you far because you won’t be engaging, you’ll just skimming the surface and that’s not enough.  So I asked my colleague Lorie Parch, who’s got some great social media strategy chops, to break down the big boys for you so that you may choose wisely.

Facebook

 

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As of May 2013  over 1.1 billion monthly active users are on Facebook. With such vast reach, it’s unlikely that your social media strategy will not include Facebook, and you may want to focus primarily or even solely on Facebook if that’s where your audience hangs out.

Facebook’s mobile users are up hugely, to 751 million, so be sure that the execution of your social strategy for your campaign looks great on mobile devices across all the platforms you’re using as well.

If you haven’t created a brand page before, go to Facebook’s Help section; there’s a section there called “Build Your Facebook Page” and within that there’s another helpful section called “Growing Your Audience” that discusses best practices for posting.

Twitter 

 

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Twitter is a “real-time information network. It has about 550 million users. There’s an art to using those 140 characters wisely, though that’s a class in itself. But there’s no shortage of information about best practices. To get started using Twitter for business check out Twitter’s “basics” section, which covers things like hashtags, establishing your brand personality, how to tweet well, and measuring how well you’re doing on Twitter. The platform also has special information for small organizations and for nonprofits and organizations. Because Twitter has such a large reach, like Facebook it should probably be part of your strategy to gain more followers and increase awareness of and donations to your crowdfunding campaign.

(If you’re wondering if the people you’re trying to reach use the social platforms you’re thinking of targeting, check out this excellent report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, published in February 2013. It has great insights.)

Google+

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Figures vary when it comes to the growth and numbers of users on Google+, which just turned two (it was launched in 2011). In January 2013, Forbes.com reported that Google+ surpassed Twitter as the second-largest social media platform, with 343 million users. That means that, if you believe the people you’re trying to reach are on Google+, you should consider including the platform (as well as YouTube, which Google owns) in your strategy as well.

LinkedIn

Linkedin

With over 225 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is clearly a powerhouse and your strongest networks are likely to be on this site—those that are specialized to your industry or profession. With nearly two-thirds of LinkedIn members located outside the U.S., this platform may be a particular boon to those with a globally-focused campaign.  Given that LinkedIn is a professional networking site, it may be more useful in making your professional network aware of your campaign without explicitly asking for donations.

Pinterest & Instagram

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Though each of these platforms is a powerhouse in its own right, in order to keep this information succinct, we’re lumping them together since they are both highly visual platforms: Pinterest allows you to “pin” and share photos/images on “boards”, while Instagram features photos and now short video.  So if your campaign is very visually driven and/or the audience you’re targeting for finding donors is, you may want to consider one or both of these.

 

Tumblr

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The Pew report found that just 6% of Web users use Tumblr, which was recently bought by Yahoo, so it remains to be seen if the service will change in some way, including being integrated with Yahoo, which has a very large user base. If you’re targeting a very young audience, though, for your campaign, it may be worth trying Tumblr to reach them. According to Pew, 13% of those 18-29 are blogging on Tumblr.”

 Lastly, it’s worth mentioning something pretty obvious but still very important: “Social” isn’t limited to online. So don’t forget to consider and cultivate the opportunities you have to reach out in person, by phone, by text, or by email to people you know in casting the widest net possible.

By Lorie A. Parch a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and social media strategist. She runs 828 Communications, a small content strategy and creation firm.

 

Text, Perks and Videos: The Mother Tongue of Crowdfunding

Recently I had the pleasure of addressing a talented group of film students who attend a media arts college in Chicago. They were assigned the task of running a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a portion of their “capstone” film. This is a progressive school.

No advance crowdfunding training was given to the students; they were simply directed to the Indiegogo platform and left to their own devices. The assumption, I suppose, was that the brains of 20-somethings are hard-wired to handily grasp and navigate anything in the online space. They would figure it out.

ImelenchónMorgueFile

Oh, and they had a week to launch.

The campaigns were not going as well as expected. So when they were asked if they wanted any advice they jumped at the chance to resuscitate their campaigns, and I was invited in.

I called it a “speed consulting” session because I took the rather mercenary role of your typical busy browser. I showed them how such a viewer would vet, react, and judge their campaigns—that is to say they would do it very speedily, especially if they caught any whiff of a fatal flaw.

Though a project creator can lose a potential donor for a range of peccadillos, fatal flaws usually consist of the three primary crowdfunding components: the video, the narrative, and the perks. Boom. Boom. Boom. I gave them my first impressions. It wasn’t a very fair process but they were forewarned, and I was otherwise gentle and supportive.

The day was as eye opening for me as it was for the film students. There is a vast range of how-to-crowdfund advice to be found and consumed, and the students thought they had studied up. What we all learned is worth imparting here because no one is immune to the pitfalls. The fact is the devil is indeed in the details. And the details can’t be conveyed well when you rush to go live.

The video: This was surprisingly a weak link. Though production values were high, they spent more time on flare than on actually painting a clear picture of what their films were about.

The narrative: In the spirit of transparency and the idea of relationship building, too much time was spent talking about themselves and what they wanted. As a result the narratives came across as one-sided, maybe even a tad narcissistic.

The perks: Catchphrases meant to entice, such as “limited availability,” and “30-minute Skype sessions” were employed. But perks that may be special in one campaign could fall flat in another.

What became clear pretty quickly to me was a failure to grasp the nuances of tips they had read about. It’s important to read and listen to the advice, but internalizing it well enough to execute your project well takes time, attention to detail, and work.

Think of it in terms of speaking a foreign language. I speak workaday Italian pretty well and understand it even better. But invite me into a deep and layered conversation with a native speaker and I get into trouble. I don’t have a handle on the colloquialisms, slang expressions fail me, and I can’t find the right idiom for what I’d like to express.  I’ve attempted to directly translate an English idiom to Italian.  From the expressions I’ve been met with I quickly realize that this does not work.

Crowdfunding is a little like that. It can be humbling. It takes time to get right. The more effort you spend learning the “language” of crowdfunding before you go live the more chances you’ll have to succeed.

Photo credit: Morguefile