You wouldn’t host a fundraising event without creating a plan first, right? You’d need time to find a venue, secure volunteers, finalize your budget, and send out invitations. The same rules apply to crowdfunding— you must spend ample time preparing to succeed.
So, before you press “post” for your digital campaign, there are a few essential prerequisites you can complete to achieve your crowdfunding potential. These steps are usually completed in what’s known as the “pre-launch phase,” which includes all of the research, planning, and preparation that goes into creating a stellar crowdfunding campaign.
The pre-launch phase is the most important crowdfunding phase as it can help you maximize your revenue and make necessary adjustments before your campaign goes live. To set you up for success, we’ll review the steps you need to take to gain crowdfunding traction. Let’s dive in!
1. Define clear goals
As with any other fundraising project, your crowdfunding campaign can benefit from clearly defined goals to measure success. And, because crowdfunding is incredibly flexible, you can tailor these goals to your cause. For example, an animal welfare organization’s crowdfunding SMART goals could be:
- Specific: Raise funds to support legal and advocacy efforts aimed at implementing stronger animal rights within the organization’s region.
- Measurable: Raise a defined financial target such as $50,000 in crowdfunding support.
- Achievable: The organization would base this crowdfunding goal on previous campaign performance data to gauge donor-giving capacity.
- Relevant: For an animal advocacy group, the crowdfunding campaign could emphasize the direct connection between crowdfunded support and stronger animal rights laws.
- Time-Bound: The organization would set a clear start and end date with milestones to mark progress.
Additionally, nonprofit crowdfunding goals would need to be compared to the organization’s overall fundraising strategy to avoid overlap and maximize peak giving times. For instance, an organization could plan strategic awareness campaigns leading up to the crowdfunding launch to spread the word and expand its reach.
2. Research and choose the right platform
Next, you need to choose a platform that complements your organization’s size, cause, and operating budget. Research platforms that have experienced success with similar causes to yours and look into how they structured their campaign for inspiration. Resources like Fundly’s roundup of 30+ crowdfunding websites can help guide your search.
To help narrow down your choices, ensure your chosen platform prioritizes these key features:
- Donor experience. Choose a platform that makes the donor payment process painless through a secure payment processing system.
- Usability. Your crowdfunding platform should be easy to set up and edit with intuitive design tools, tracking tools, and customization options.
- Integrations. Make sure your software can integrate with other marketing channels such as email, website, or social media to reach more supporters.
- Engagement tools. Look for a crowdfunding platform that allows you to easily engage with comments and provide updates throughout your campaign.
- Multimedia support. To make your cause more appealing, choose a platform that supports video and easy image upload.
Be mindful of the various fee structures associated with each platform have an alternative platform ready if your top choice doesn’t align with your budget.
For instance, some platforms only allow fundraisers to keep the money they’ve raised if they reach their predefined goals. On the other hand, other platforms promote a “keep it all” approach which means that fundraisers keep all money raised (minus any standard fees), regardless of whether they’ve reached their goal.
3. Develop your story
Reference your goals to craft a succinct and memorable story that explains your cause and inspires support. Keep your story as straightforward as possible while maintaining a tone that makes sense for your audience and cause. For example, an organization raising money for disaster relief efforts will take a more direct and serious tone.
There are a few storytelling approaches you can turn to for inspiration. These include:
- A problem and solution approach. Outline the problem facing your community or beneficiaries, and discuss your organization’s solution. For example, solutions to obstructed water access might be water purification systems or borewells.
- An emotionally driven approach. Use personal narratives to pull on supporters’ heartstrings and fuel your cause. Explain why support is urgently needed to fulfill a need. In this case, an organization could highlight a specific community’s struggle for clean water. Just ensure that you have permission from your beneficiaries to publicize their story.
- A future vision approach. Give your audience an idea of how the funds will be used to foster hope and revitalization. Keep your tone positive. For example, the same campaign could say, “We imagine a day where people don’t walk for miles for clean water”.
Use these basic storytelling techniques as prompts to explain your campaign and inspire support. Whatever tone you land on, keep your messaging consistent across your email streams, social media profiles, and other channels to unify your message.
4. Design a pre-launch campaign page
Design a pre-launch page to spread the word. The purpose of this page is to gather early supporters and valuable feedback before your campaign goes live. Specifically, you can track the number of visitors and use it as a ‘newsletter sign up’ option where supporters can receive regular campaign updates.
Key elements to include in your pre-launch page include:
- A summary of your campaign
- Media elements such as photos or teaser videos
- Any early-bird perks such as merchandise or other rewards
- The ‘go live’ date
- Embedded sharing to social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram
- A link to your main website for more information
Post links to this page on your social media channels, website, and email newsletters to track where traffic is coming from and adjust your strategy accordingly. As an example, if most of your traffic is coming from social media, you might create more campaign content for that channel than previously scheduled to take advantage of the influx.
5. Build your social media strategy
Crowdfunding and social media go hand and hand, which is why your social media strategy should be well thought out before your campaign begins. You can create a content calendar in advance to link to your pre-launch page and post engaging, interactive content such as:
- Challenges and contests to spread the word and create more user-generated content opportunities.
- Polls or online quizzes to test your audience’s knowledge and interest in your crowdfunding cause.
- Testimonials explaining the value of your mission and why support is needed.
- Co-creator collaborations to tap into new audiences and invite others to learn more about your cause.
Consider joining forces with an influencer before your campaign goes live to ramp up your awareness. According to NXUnite’s guide to nonprofit influencers, these individuals “specialize in a certain niche to establish credibility and assure others that their endorsements are authentic.” With their large followings and expertise, you’ll be able to amass a larger crowd.
Don’t launch your crowdfunding campaign without a plan. Follow these tips to flesh out the details and proactively solve problems before they cause campaign slowdowns. Take special care to build your supporter base early via social media and email so they’re more likely to rally for your cause once it goes live. Happy crowdfunding!