Today’s post is a case study with sustainable living educator, Laura Trotta.
Laura used her blog to crowdfund more than AUD 37,000 for sustainability initiatives, including the construction of her Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs membership site and her trip to Antarctica to participate in a global sustainability program.
Here’s how she did it.
When I launched my eco-living blog lauratrotta.com in late 2015, I never imagined it would become the launchpad for crowdfunding substantial amounts of money to grow my business (and my impact). I simply saw it as my main platform to inspire and educate others to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Yet just months after launching, the combination of my vision and tight funds had me looking at alternate funding sources to design and build a membership platform for my online eco-living programs.
I didn’t have the finances invest in the project and develop it to the quality I wanted (and my followers expected). So I decided to crowdfund the project.
And the rest is history.
Within a few weeks I raised more than AUD 15,000 (more than enough to cover the project costs), and had 54 members in my Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs membership community.
Buoyed by the success of this initial campaign, a year later I ran a second campaign and raised more than AUD 22,000 to secure my ship berth to Antarctica as part of the Homeward Bound program.
I was selected as one of 80 female scientists worldwide to travel to Antarctica for a climate change and women in science initiative. But this once in a lifetime opportunity came with a hefty price tag that could financially sink my family.
With the payment deadline to secure my ship berth fast approaching I asked my online following for support via (you guessed it) a crowdfunding campaign.
And I’m so glad I did. Not only did I raise the funds to accept my selection, I helped 200 supporters become part of something special.
I could go on and on about how crowdfunding through my blog has helped me. But I’d much rather take a closer look at how it can help you.
Whether it’s securing funding upfront, catapulting their visibility, or seeing if a business concept will fly, more and more bloggers and entrepreneurs are turning to crowdfunding over traditional forms of finance.
In fact, 2015 saw an estimated US$34 billion worldwide being raised by crowdfunding.
In this post I’ll explain what crowdfunding is and how it works. I’ll also share five benefits of crowdfunding (only one is financial), and why you should consider it not just to raise capital, but also to grow your blog—and your business.
What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is about raising capital for a project or venture upfront by receiving monetary contributions from a large number of people. The supporters ‘pledge’ their support for the campaign in exchange for a reward. Rewards can be a product or service, or just a public acknowledgement.
How does crowdfunding work?
To set up a crowdfunding campaign, you share the story of your project and where you’ll invest the funds into an online crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter, Pozible, Chuffed or Indiegogo.
You then specify different tangible rewards different amounts of monetary pledges.
There are two types of crowdfunding campaigns:
- the ‘all or nothing’ campaign, where you receive the funds only if you reach your campaign target
- the ‘receive everything’ campaign, where you receive all funds whether or not you reach the target.
Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages for each one.
The platform will prompt you to specify a period for the crowdfunding campaign. And once you hit publish, you’re on your way.
Despite what many people think, running a crowdfunding campaign isn’t a ‘set and forget’ exercise. You need to drive as much traffic as you can to your campaign to make sure you trend high on the platform and receive the financial pledges you need.
Sharing your campaign on social media as well as traditional media, email marketing and other methods will all increase the chances of your campaign reaching (or even exceeding) your target.
What are the benefits of crowdfunding?
You may be put off crowdfunding by the amount time and effort needed, or the fact it’s all so open and public. But before you choose a more traditional form of finance I encourage you to reconsider, as the benefits of crowdfunding go way beyond the financial reward.
Here are some more benefits of crowdfunding.
- Raised Profile/Media Exposure. Due to the high traffic volume crowdfunding platforms receive, and the likelihood of friends and supporters sharing your campaign in social media, crowdfunding is one of the best ways to increase exposure and boost your visibility.Following my two successful crowdfunding campaigns, my story was picked up by online and traditional media keen for a ‘good news’ story. My social media and email followers also grew considerably during and after the campaign.
- Market Research. Not sure your idea will fly? Crowdfunding will quickly give you the answer. While many people fear a failed crowdfunding campaign, the astute blogger/business owner knows it’s better than investing thousands of dollars (and just as many hours) on a business or project only to have it fail. A successful campaign gives you the confidence that there’s a market for your product or service before you create it.
- Loyal Customers. The people who pledge money will become your most loyal customers. They’ve personally invested in your idea, and want you to grow and succeed. There’s no better feeling than giving these customers their rewards to thanks them for their support.
- No interest or ongoing fees. Unlike traditional business lending, once you hit your target, and the platform and transaction fees have been deducted, that’s it. There are no ongoing fees, and definitely no interest rates.
- Accountability. There’s no better motivation to keep your project on track than having a large group of customers waiting for a product or service they’ve already paid for. In my experience, a successful crowdfunding campaign is the perfect way to get public accountability and push you to deliver what you’ve promised.
How soon after the campaign do you get your money?
In an ‘all or nothing’ campaign, pledges are processed as soon as the target is reached.
If the supporter has paid by PayPal, you’ll receive individual transactions directly into your PayPal account once you reach this milestone. Credit card payments are usually processed at the end of the campaign, and transferred into your bank account within 7-10 days.
Crowdfunding platforms usually take around 5% of the campaign total in fees, and payment gateways can take another 3% in exchange for the services provided. Keep these fees in mind when setting your target. You don’t want to shortchange yourself.
Five tips to help your crowdfunding campaign hit its target
Around 70% of crowdfunding campaigns fail to reach their target. And the biggest cause of those failures is lack of preparation. So you need to do your research before you launch the campaign, because once you’ve hit the launch button it’s too late to make improvements or compensate for your lack of preparation.
Here’s some of my best tips to help your campaign succeed:
- Make it about the cause. A lot of crowdfunding campaigns fail because the creator makes it about them rather than the cause. And people love getting behind a cause.
- Employ the “No pledger left behind” philosophy. Make every pledger feel valued and appreciated. If you do, they’ll be inspired to share your campaign even more. List and tag (where possible) every pledger in social media, and provide regular updates to keep your pledgers in the loop.
- Stay in the game. So many campaigns fail because the campaign creator gives up before the campaign is over. In many cases, the bulk of support comes in during the last few hours, and sometimes even the last few minutes.
- Choose ‘all or nothing’. It’s a big leap of faith to choose the ‘all or nothing’ campaign. But statistics show you’ll be more likely to hit your target. Maybe your supporters don’t want to see you fail. Maybe they really want their rewards, or would hate to see the money raised go to waste. But whatever the reason, it definitely increases your chances of success.This is in contrast to ‘receive everything’ campaigns, where you’re basically telling pledgers you’ll be happy with whatever you can get. There’s no urgency in these campaigns, and so people don’t feel the need to get behind them.
- Have a Traffic Strategy. While angel investors are out there, the reality is that nine out of ten pledges typically come from traffic you send to your campaign. So It pays to have a traffic strategy in place before you launch.As well as regular blog posts and email marketing before and during the campaign, you should also include guest blogging, traditional PR and paid online advertising in your crowdfunding toolkit.
Crowdfunding via your blog has more benefits than just raising money.
A successful campaign will make you confident there’s a market for your product or service before you create it. Better still, you’ll have group of passionate supporters who believe in your vision and will cheer you along every step of the way.
Laura Trotta is one of Australia’s leading sustainable living educators. She blogs about sustainable living and online conscious business at lauratrotta.com.
As a veteran online eco-preneur, and creator of multiple award-winning, thriving and profitable blogs, Laura also coaches other conscious business owners to tap into the power and reach of the Internet to grow their brand and take their idea to impact.
To help you plan a successful crowdfunding campaign, Laura has compiled a Crowdfunding Checklist that shows what you need to do at every step.