Student crowdfunding is an exciting and effective tool for students looking to raise funds for their projects. But you’ll need to use it skillfully in order to get the best results. This post will give you a quick overview of some of the steps you can take to increase your project’s impact and maximize the return.
1. Create a supportive team
You can’t do everything yourself. Regardless of how capable you are, you’ll need a team of people to help sustain momentum throughout the campaign and get you to your target without too many hiccups and within the time frame.
Identify people who will be able to help and even take the lead with the tasks you’re not that great at or simply won’t have enough time to do.
Think about who else would care about your project enough to dedicate their time: other students from your course or society are probably best, but also consider friends who you can trust to stay on track.
Before the campaign starts, divide up the tasks that need to be done during the live phase and the follow up.
Decide who will be responsible for social media updates, promotional strategy, rewards delivery etc. and have regular meetings to discuss progress throughout the campaign.
2. Get a champion
One excellent way to stay motivated and on track is to find someone who is willing to mentor you and your team and help you to succeed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a staff member, a parent etc. as long as they are willing to be an advocate for your project and motivate you to go forward, as well as tell you when things aren’t working as well as you’d like them to.
Ask them to review your project before you submit it and give you honest feedback. They can then continue to support you for the duration of the campaign by becoming an ambassador for the project and even opening their networks to help source additional donations.
If they are a staff member at your institution they can make sure everyone in their department is aware of your plans. This is particularly useful as it will help you to get the support you need from all levels at the University, and it helps to spread the word about your ambitions.
3. Set realistic campaign goals
It may sound obvious, but it’s vital to think through and define your target and stretch goal – make sure your budget actually makes sense.
Crowdfunding is built solely on trust: if donors don’t know exactly how you will be spending their cash, it can make them wary and it can even damage your relationship with them in the longer term.
An easy way to work through your goals is to think about them in practical terms.
If you are part of a boat club and you need two new boats which cost £5k each, your minimum goal will be £5k (so you can buy at least one), your target will be 10k (so you can do what you set out to do), and you can also explain what you would do with any additional funds you may raise (i.e. your stretch goal): for example, they will go into the club budget and be spent on the club’s greatest needs in that season.
Being upfront from the start guarantees that you won’t get any awkward questions after the campaign finishes.
Do remember that rewards and postage costs will come out of the amount you raise – allow for this when you set your goal so you aren’t short changed at the end of the campaign.
4. Consider matchfunding
Make sure to at least think about securing matchfunding from a sponsor. This will really boost your chances of success as your donors will be encouraged by the knowledge that their money will go further – you may be able to raise even more than you originally hoped.
Check whether your institution offers a matchfunding scheme, and if so make sure that your project is on their radar so that you’ll have a bigger chance of receiving additional help.
5. Think through your campaign timeline
It’s important to remember that a longer campaign doesn’t equal a more successful one. The ideal length of time to raise funds through crowdfunding is 4 to 8 weeks, long enough to reach a wide audience, but short enough to maintain urgency and momentum among the team and supporters throughout.
When setting the timeframe, bear in mind the number of days it will take for funds to be transferred to you by your institution at the end of the project. Start from when you’ll need the money and work backwards to determine an end date for the project.
6. Include a video with an ‘ask’
Make sure you have a project video – no, really! It makes a huge difference as most people (if they are anything like me) will watch it and then just skim through the written pitch.
Don’t worry about your equipment. You can film it on your phone – focus on the message rather than how professional it looks. Start by introducing the idea, and then yourself and the team behind it. Then explain why the project is important to you and what you need to make it happen. Finally, ask for support from your potential donors and thank them in advance.
Speak from the heart and people will appreciate your candour and be more likely to help you along the way. Make sure the video is a maximum of 90 seconds – no one wants to watch a 5 minute video, and since your call to action is likely to be at the end, it would be skipped by default.
7. Pitch your project
It’s worth creating a project tagline: encapsulate your idea in 110 characters and make it memorable. This should make it clear to potential donor what the project is about before they read any further.
Make sure the pitch is clear and concise and that the copy is broken up with images (avoid endless text with no paragraph breaks!). It can be structured similarly to your video, but here you can and should go into more detail.
Feel free to use images and stats to back up what you need and what you’re trying to achieve. Include your full budget breakdown and maybe some quotes from team members on why it’s such an important campaign – use all media available to get a positive response from potential supporters. A clear structure is invaluable when trying to persuade donors to give.
8. Offer affordable (but interesting) rewards
Rewards are vital, but you don’t want to spend too much of your time or funds fulfilling them – keep them simple and cheap!
Remember, you and your idea should be the source of the biggest rewards – access to you and your team will be most likely to attract donors. Tickets to the opening night of your theatre production, an invite to one of your rehearsals, a Skype call to say thank you to the donor and update them on progress, a DVD of your opening night – these are all ideas which mean a lot to donors but won’t cause you to overspend on rewards.
Remember that the cost of rewards will come out of the money you raise, so plan these costs in when creating your pitch. You also need to bear postage in mind, especially if it’s international, so be careful what you promise to deliver – perhaps limit posted rewards to your own country. For more advice and inspiration, please have a look at Hubbub’s rewards guide.
9. Focus on social media and promotion
Make sure you have a clear plan for marketing your project and remember to review progress regularly.
Both online and offline promotion are vital if the project is to succeed. Requests need to be personal and tailored to the medium – for example, asking in person is a lot softer than requests in writing.
If you’ve developed a social media presence, use it – it’s a fantastic way to keep your supporters engaged.
Don’t be afraid to ask, ask and ask again. People are busy, so a few gentle reminders about your project and the approaching deadline are a good way to maximise the amount you raise. Just remember to stay polite and respectful.
Ask everyone in the team to register on the site to become a helper for the project – this means that they’ll be able to share their unique project link on all social media platforms and promote the project to their networks. You can even track who has attracted the biggest and most engaged donors to the project and make a competition amongst the team to see who has the most developed and supportive network.
The Hubbub academy is a helpful starting point when building your fundraising strategy. Additionally, you can download the promotion guide from the promotion section, which includes great advice and tips about how to let people know about your project. For more advice on how to maximise your social media presence please read our dedicated blog posts on this topic.
10. Keep updating your project
The update tab on your project page allows you to keep your helpers and sponsors informed about your progress. All sponsors will receive an email with the update as soon as you save it, so they’ll feel involved in the campaign from start to finish. You can include photos and videos in your messages, and you’ll still be able to update supporters after the project has ended.
You can use updates to create urgency, e.g. ‘Only a week left to meet our goal!’ It’s a good idea to let supporters know when milestones are reached, such as raising your minimum or your target amount, successfully completing the project, or purchasing the equipment you need as a result. Keeping donors in the loop increases trust in the project and in your team.
Student crowdfunding – conclusion
Following the steps above will put you in an excellent position to raise funds and deal with any crowdfunding challenges which arise. Stay focused and give it your all, and you’ll have the best possible chance of success.
As a final note, be aware of the possible pitfalls so that you can avoid them. Make sure that you and your team don’t fall into any of the following traps:
- Don’t leave planning for the last minute. If you do, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll make mistakes in the rush to get everything together.
- Don’t set your target too high. It can be extremely disheartening if your project fails due to poor planning.
- Don’t make your pitch, video or campaign too long. People will just tune out and you’ll lose donations.
- And most importantly: Don’t just launch your project and expect cash to start coming in. You and your team need to be proactively fundraising for your idea – if you aren’t making the effort, no one else will!