5 things we learnt from Crowdfunding
So we did it! In 6 weeks over November and December 2017 we successfully crowdfunded £5,732 to kick start the interior conversion of our bus. Here are the 5 key things we learnt from running a campaign.
1. Have a plan
Having a plan on how you're going to run your crowdfunder won't be news to anyone who has run one before. Most crowdfunding platforms have a guide on how to plan with questions like 'who is your audience' and 'what are your incentives'. You obviously need to know this before you embark on a campaign, but what we found the most useful was coming up with a timetable of original content we were going to send out on our different platforms. A witty newsletter to one audience, a cap-in-hand email to another group, the perfect bus GIF or just an idea of when you're going to release some new graphics. We didn't always stick to it, and some things were so well received we used them a few times over, but it helped when coming up with original tweets to schedule and it gave perspective on how long we had to go in the campaign.
2. Know how and who to approach
We are huge advocates of the power of brand and marketing - we waited to launch Commonplace until we had the money to brand it properly and it has paid off. We know we like an upbeat tone to our tweets and content - so we used this in the campaign. We didn't turn on the waterworks or put sad violins as the backing track to our video - this wasn't a charity campaign or a sob story. We wanted people to #getonboard with our fun ethos and crazy idea to convert a bus! Of course this worked well on our social media platforms and on the Crowdfunder page itself, but it wasn't always right for approaching our corporate partners. For those we had to park the GIFs and be bold - we wrote polite but firm emails asking for larger pledges and put forward both our business case and social impact, as well as a clear message of what was in it for them. Excitingly those big pledges will now also result in some great event collaborations in 2018 - win-win!
3. Look at money differently
From the very beginning you are having to think about money. We were quick to gain a perspective on what this money meant to us and to our pledgers. At first we had to decide how much did we want to raise to get the idea off the ground, and that would be realistic given the size of our network. Next during the planning stage we thought long and hard about how much our incentives should be pitched at and who might be making them. It's fair to say here that we got some wrong - £150 to attend the first making workshop didn't receive any buyers despite us thinking it was one of the more exciting opportunities. We pitched it too high and it wasn't right - we now know that for future reference! ... And once the money is coming in you suddenly become obsessed with that little total counter on the webpage. Every pound counts and you can find yourself getting emotional about that long lost cousin or random person from a networking event who threw in a few quid. It's validation that people like what you are doing and support you - whether that's with £5 or £500.
4. It isn't personal
In a counter argument to the last point, there are times during the campaign when we found ourselves screaming "why don't you love us?". It was when we got another 'good luck but it isn't our bag' email or not one single press release was getting picked up. It did sting and it required a few pep talks between the two of us to remind ourselves that it wasn't personal - just not everyone is as passionate about buses as us! This was a particularly hard thing to remind ourselves when we sat out for two very cold December days offering to wrap Christmas presents at local markets and raised less than £50. In hindsight not our finest idea - but at least we meet some new people and now we have enough wrapping paper to last us until 2052.
5. Say thank you!
What is it your mum always said - remember your manners! It can be hard to keep up with everyone who is pledging and supporting you during the campaign but it's good practice to take an hour at the end of each week to evaluate who has supported you and send them a quick thank you. And it doesn't have to be a monetary pledge - people did amazing things to boost our campaign, including free design work (Carbon Creative), features in newsletters (too many to mention here!), prolific tweeting (Nickala Torkington) and free food (Back on Track). We used Twitter, Facebook, our newsletter, texts and emails to say cheers and it didn't take long. We charmed some people so much they even pledged twice - it really does pay to be nice!
Always ones to practice what we preach - thank you! Thank you again for supporting our campaign and taking us one step closer to our dream of creating a beautiful and functional space for Manchester. As the cliche goes - we really couldn't have done it without you!
You can now follow our journey to conversion on Instagram where we will be posting designs and pictures every step of the way.