As traditional journalism is forced to redefine its business model, crowdfunding has become an alternative approach for those who want to launch their own projects.
As new technologies arise, a growing number of campaigns prove it’s possible to launch a project independently, finding people who are willing to take that extra step (or click) to implement it.
Some successful crowdfunding campaigns include a master’s degree in data journalism, a "Justice League" to monitor gender balance in media and a journalist who achieved his US$2,000 goal to travel to Africa and tell a story of an endangered frog. The Correspondent, an Amsterdam-based project that aims to produce quality journalism in an ad-free site, garnered more than 1 million euros in just eight days.
There are many options in the market to launch a crowdfunding campaign. The most popular sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter host journalism-related campaigns. Spot.us specializes in community-funded journalism and Emphas.is, still in beta, is a page for photojournalists seeking donations.
1. Describe your product in a transparent and authentic way.
It is important to present your project clearly. People value honesty, transparency and authenticity. These basic questions are a good guide:
Who are you? Don’t forget to tell your story: introduce yourself and your team. People fund people, not just ideas.
Why are you raising money? You should be transparent about your budget.
When are you launching the project? Build a plan and aim to fulfill it.
Why is it important for this idea to become reality? This is the time to show your passion, describing the expected impact.
How can people participate? It’s not about just donating money; you can also get help or ask people to volunteer.
2. Include a personal video.
"IndieGoGo campaigns that include a video collected 114 percent more than those that included photos and text only," Ringelmann said. Do not let the lack of professional equipment stop you. Using your mobile phone is more than enough.
Your message should be concise and attractive enough to capture the audience’s attention. It’s better to tell your story using images and not go over five minutes. Dare to appear on camera. "Talking directly to your audience makes it more personal and gives the campaign a face," she said.
3. Offer original and creative perks in return.
The idea for this type of financing is to appeal to the common passion for supporting causes, involving people interested in your project. "If [your supporters] can get a token of appreciation in exchange, it’s much better. It's the law of reciprocity," Ringelmann said.
What can you offer to your donors that no one else can? Creativity is important. Are you putting together a book or a magazine? You can provide access to the material before anyone else, sharing secrets of the process or a limited edition. Other ideas include parties for donors and training classes or discounts.
Numbers show that most people are willing to donate US$25, so Ringelmann advises to establish a good reward for this sum. When you’re assembling the "gift list," you should offer five to eight different benefits, depending on the amount donated.
4. Set a realistic goal
One of the toughest decisions is the total amount to collect. Ringelmann says that between 20 and 30 percent of your goal is achieved within your own network: friends and family. And, on the other hand, once you reach 10 percent of your total goal, your chances of meeting your fundraising goal quadruple.
With these numbers in mind, you should make a realistic goal. As the old saying goes, "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush." One option is to go slowly, dividing your campaign in different stages.
5. Communicate your campaign proactively
Do not forget to share your campaign with friends and family via email and social networks. As you go spreading the word and expanding this circle, you can send updates to donors. "Treat your campaign like a blog and seek to engage the community. It’s best to contact them once or twice a week with updates: new benefits, campaign progress, new content or media appearances. You can also ask them to share your campaign,” she said. Your donors need to feel they’re part of an exclusive community.
Finally, do not forget to investigate what else is going on these platforms. Find success stories and learn from them.
Image CC-licensed, thanks to Tax Credits on Flickr.
Gabriela Manuli is an Argentinean freelance journalist. She has collaborated for publications such as Diario Perfil (Argentina), El Mundo (Spain) and Orsai Revista, among others. She has a master's degree in public policy and media from the Central European University and a bachelor's degree in communications from the Universidad de Buenos Aires.