This evening I spoke at the Crowdfunding for Change event run by Avis Mulhall‘s Think Act Change. The event kicked off with a presentations by Adam Chapnick, head of business development at seminal creative crowdfunding platform IndieGogo, and award-winning film director Gillian Leahy, followed by a panel consisting of myself together with Alan Crabbe, co-founder of leading Australian crowdfunding site Pozible, and Ryan Wardell, founder of ProjectPowerUp.
Below are live notes from the event, capturing what I could of the presentations and conversation. I wasn’t able to take notes when I was speaking, so will write more about my thoughts on effective crowdfunding and where it is heading another time.
Adam started with a Crowdfunding basics session. He described crowdfunding a way of reaching out to your communities’ communities to make things happen. IndieGogo recently helped to crowdfund the IVF required for to create a baby. When you bring people who have a common goal, shared experiences, and the tools to collaborate, you turn an idea into a reality. To do that you need to optimize the sharing.
Crowdfunding is not like the shoemaker and the elves. It does not happen by itself. It is not tapping people who are trying to give away money. Strangers are referred to you by people who are not strangers. Roughly 20-30% of your goal needs to be from people you’ve interacted with in some way, even if it’s just through social media. At that threshold others start to give. You have to reach that threshold as soon as possible. Gear up by bringing in all of your friends initially, before others see the projets, so their initial impression is of enthusiasm. Campaigns with $25 perk raise 35% more than those without.
Gillian described how her brother is a pioneer in bringing permaculture to parts of Africa over the last 20 years, so she ended up accompanied him on one of his trips to make a film. Through the use of permaculture, the Chikukwa region in Zimbabwe moved from experiencing significantly eroded and depleted soil to being a highly successful sustainable farming region.
They used the Pozible crowdfunding site, seeking to raise $5,000 for The Chikukwa Project to create a commercial quality film that could get TV exposure, produce DVDs for distribution to permaculture groups and for education, and donate any excess funds to the Chikukwa project itself. The only reward offered was to be invited to a screening in an Australian capital city They eventually hit $6,551 in funding, helped by actively seeking out groups and individuals on Facebook and Twitter interested in permaculture. They wished they had asked for more, as donations dried up after the target had been reached. Gillian concluded by saying how amazing she had found the entire experience.
Alan said that we have moved beyond the stage of letting people know about crowdfunding to there being a significant degree of awareness. He noted that he thinks that Australians have caught on to the crowdfunding trend very quickly, and the reason it is successful is that Australians are very community-minded, perhaps driven by our distance.
Ryan Wardell created Project Powerup as a crowdfunding site specifically for startups. Unfortunately he found another startup that he was working on was turning out to be more successful, so he is now seeking to sell Project Powerup.
Gillian said that they didn’t manage the community as well as they could. There is more activity on Twitter than Facebook, and it took a while to get the visibility with established Twitter permaculture profiles. The Twitter handle ChikukwaProject did not indicate the link to permaculture.
Alan noted that the best creative people collect ways to reach their fanbase. But even more important is the ability to convey why you are doing it. Adam said that the bigger your list the better, and it is critical to build your list. There are many kinds of benefits, only one of which is the financial return from crowdfunding.The evangelism that happens in a successful crowdfunding project is worth a massive amount in its own right. Crowdfunding allows people to touch and be part of extraordinary projects, making a real difference with sometimes just a small investment. Ryan said it is important to start the project, to show that there is something concrete that additional funding will build on.
It was a fabulous evening, with far more rich content and ideas than I’ve been able to capture here. The focus of crowdfunding for social enterprise is fundamentally important today, and promises to be transformative. I’ll share some ideas on this later.