Starting a Crowdfunding Campaign: Who Are My First Supporters?

One of the intimidating things about starting a crowdfunding campaign is that you can never be sure that people are going to contribute to it. 

But there is a simple way to guarantee some early funds for your campaign, thereby making it look more successful to future donors down the line.

The solution, of course, is outreach.

Even emailing or messaging as few as 20 people in your network can lead to staggering results. 

It makes sense -- after all, are you more likely to respond to a general post about someone’s fundraising campaign, or to a personalized message sent by that same person specifically asking you to donate to their cause?

It’s true that not everyone will respond to your messages, and you might not convince anyone to contribute if they weren’t already willing to do so. But for those who are willing to lend to your crowdfund, outreach provides a compelling reason for them to take the plunge and lend.

Unfortunately, all this information won’t be very useful to you if you’re still agonizing over who to reach out to in the first place. 

Who Should You Ask? Being Strategic Can Save Time and Energy

There are two main items to consider when deciding which members of your network to reach out to, both of which are equally important.

Number 1) How much money are they likely to contribute to my loan? And Number 2), how much will they be able to draw more attention or support to my campaign?

Number 1 is something you’ll mostly have to guess. It depends on your current relationship with the person you’re reaching out to, how much money they make or have saved up, how good you are at selling your campaign to them in your outreach, and any number of other factors. 

Number 2, on the other hand, is a little easier to figure out. 

Whether through clubs, sports affiliations, your workplace, your church, your favorite internet chat room, or whatever else, you’re bound to be a member of at least one community of related or like-minded people. And if you’re part of a community, then you should have some idea of who leads or organizes that group.

That is who you want to be reaching out to, even if you have reason to think that their personal capacity for giving is limited. The point isn’t what they can contribute individually: it’s in their ability to connect you with the rest of your community.

Let’s say there are two people you’ve reached out to -- your great uncle, who contributed a few hundred dollars to your campaign, and the pastor of your church, who contributed less than $100. 

On the surface, it seems like reaching out to the great uncle was the better choice. But now let’s say that your great uncle doesn’t have a lot of friends or use social media, and so didn’t share your campaign with anyone after he contributed. 

Meanwhile, your hip, millennial pastor ended up sharing your story and your campaign with your entire church, many of whom went on to contribute to your campaign, eventually completely eclipsing your great uncle’s contribution.

Your uncle might have been more immediately helpful, but reaching out to your pastor led to more people overall lending to your campaign, resulting in a higher amount of funds raised. And maybe those people went on to share your campaign with their own personal networks, boosting your signal even further.

Obviously, if you think both your great uncle and your pastor might lend to your campaign, you should reach out to both of them. But whatever you do, don’t ignore the community leaders that you know, even if you don’t think they’d be able to contribute much individually. 

Successful crowdfunding requires rallying your community to your side, and doing so is a simple matter of knowing which person already has that community’s attention. 

That Being Said, Don’t Ignore the Obvious Choices

As we said, it’s important to be as strategic as possible when you’re doing outreach -- you only have so much time and energy to spend on sending personalized messages to people you know, and you should use those resources efficiently.

However, when you’re just starting to compile your list of people you plan to outreach to, don’t forget to start with the obvious choices. 

Your family -- particularly older adults with steady financial footing -- could be some of your biggest crowdfunding supporters, as they’re already invested in your success. You don’t have to do as much work to sell them on yourself. They already know who you are, and they want to see your campaign do well.

After deciding which members of your family you’ll be speaking with, also think about who in your network of friends, associates, and co-workers would be able and interested in participating in your crowdfunding campaign.

Odds are good that from this network there will once again be some obvious people to reach out to -- those with whom you have a personal connection, to whom you feel comfortable reaching out, and who (to the best of your knowledge) have the means of contributing to your campaign.

These people -- your close family and friends -- should always be your first choices when it comes to initial outreach.

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