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Posted on August 14, 2017 By Bob With 0 comments

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Crowd funding – The Power of Knowledge

iPledg - Logo - Low-ResolutionThey say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In the case of crowd funding, perhaps a little knowledge is not so much dangerous, but it can waste time as well as being rather disheartening when a campaign is commenced with the owner not going in with their eyes open, and then not achieving the desired outcome. But knowledge is power. Understanding your crowd, how to motivate and communicate with them, as well as understanding what crowd funding is all about can make the difference between success and disappointment.

Firstly, it is important to understand what crowd funding actually is, and the mechanics of how it actually works to truly appreciate the roles of the platform and the owner of the campaign. A common misconception is that the platform raises the funds, and that the campaign owner need simply post a campaign and then sit back and watch the money roll in. The platform provides a foundation on which the campaign is hosted, and which simplifies the pledging and payment process, as well as allowing the campaign to be easily shared. Some even provide a structure and coaching to campaign owners’ campaigns. It is up to the campaign owner to then find the initial supporters and to get the early momentum behind the campaign. Only once the campaign has sufficient momentum (usually around 20 – 25%) will the activity, promotion and marketing of the platform actually kick in.

Shooting an arrow aimlessly into the air is unlikely to yield any great prize. The same can be said for crowd funding. It is essential to identify your crowd – to whom is it that you need to promote and appeal? Understanding what motivates them and how you engage with them are paramount to gaining their support (are they motivated by the outcome of your campaign e.g. to save a species of turtle, or are they motivated by getting their hands on a cool, highly sought after reward?). And it’s not just what inducements you need, but how many people do you need to appeal to in order to achieve your target. Working on the basis of just 10% of those in your networks will actually pledge, and given that the average pledge is $50, you will need to work out what will need to be the optimal size of your crowd before you begin to promote your campaign.

The advent of the Internet has made everyone a potential broadcaster. In one sense, this is a good thing, giving everyone a voice, but in another sense, it has created a noise on the ‘web that can be a challenge to cut through. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like are all great social media tools but using them effectively to build and audience prior to starting a campaign, then using them efficiently during the life of a campaign can be a challenge. Drafting an effective communications plan before your campaign is exposed to the crowd can be tricky – how do you blend social media, with traditional media and get all of the channels leveraging off each other?

The wheel has already been invented, so it is a matter of finding what has worked well for others who have worn a path over the ground you plan to tread. When it comes to writing a campaign description, rewards, and a campaign video, it is unlikely that you will not be able to find someone who has already run a successful campaign in the same sector. These previous campaigns make for a perfect temple that any astute campaign owner can then meld to suit their own needs.

When the sun sets on any campaign, one of two results will have been achieved, success or unsuccessful. Either way, there are a number of activities and actions that should be undertaken. How do you best thank people, or utilize the information your gathered along the way? How do you go delivering the rewards, and what is the best way to communicate any changes to your plans and schedules? And if you are going to have another go and either raise more funds or have a second attempt to raise the funds you missed out on, what is the best plan for starting again and re-engaging?

There are many questions raised in this blog piece. The answers are found in some of the great seminars, workshops and online courses like this one by successful crowd funding marketer, Eli Regalado. There are informative blogs dedicated to crowd funding that speak from a position of experience, knowledge and authority such as the iPledg Blog. And there are excellent websites at the core of the industry like www.crowdsourcing.org which provide infographics, statistics and case studies of the latest successful crowd funding initiatives.

Use the resources, gather the information, and use the experience of those who have successfully walked before you, and you will be well on the way to achieving your crowd funding goals.

 

Posted on May 20, 2017 By DrDion With 0 comments

Crowd Funding – A Legitimate and Noble Pursuit

iPledg - Logo - Low-ResolutionOne of the most commonly asked questions about crowd funding relates to the safety of the pledges made. “What stops the campaign owner simply running away with the funds, and not delivering the rewards?”. The simple answer until now has been “Nothing…….Other than the long arm of the law”. The world of crowd funding has always been built on an idealistic and trusting platform of community spirit, but a number of recent cases have added comfort to all potential backers by showing that most governments will not tolerate crowd funding theft.

Crowd funding is conducted on a medium that has perhaps the best memory of all things – the internet. Given that most of those who indulging in either raising or pledging funds to campaigns are somewhat tech-savvy, the internet is a great place to research campaign owners, and to get feedback about the campaign and its proponents. The more responsible intermediaries (crowd funding platforms) will have in place some form of probity so that the money trail can be tracked, and the individuals who conduct campaigns will have to prove some form or legitimacy as to their identity, if not their bank account and location.

The very essence of crowd funding also has its own built in protection mechanism. The success of crowd funding is based on a campaign typically receiving its initial validation and support from those known to the campaign owner. It is his “first tier” that legitimises the campaign, and creates a touch point to a broader community who may not know the campaign owner themselves, but through the actions of the first tier, the “second tier” or “friends of friends” become involved. From there, it is the broader community (“third tier”) that buy in once sufficient momentum and validation have been established.

But just as there will always be methods for protecting backers, there will always be the exceptional few who try and circumvent and rort the system. It is in such cases that legislators around the world are now showing the strength to pursue offenders and send a message to the industry that fraudsters will not be tolerated.  The Washington State Attorney General’s office ordered monies to be repaid by the Asylum Playing Cards campaign on Kickstarter. Whilst the verdict went virtually undetected by media outlets, it was the first case of its kind to be resolved under the Consumer Protection Act. This comes just one month after the Federal Trade Commission settlement of its first crowdfunding fraud case in which they ordered Erik Chevalier to repay the $122,000 he received from 1,246 Kickstarter backers to launch a board game that was never produced.

Even before iPledg launched in 2012, founders of the platform engaged with the regulators – The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and the Department of Fair Trading – to see what was permissible and required under law. Whilst, at the time, crowd funding was pretty much unknown and the laws around what could and could not be done were yet to be clearly defined, the emphasis was always on upholding the utmost in probity in protecting all concerned, especially the backers or those pledging support to campaigns.

Crowd funding is not a perfect system, and not without risk. However, by virtue of the community nature under which it operates, given its conduct is carried out on the internet with users that are relatively tech savvy, and recognising the way in which the regulators in most countries are treating any breach of consumer law, crowd funding continues to be one of the safest forms of commercial activity on the planet. Statistically, the incidence of fraud is rare given the volume of transactions, and you are more likely to be defrauded by traditional retailers or door knockers than by crowd funding campaigns.

Posted on April 14, 2017 By DrDion With 0 comments

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Crowd Funding – the Basics of Capital Raising

iPledg - Logo - Low-ResolutionCapital raising, whether it is by way of equity or by pledge, all starts with a great business or concept. Built it and they will come – as long as “it” is attractive, functional, and relevant. From that, the journey of where you have come from and where you plan to go needs to be cobbled into a good story, and then delivered as a compelling sell to an engaged, supportive and enthused crowd. Get these right, with each of these steps seamlessly integrating into the next, and you have the formula for a successful funding campaign.

Getting the product, service or business model right is like having a solid footing on which to build a house. A less than solid footing may allow you to make some progress, but it will eventually crumble under the weight of scrutiny and market pressure. “Pivoting” – making changes as you develop your concept in response to market feedback and new findings – will allow you to better fashion your concept before you go to market. Doing your homework will ensure you know what the market wants, and that your product, service or company will satisfy or solve that need. Understanding your market allows you to fine tune your concept so that you deliver the market what they want or need, in a way that they can easily uptake your offering. And ensuring you present the pathway forward in a well considered and articulated manner will allow you to take the concept to market.

Once you are confident that you have the right product that people will want, and you are able to demonstrate that your assumptions are substantiated, you will need to start to prepare and build your “crowd”. Start to engage them, not only in your capital raising, but in the product or business itself. Again, if they like what you are doing and you can build enough excitement, you won’t need to ask for investment or pledges – your crowd will be beating down your door to be part of your venture! The internet has made it easy to find like-minded individuals and organisations with whom you can communicate about what you are doing, and to build these followers in to tribes that will not only come on board, but endorse or advocate your efforts, business, and product.

Once you have built your tribe, you need to maintain engagement as well as continue adding to your crowd. Communication is the key. Let them know of your progress. Keep them engaged by telling them of your successes, milestones reached, and the goals you have kicked. Don’t whisper, but shout it from the roof tops and let your crowd hear it. And don’t just talk at them – invite them to get involved and start a conversation. Again, do it publicly so other members of your crowd feel comfortable to get involved, and those outside feel compelled to join in on not just the discussion but to become part of the group.

Your ultimate success is highly dependent on you. 21% of all funding campaigns raise nothing, not a single dollar. This is due the issuer or the project owner failing to engage his first tier or those who know and love them the most. It cannot simply be left for the platform or someone else to bring on funders. Initial momentum for any campaign must be driven by the issue or campaign owner. Before any funding campaign begins, the project creator or issuer needs to have investors or supporters ready to support from the get-go. A movement is created by momentum, and momentum needs to be created early. Many funding campaigns run out of steam because support is too slow in coming. Get supporters and investors on board early, and let the world see they you have something about which they should take note.

Once momentum has begun, keep it going, and recognise there are now a number of priorities to support the main goal of achieving your funding target. You need to motivate your initial supporters or investors to invite their friends and contacts on board, telling them about the great thing they have done in supporting your business, product, or venture. As each of your crowd will have a crowd of their own, this “second tier” represents a much larger audience than you will have reached by yourself. Then there is also the constant task of keeping your total supporter base engaged, as well as growing the number of members of your tribe. Keep your follower numbers growing, keep your tribe focused and involved, and ask your supporters to become advocates for you.

Capital raising in any form involves work – teamwork. You need to sustain energy to maintain focus on building and driving our team towards your funding goal. If your product is largely built to truly satisfy the requirements of the market, and you have done your homework correctly, then you will not have to spend much time on your product as you do your capital raising. Build your immediate followers (your “first tier”) and get some early runs on the board. From there, communicate your successes and ask your first tier to engage their contacts (the second tier). Create noise, momentum, and give people a reason to want to have a look at what you are doing – at your business as well as your capital raising efforts. For the duration of the campaign, never give up, keen going, and remain fast, flexible, and fashionable until your goals are achieved.

Posted on March 9, 2017 By iPledg With 0 comments

Crowd Funding – Underwriting Your Events

iPledg NewFor anyone who has ever run an event of any description, they would understand the nervousness of underwriting ticket sales, hoping that the revenue generated would cover the cost of holding the event, and perhaps even make a small return. Costs can be quite considerable – venue hire, staffing cost, transaction expenses, the cost of the “talent”, as well as catering can all add up quickly. So how does an event organiser ensure that they will not be left holding the can if ticket sales do not cover costs? The answer may well lie in Crowd Funding.

The typical scenario in organising an event is to commit to the costs, and then to start selling tickets. The stresses ramp up as the organiser gets closer to the date of the event, yet revenue from ticket sales still sits short of the income required to cover costs. Many panic at this point, spending more money on promotion, thus raising costs, and discounting remaining tickets, thus increasing the amount that need to be sold to cover the expense of the event. It really is, in many cases, an example of biting off more than you can chew and then chewing like crazy.

Crowd Funding can totally change the way in which events are now run, ensuring that ticket sales meet the requirement to cover costs before a commitment is made to holding the event. It also engages those who purchase tickets to then become advocates for the event, to ensure that the event does proceed as planned. Consider this…..

Imagine you are planning an event, perhaps a concert. You need to commit to venue hire as well as paying your performer, the staff, and food and drinks for the event. Your total costs are $10,000 (OK, I didn’t say that the performer was an A-lister). If your average ticket price (across the cheap seats right through to the front row) is $100, you will need to sell 100 tickets before you no longer have to reach into your own pocket to cover expenses. If you follow traditional protocol, you are committed to holding the event as soon as you start to promote it, no matter if you sell the required 100 tickets or not. The more you fall short of the 100 ticket mark, the more pain you will incur.

But the whole scenario changes if you run the sales process through crowd funding….

You would set up a crowd funding campaign, the project being your concert. In the project description you outline all the details of your event, the performer, etc. You also explain that the campaign, as with most crowd funding campaigns, is conducted on an “All or Nothing” basis. That is, the campaign will only transact and the project will only proceed if you meet or exceed your funding target in the campaign timeframe. Your funding target is then set at the amount which will cover the budget to hold your concert, plus a little more to cover the costs of a crowd funding campaign.

Rewards for such a campaign are relatively easy to then put together. Entry level rewards could be a simple note from the performer, sent directly to those who make a small pledge. Ticket sales are the most obvious rewards, with the various reward tiers being matched by the various levels of ticket pricing. Stretch rewards (rewards for higher pledge amounts) could be made up of corporate recognition, backstage passes, or even recognition or participation in the show itself. Such creativeness takes some of the pressure off ticket sales, as you come up with more rewards to offer which represent alternative and additional income streams.

Promotion of the crowd funding campaign is then done exactly as you otherwise would have done for the concert itself, with two far greater benefits. Firstly there is the benefit of having more on offer than merely ticket sales. You have all the other rewards tiers which you can spruike about, so there is a broader story with which to hit social media, moreso than just the event itself. Secondly, there is the urgency of the concert not proceeding if the funding target is not reached in the campaign timeframe. This is where you can not only build some urgency around ticket sales or pledges, but those who have purchased tickets will also become advocates for you (especially with a bit of gentle prompting)  as they tell their crowds to jump on board and pledge, for if other don’t they themselves might miss out due to the event not proceeding.

In the event that the funding target is not reached, it will mean you have not sold sufficient tickets to cover your costs. In this case, the pledges would simply dissolve (you would not have to issue refunds as the pledges would not transact until the end of the funding period and only if the target had been met or exceeded), and those who had bought the few tickets you had sold would completely understand as to why the event was not going to proceed. This way, you are also well placed to opt out of your commitments in terms of the costs (you will have a good indication during the campaign, and not have to wait until the end of the campaign before you start to flag your intentions with your suppliers).

In the event that you reach your funding target, you can always add more rewards, or more of each one already on the campaign. You will have the funds committed so you can make arrangements with your suppliers. You will have the flexibility to upscale as you will know what funds are coming in and when.

Crowd funding – underwriting your creative, commercial, charitable and community events.

Posted on February 10, 2017 By iPledg With 0 comments

Crowd Funding – Providing Schools with an Effective Funding Solution

iPledg - Logo - Low-ResolutionSchool is back in, and now the realisation returns that many schools are in need of more sporting equipment, shade for lunchtime seating, props and scenery for the school play, funding to sending students to participate or compete in an event, and the cash to afford the things to supplement the teaching of the 3 Rs. But with governments’ tightening up on the funding they provide to schools for much required “niceties”, and with traditional funding drives becoming tired and lacking enthusiastic support from the community, crowd funding looms as the fresh and effective solution.

It is wonderfully symbiotic – schools are a great fit for crowd funding, and crowd funding offers a source of funding that requires far less time, effort and risk on the part of the schools. In fact, with a fresh new approach like crowd funding, the engagement level is higher and the appeal far broader than the traditional funding initiatives employed by schools in the past.

There are so many inducements or rewards that are at hand that schools can offer to those who pledge their support. Artwork from the kids, corporate exposure in school newsletter, standard tickets or preferred seating at school plays or sporting events, treats from the school canteen, or recognition through naming rights or mention on an honour board (or even on a simple plaque) are just some of the incentives that schools can offer without being out of pocket. Further engagement with the community can be achieved if some of the parents offer rewards from their businesses to those who support the school’s campaign, thus giving greater inducements to pledge.

There exists a natural audience around schools, a ready-made community from who support can be sought. Parents, students, former students or alumni, local residents, local sporting and special interest groups, and Parents and Friends Associations are all prime candidates to whom schools can easily communicate, and from whom support will be easily forthcoming. With a captive audience, communication to “the crowd” and continually driving the message takes no additional time to the standard day-to-day activities of the school, as informing the crowd is as simple as mentioning the campaign in newsletters, at assemblies, and in the regular forms of constant communication that schools undertake.

Rather than families spending days selling fund-raising chocolates (a practice of which families are growing tired, not to mention the safety issue around sending kids around the neighbourhood, knocking on doors) a crowd funding campaign can be set up in just 10 to 15 minutes, and then maintained and driven with just a few minutes of commitment each day to continually communicate with “the crowd” via social media and email. As such, crowd funding represents a far safer and more efficient alternative to fetes and other fund raising events that require a mountain of effort and which run the risk of lack of turnout or even poor weather.

Crowd funding may just well be the perfect, holistic solution for the funding needs of most schools. Providing the cash they need, as well as a great engagement strategy with the local community, crowd funding will become the sustainable funding solution for schools to use for ongoing, rolling campaigns to fund their needs and aspirations.

Posted on January 30, 2017 By iPledg With 0 comments

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Crowd Funding – Bringing Your New Year’s Resolution to Reality

iPledg - Logo - Low-ResolutionIt is well documented that most New Year’s resolutions never come to fruition. A high percentage of the best of intentions dissolve by the end of January, and seldom do any make it all the way through the 12 months. The key reasons for New Year’s resolutions not coming to light are a lack of planning, inadequate support or commitment, and a lack of funding to make the plans actually happen. For many, crowd funding may well be the key to a range of plans for the New Year actually being achieved.

Any quality crowd funding campaign will have been well thought through. The viability of the project and outcome will have been considered and researched. Benchmarks and quotations, obstacles and solutions – all will have been scoped out to ensure that the plan is logical and viable. It is this planning discipline that is lacking from many New Year’s resolutions, which are little more than whimsical hopes and aspirations. The planning and articulation of such strategies are what adds meat to the bones, and makes the desired outcomes more tangible and conceivable.

Running a marathon is not easy without a support crew. The runner’s team keeps them focused, enthused, and committed to achieving their goal, all the way to the end of the race. Should the runner’s mind wander or should they hit “the wall”, their team will be there to pick them up, and refocus them on the task at hand. The same can be said of crowd funding. It is very easy to give up when it’s just you, but when you have the support of your crowd, it is harder to give up and just drop the project. You also have the additional benefit of them getting behind you, cheering you on, and pushing you to achieving your goal. It is often said that a task shared is a task halved. This is very much the case with crowd funding, and a key way as to how crowd funding your New Year’s resolution can keep your supported and focused.

So many plans never come to pass due to insufficient funding. Set your funding goal to reflect an outcome that has been well costed. If you can, also set up a tipping point, a compromise where you might reach a lesser but more achievable goal should the crowd only support you to that level (it also gives you a second bite at the cherry to make your dream happen). Offer great, sought-after rewards and spread the word to your crowd, asking them to engage by supporting you as well as by getting the word out to their networks. Continue to drive your campaign from before your launch right to the very last day, even if you hit your target along the way (remember, you can very well over-fund your campaign, giving your dreams and resolutions far greater scope).

Now is the time to be considering your resolutions for the New Year. Perhaps this year, crowd fund your passion, and build your campaign and your team around your goals. Plan it well and articulate your project description to reflect a considered approach. Engage your crowd and your team early. Have your supporters ready to keep you on track, starting strong and focused on running a race with benchmarks and well thought out milestones. Make it clear to them as to how they can support you and what role they each need to play in helping you exceed what you have resolved to do. And with all of this in place, fund your plans with a well executed campaign. And if you have done this correctly, you will find your New Year’s resolution becoming reality, in far greater ways than you ever planned.

Merry Christmas from all at iPledg and here is to a happy and prosperous New Year that sees you fund and achieve your passion in 2017.

Posted on December 20, 2016 By iPledg With 0 comments

Crowd Funding – Setting a Target

iPledg - Logo - Low-ResolutionHow much is too much? What is the right amount of funding to seek in a crowd funding campaign? And am I ready to start my campaign, given the size of my crowd versus the amount I wish to fund? These are all questions that potential crowd funders ask before starting a campaign. All valid questions, but experience has shown us that there are some guidelines as to how much you should ask for in a campaign, and how much might be too much to shoot for.

Firstly, a funding target is not an arbitrary figure, but a carefully calculated and researched amount based on the outcome or deliverables of the project. If your project is to build a widget, the cost to do so should be worked out as close to the final amount as possible. This then gives you the initial funding target for your campaign. Perhaps this amount can be broken down into stages (e.g. the cost of design, the cost of tooling, the cost of manufacture, and the cost of distribution), and if the overall funding requirement seems like too much of an ask, then perhaps the stages can be funded independently rather than trying to bite off too much in one go. This can be quite a strong strategic move, as those who fund a successful campaign will often go on to fund subsequent campaigns by that same campaign creator.

The sweet spot for pledge model crowd funding sits between $1,000 and $30,000. That is, most campaigns that get full funding sit between these amounts. The average size of a successful crowd funding campaign in Australia sits between $6,000 and $7,000. When working out a funding target, the second step (after costing the project to be funded) should be to take a moment to reflect against these numbers, and this will tell you straight away if your funding target is a big target, average, or quite reasonable.

Once you assess whether or not your target is a large one or reasonable by general crowd funding terms, you need to then consider how achievable it will be with your current level of contacts and networks. The best way to do this is to add up all the people with whom you have direct contact – your friends, email contacts, social media followers and connections, etc. Once you total that up and remove the double-ups, take just 10% of that figure, as typically just 10% of your network will pledge to your campaign. If you take into account that the average amount pledged is $50, you should multiply this by the number you arrived at (10% of your crowd) and this should give you a rough draft as to what figure you should aim for. If the amount you arrive at from this exercise is considerably less than your funding requirement, then you have 4 options:-

  1. You should perhaps aim for a lesser amount. What is it you could fund with fewer funds? Again, could you fund part of the overall project, and then go back for more once you successfully met your initial target?
  2. It is too early for you to start your campaign, and you should spend more time building up quality, relevant, and engaged contacts so you get closer to the number you require based on the exercise above (10% of your total network pledging and average of $50)
  3. You could perhaps come up with a schedule of vigorous and robust marketing initiatives, some of which would need to be done prior to the commencement of your crowd funding campaign, while other activities would need to be scheduled to occur early in the funding timeframe to give the campaign sufficient momentum for others to want to join in. You need to remember that you need to get to 25% of your funding target early in the campaign before total strangers jump on board. Think why people would want to back your campaign, and build your campaign description, promotion and rewards (inducements to pledge) to all be in alignment.
  4. A combination of the above initiatives

Setting a funding target for a crowd funding campaign needs you to assess where your target sits against common practice, and then is less about the amount you want to fund, and more about how your target relates to the potential crowd you can reach. Whilst a crowd funding platform will amplify your message, these effects will only come into play once you have established your own initial momentum. Set a realistic target in relation to the size of your crowd, and have a plan to engage them early, if not before the campaign begins so you have immediate traction. Follow these rules and you will maximise your chance of crowd funding success.

Posted on November 10, 2016 By DrDion With 0 comments