Building your support base

Image: gkrphoto/thinkstock.co.uk

Crowdfunding is a relatively new digital fundraising tool that enables schools to promote a ‘need’, reach out to new supporters, and build relationships for the future. So who should you approach?

Build your tribe

The most important aspect of a crowdfunding campaign is building a tribe of supporters. This includes people who are likely to pledge money, as well as those who could spread news of your project to the widest possible audience. The average individual has 170 followers on social media, so assuming you get your pitch right, for every person you tell, you will very quickly reach thousands more.

Use a mind map to visually organise potential supporters, then create a database of contact details for everyone you plan to approach. Start with colleagues, parents and carers, suppliers, local business leaders, groups and clubs that use your facilities, and any other local or national organisations with an interest in the topic of your campaign. Your communications may use a different tone depending on whether you are contacting parents or business leaders, so decide whether different sectors will receive targeted messages and split your database accordingly.

Who can help increase your reach? What local and national press could you engage with? Are there any radio stations that could mention your project or interview you about it? Are there events coming up where you can promote it to a relevant audience? Are there any local influencers – councillors, dignatories, celebrities, community groups – people who have access to a wide network or who can raise the profile of your campaign?

Warm them up

Priming your network and getting them engaged before you launch will significantly increase the amount of donations you receive. Campaigns that skip this step often struggle to build momentum or reach their goals. Engage your community by letting them know that your campaign is coming – that way, they feel included from the start and are likely to spread the word. This will also help create hype and give your campaign credibility. Get commitment from a number of people who will add their donations as soon as your project launches – once you have some pledges, more will naturally follow.

Build a core team

Shortlist a group of people you can rely on for ongoing support throughout your campaign. Meet this group pre-launch and ask for their help in promoting the project. As a first step you could run a brainstorming exercise to get an idea of the various networks each person can tap into. Challenge this core group to obtain at least one pledge each, and aim to secure the first 10 donations – or 30% of your goal – prior to the campaign going live.

Once your campaign is live, meet with your support team at least once a week to share updates on progress, identify the promotional channels that are working most effectively, and review and distribute action points. Encourage your support team to sign up and click on ‘become a helper’ on your campaign page. Each person then has a unique link and you can monitor the effectiveness of their promotional efforts on the ‘network’ tab. Your leaderboard monitors the amount of clicks and donations generated by the link that each person shares.

Reach out to influencers

As well as raising money, crowdfunding is a fabulous tool to help build awareness of the resource for which your school is raising funds, so identify influential people in your network who might support you, not necessarily by pledging money, but by spreading the word. This might include charitable organisations working in the field into which your project falls, eg, outdoor learning or the arts; or a prominent individual (academic, respected expert, public figure) with a substantial following on social media. By including their Twitter handle in a tweet, they will hopefully share your message with their followers. Be creative in your search for influencers.

Reach potential donors

Review your contact list and note which channels are most appropriate for each sector and which channels might help reach new contacts. This might include: word of mouth – in-person conversations at school events or calls to local business leaders; personal emails; text messages; Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn; events (local community events as well as school or PTA events); press/radio.

Think also about the different ‘hooks’ that might be used to engage different groups, for example, a charitable organisation might be interested to note how your project addresses certain social issues, while a parent will want to know what additional learning opportunities your project will give their child. Tailor your messages and visual marketing collateral accordingly.

Get savvy with social media

How much social media presence you need really depends on your campaign and your audience. If you are promoting your campaign primarily online, having a social media presence is vital. This will give you a platform to share your project, reach more people, thank donors, send regular updates, and generally create a buzz around your campaign. It also allows your campaign team to engage and easily share messages. All of this builds credibility, excitement and hopefully inspires more people to get involved and pledge.

Set up social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media channels your audience is actively using
Consider setting up a dedicated Facebook page for your campaign if you don’t already have a Facebook presence for your school
Join relevant LinkedIn groups and engage in discussions. This will make your message appear less like spam when you come to share it
Create a Facebook event for the launch date of your campaign, invite friends and ask them to invite others. If you are hosting a launch event offline you can use the event page for this.

Monitoring each method

As mentioned, each person who signs up to support your project has a unique link to your campaign. Use the leaderboard to monitor the clicks and donations generated by the links each of your core team shares. This is valuable information and can be used to create some competition within your team, as well as finding out which channels work best. If you see that one of your supporters is doing much better than the rest, find out what their secret is! It may be that a beautifully-crafted personal email is resulting in donations far more effectively than a general mass mailout.

Tip: Aim to secure the first 10 donations – or 30% of your goal – prior to the campaign going live. Challenge your core team of supporters to secure at least one pledge each. Once you have some pledges, more will naturally follow.

About our expert

Jonathan May is a highly respected crowdfunding expert. He is Director of the UK Crowdfunding Association and a member of the Westminster Crowdfunding Forum – an advisory board to Whitehall. His technical background and creative vision continue to steer Hubbub’s success.