Everything You Need to Know About Crowdfunding: And how to be successful at it as a woman

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© Unsplash

Stiletto Bootstrap Series: Welcome to our new financial literacy series designed to support the women leaders who are launching their initiatives, organizations and businesses with little funds or limited access to capital. While bootstrapping is commonplace for start-ups and changers, women embarking on building social impact programs or businesses experience a unique set of challenges.
We are here to help you overcome each one.

The juggle of achieving and then maintaining success is a literal handful for women - constantly trying to prove everyone around them wrong while managing to be stellar at work, conscious loving mothers, great partners, caring friends,` etc. Our resourcefulness and persistence pursuing our goals and desires is what, at the end of the day is going to get us much closer to success.

The term “Boss Girl, or Boss Lady” is actually very recent, and is still not taken very seriously by the public. And for women looking to be Boss of social change, “Oy, the struggle!”It’s easy to understand that women changemakers are currently the number one boot strapers. Why? There are several reasons such as lack of family funding, understanding of financing or pro-bono options, difficult access to grants and venture capital.

For many, creating a crowdfunding project has been a viable option for everything from launching an organic skincare line to producing a documentary film on voting rights. It is definitely not easy, but luckily, we have a few tips on how crowdfunding may be a woman boots trappers funding pathway.

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© Unsplash

The Hard Truth: The Path is Bumpy and Location Matters

Most crowdfunding start-ups never receive funding. It is difficult to hear but it is true. Most people aren’t conscious about the amount of effort and time that a crowdsourcing campaign requires. Nor do they fully understand the funding catch required to actually cash in the support. Specifically, in order to receive the asked amount and in most cases, any money pledged, the funding goal must be met. Simply put, if your project goal is $25,000 and you only get $24,000 in pledges within your project gifting period, you received nada. Ouch.

Another variable that can seriously impact your success rate is location, rather platform. No, not all crowdfunding sites are the same. While you might think that you’d get the most visibility on a larger platform like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you might get lost in the big sea of funding options. Conversely, if your audience is narrow, or you have a very specific niche, you might feel like you’re preaching to the choir by posting your project on a woman-woman site like iFundwomen and/or their pockets aren’t as deep as you need.

Where your type of project is parked can matter. Indiegogo is great for tech start-ups, not so fantastic for social movements. Kickstarter is really for everyone, but you need fund offering savvy as much as a multi-layered presentation to get folks to literally buy into your cause. If you’re still scratching your head, take a look and see what other projects are similar to yours. Scope out the competition to gain insight on how to distinguish your brand and project as well as spend time looking at older similar projects and evaluate their success rate. This project recon can help inform your asking amount and pledge period as much as your project pitch. Learn from other’s mistakes and successes.


How can you use this bootstrapping to your advantage?

People want to see a campaign that they like, a project that inspires them, that makes them feel powerful, interested, positive, curious or good. They need something different, something unique and you’ll be able to create it if you do your research properly and design your project with successful funding in mind.

First of all, you need to choose a niche. Yes, that means that while you have a full organization you want and need funded, you are better off focusing on a singular project or program that fits into a popular (and familiar) niche to pull folks in and ultimately get them to invest in you for the long-term. Your project niche should be well aligned with your mission and overall programming.

Some of the most recommended niches are: technology, film, fashion, video games and books, but at the end of the day, it’s all about what works best for you. So, for example, if you are a food justice advocate, you might want to choose a community cookbook project (think Duchess Meghan’s “Together: Our Community Cookbook” or kickstarter success-story Baby Momma Rachel’s “My Food Stamps Cookbook”). Or if bully-free classrooms are your jam, perhaps a video series training teaching teachers how to facilitate restorative justice circles would be attractive to a wide range of supportive donors.

© Sam Cook

© Sam Cook

Secondly, you’ll have to think about how you will tell your project story. This is not the space to be closed up, nor is it the space to over share like you’re talking to your life coach. Unless of course your project is a counseling app. Unlike a traditional pitch, your project story is an invitation to understand the project’s origin and marvel at how your inspiration can through your work, have impact for others.

You can become successful at crowdfunding. Here’s the download on essential next steps:

1. Designing a project
The most important part of a project it’s its design. It should be new, fresh, comprehensive and interesting. And when we say design, we mean more than the “thing” and how it looks, etc… we mean “the experience” of discovering and investing in the project.

While you may be tempted to juzz up your page, a clean visual layout of your offering is most appealing. Instead use copy, image and testimonials like layers adding depth to your pitch. Try to make people understand what you want to say as soon as they see it.

2. Be specific about what funding will accomplish
You need not provide a budget, but a clear and transparent financial outline will give potential funders an idea of what their dollars are going to create. This is not the area to skimp or over promise. Generally, funders follow the projects they “invest in” and some platforms require up-to-date financial reports. If you need assistance in this part of the project design or maintenance, consider getting pro-bono support.

3. Design for each category, without changing who you are
While overall branding is key, especially if you plan to use crowdfunding for multiple or on-going single projects, a design for an art project shouldn’t be the same as a technological one. The tech investor might need more details on the mechanics of a project, say an app, while a fashion investor might be more impressed by a designer’s story.

Take your time to find out and discover the necessities of each market so that your presentation is well-received. If you find the learning curve too high to connect with a certain market or niche, then build off what you do know. At the end of the day, folks are investing as much in you as they are a specific project. Investing is very much about building relationships and trust, so while you want to be appealing to a crowd, presenting your authentic self will yield a valuable return.

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© Unsplash

4. Benefits of a proper crowdfunding project
The biggest and most immediate benefit is financial. If your project is successful (success varies depending on the crowdfunding platform you use - Kickstarter vs. Gofundme or Patreon), you’ll receive the money that you need in order to start and finish the project, which is amazing because it is exactly what you need. That isn’t all. Your project offers viability and traction which you can leverage to secure additional funding or support. Whether your project(s) are successful or not, the experience provides valuable insight on what’s working and maybe where you need to pivot in your strategy. Take time to analyze feedback, donation amounts, etc. Remember, falling forward then getting up again to take a new leap.

Once you get into the crowdfunding world you’ll notice that it’ll be much easier to continue being on it. The possibilities are limitless.