Crowdfund London: the impact of community crowdfunding

Over the last five years, 130 community-led crowdfunding projects in London have received crucial support from the Mayor of London, raising in total £4.85 million – and now Nesta have released a report looking at the impact this has had.

Crowdfund London has offered local groups the opportunity to receive up to £50,000 from the Mayor to improve their neighbourhood. Alongside help in gaining visibility for their campaign, the programme offers guidance on how to design, develop and deliver projects and gives introductions to other important stakeholders.

Five years of empowering communities through civic crowdfunding

Some of the headline results are:

  • 77% of those involved feel more empowered as a result of crowdfunding for their project
  • 72% of projects said the experience increased community cohesion
  • 86% of projects said that this process significantly improved the skills of members of the team
  • 65% of projects funded things that could not be funded elsewhere
  • 73% of project leaders had plans to start another community project in future.

Nesta’s findings are a great example of why crowdfunding isn’t just about the money. At its best, it’s about connecting people and building community. Financial and practical support from the Mayor of London didn’t just get projects past their funding target (90% of projects backed by Crowdfund London hit their target, as opposed to 52% of non-supported projects). It also helped make connections (72% of fundraisers have found new partners or collaborators, 65% of projects brought people together from different parts of the community) and build skills (7000 volunteers participated in projects, 51% of campaigns received professional feedback on their project design, and project teams improved their skills in pitching (63%), fundraising (52%) and community engagement (52%)).

Pages from the full report

City Hall’s aim was to explore “how crowdfunding can empower citizens and change the relationship between communities and City Hall”, with a particular focus on campaigns to improve the local neighbourhood. I’m delighted the value of community crowdfunding is so clear in the report’s findings, and to see their conclusions include ways to increase the impact of initiatives like this.

Crowdfund London has shown that there is value in embedding crowdfunding as a complementary tool alongside traditional grantmaking to support grassroots innovation and local participation.

Five years of empowering communities through civic crowdfunding

People and communities already have the drive to make these projects happen. Given a confidence boost from the extra support and guidance as part of this scheme, it’s clear they’ve been able to fly – 81% of projects wouldn’t have set up a crowdfunding campaign had it not been for Crowdfund London.

Next up, Make London – the initiative that builds on what’s been learned here, providing funding and support for “community-led projects to help your local area recover from the COVID-19 crisis.”

If you have a project you think could fit Make London’s criteria, find out more about what they’re funding and how to get involved.

Read the full report

Read the report summary

More from NESTA about crowdfunding

Launch day for your crowdfunding campaign

group of people preparing bright air balloons to fly

Your launch day is a big deal, but why does everyone keep talking about the importance of the first 24 hours of your crowdfunding campaign?

Show your potential backers they can trust you

Crowdfunding relies, at its heart, on the idea of the wisdom of the crowd. If enough people agree that a project is a good idea, then they’re probably onto something. Many potential backers (deliberately or not) look for reassurance and support by seeing whether anyone else thinks this project is a good bet. A campaign that already looks successful, and already has plenty of support, is more likely to attract even more support.

As a creator, that means that the sooner you get your project looking successful, the sooner you’ll be able to attract those uncertain or wavering backers.

Get your crowdfunding platform to pay attention

Whichever crowdfunding platform you’re using, there’s a team of people behind the scenes making it work – but they don’t have time to sit and examine every single live campaign, daily. They rely to some extent on algorithms and milestones to draw their attention to particular projects. So if you can make your campaign tick as many of their ‘looks successful’ boxes as possible, you’ll get their attention.

Why does this matter? Because most crowdfunding platforms charge a percentage fee on your final funding – which means the more money you make, the more money they make. So if your campaign’s going to do well, it’s in their interest for it to do really well.

Make the most of your time

Once you launch your crowdfunding campaign, the clock is ticking – as a general rule, you don’t want to run a campaign for longer than a month or so. You need to make each one of those four weeks count. If you’re spending your first week or two on making contact with your own networks, you’ve already lost time.

But when you’ve done your preparation well, then by the time launch day rolls around your existing audiences are waiting for their chance to support your crowdfunding campaign. If you’ve done all your work on messaging them already, that means after launch day you can shift your focus to spreading the message further and reaching new audiences.

Not sure if you’re ready for launch day? I’m a crowdfunding consultant and I’d be happy to help, whether that’s looking over your final campaign before you go live, or walking you through making the most of your preparation weeks – get in touch here.

One-shot vs recurring funding

Platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Crowdfunder have been around for a while now. Their model is reasonably simple to understand: set a target and a deadline, launch the crowdfunding campaign, and try to hit the target in time.

But some creators are now considering longer-term options that offer recurring funding, or something closer to a subscription model – like Patreon, Ko-Fi, or Buy Me A Coffee.

What is recurring funding?

Backers pledge to support you with a small amount of money, repeatedly – either a certain amount per month (a bit like a charity direct debit) or a certain amount per ‘thing’ (backers could be charged every time you release a new song, podcast, long read, newsletter, artwork, etc). Often, creators can offer backers rewards at varying levels, not unlike the rewards in a one-shot crowdfunding campaign. The important difference if you go this route is that you need to be committed to producing those rewards regularly, and over an indefinite period of time.

Should you try recurring funding?

When you run a one-shot campaign, you spend the pre-launch as well as the campaign time doing some pretty heavy promotion. You contact a lot of people, and part of the story you tell is the urgency of it – we have one chance to raise this money.

But for a recurring funding campaign, that level of promotion would be both exhausting (for you) and off-putting (for others), because unlike a one-shot campaign there’s no end in sight: there’s usually no specific goal which means you’d stop promoting it. This shift in promotion styles is why I tell clients that for recurring funding, you bring your fans to the platform.

Patreon works brilliantly for established creators who already have an existing fan base. And it’s a good alternative to trying to monetise your existing content via ad revenue share. But if you don’t already have an audience asking you how they can see more of what you’re doing, or how they can support you in new ways, setting up a Patreon could be a lot of work for not much return.

Platforms like Ko-Fi or Buy Me A Coffee offer a few more options to suit creators who are a little less established or who work in different ways. You can set up a tip jar for one-off micropayments as well as taking monthly/recurring payments, you can offer extras and commissions, and includes a low-fee option (transaction fees only).

Are you overcommitting?

One risk with recurring funding is overcommitting to rewards: offering (say) $10 monthly supporters exclusive access to a brand new monthly podcast. Sounds great if you’ve got the numbers – but if you only have two people subscribing at that level for the first six months, you still need to make that podcast for them, every month.

How can you give it the best start?

Just like a one-shot crowdfunding campaign, make sure you’ve prepared thoroughly! Here are a few questions to start you off.

  • Do you already have an audience online who are interested in your new work?
  • How are they going to find out about your new funding option?
  • Have you thought about what you could offer as small-scale rewards or incentives?
  • Are you reliant on earning a lot of money from this route, or are you happy with letting it build slowly and more organically over time?
  • Can you scale up slowly? Start with one or two low-level reward options that don’t overcommit to creating new unique content, then if you get a great response think about offering something higher-level for your most enthusiastic and supportive fans.

There are no ‘right’ answers to these, but there are certainly answers that will make your life easier.

Recurring funding can be a fantastic way for enthusiastic fans to support the work they love, and it can feel like a subscription to something they value. If you’re a musician with fans who are big users of Spotify, it gives you the chance to talk about the difference between £2 a month straight to you vs your fractional share of their £10 a month to Spotify. And the tip jar model requires very little set up or promotion, as there’s very little to lose (no rewards to commit to – just set up a tip jar option on your site and see what happens).

With a bit of research and planning, you can make sure you’re choosing a model that suits the way you work – and, importantly, works well for your audiences and supporters.

If you want to make sure you’re choosing the right kind of campaign, let’s talk about how I can help – I specialise in working with creative people on arts and cultural projects, and I’d be happy to set you on the right path.

No-fee crowdfunding

crowd of people walking on street near shop showcase

Lots of people start out looking for no-fee crowdfunding, wanting to keep as much as possible of the funds they raise. But most commercial crowdfunding sites charge a fee. Is there any way around this? The short answer is: not really. Almost all platforms charge a fee of some kind, but there are a handful of cheaper or (occasionally!) no-fee options.

But remember, those charges are what make the enormous reach of these crowdfunding platforms possible. So do your research and decide what trade-offs you want to make. If you’re fundraising for a known group (like a PTA) then you probably already have contact details for all your donors, and you just want somewhere to centralise their donations – so you don’t need to worry about bringing in new audiences. But if you’re crowdfunding for something bigger and you can’t personally contact everyone, it may matter more to have a crowdfunding platform with national or global reach. It’s also likely to matter to your donors when it comes to handing over their card details that it’s a site – and brand – they already trust.

Types of fees

One thing to cover first: there are three types of fees we can talk about here. First of all, there are platform fees – these are usually charged as an overall percentage of the total you raise. So if there’s a platform fee of 5% and you raise £1000, you’ll be charged £50 as the platform fee. Next, there are transaction or payment processing fees. These apply to each transaction, and often reflect the charges passed on to crowdfunding platforms by the bank or card issuer – sometimes they’re a percentage, sometimes a flat fee (like 50p per transaction) and sometimes a combination of both. Finally, there are one-off fees – occasionally some platforms also charge a sign-up fee.

If you’re a charity

If you’re a registered charity with the Charity Commission, then there are some options for free or low-fee crowdfunding campaigns. You can look at platforms dedicated to charities like JustGiving (5% service fee plus payment processing fees, and monthly fees), Virgin Money Giving (2% service fee plus payment processing fees, and one-off sign-up fee), Givey (5% fee – but charged directly to donors, not charities). Most offer donors the option to cover those fees at the point of donation.

There are also a couple of non-charity-specific platforms that offer a no-fee crowdfunding option for charities – GoFundMe (transaction fees still apply), and Crowdfunder. In the case of Crowdfunder, they have a standard charity model of 3% fees plus payment processing fees, but right now they’re also helping charities who are fundraising in response to Coronavirus, by offering 100% free crowdfunding and support as part of their Pay It Forward campaign.

If you’re a private individual

If you’re a private individual raising money for your own personal costs (education, medical care, other emergencies) then you’ve still got choices. The big name is GoFundMe again, with only transaction fees. But as a private individual you might not want to be as public as that about how much you’ve raised – you could also look into taking PayPal donations (no fee when sent as Friends and Family, in the same currency) or setting up a Ko-Fi (no platform fees; transactions go via PayPal so there’s a transaction fee).

If you’re another kind of organisation

If you’re not a charity, and not a private individual, you’re pretty much out of luck when it comes to no-fee crowdfunding – with the exception of Crowdfunder’s Pay It Forward campaign, aimed at supporting all kinds of organisations (small businesses, community groups, campaign groups).

But, if you could get the same reach, visibility, excitement, and urgency as a crowdfunding campaign just by asking for payments direct to your bank account… you’d already be doing that. Crowdfunding platforms generally charge a fee, but they’re also providing you with a service. As long as you research what the fees are ahead of time, you can make an informed choice.

Want a bit of guidance on choosing a platform? I’m a crowdfunding consultant and I’d be happy to help – get in touch here.

“But what should I say?”: 20 social media ideas for crowdfunding campaigns

photo of woman writing on tablet computer while using laptop

Once your crowdfunding campaign is live, you need to be sending out messages about it daily – if not more often. But if you’re putting together social media ideas for crowdfunding campaigns, it can be hard to know where to begin.

You may already be wondering what on earth to say, and you’re right to think about it ahead of time. Part of your pre-launch planning should include social media ideas that you can draw on once the campaign is live.

Still not sure where to start? Here are twenty ideas to get you going, whether you prefer creating text, image, or video.

And of course, every single communication you send out while your campaign is live should link directly to your campaign. Don’t make your prospective backers work too hard to help you out!

‘Rewards’ ideas

  • ‘New reward just added!’ – keep a few rewards back so you can launch them mid-campaign.
  • ‘Last few remaining’ – when you see your limited-number rewards getting low, let people know so they don’t miss out.
  • ‘Personalised version available’ – can your backers choose a colour or a design? Can they get their name engraved, or their book signed and dedicated?
  • ‘Have you spotted our hidden gems?’ – if you have a couple of rewards that haven’t had the interest you’d expected, highlight them.
  • ‘Don’t miss the Early Bird option’ – maybe you’re offering a significant discount to the first 50 backers, or backers in the first two days. Make sure you tell everyone!
  • ‘Here’s something very special’ – your high-value rewards may be an excellent source of funds, but you should also think of them as major attention-grabbers. Are you offering a one-to-one with a famous name? A private VIP event? A piece of money-can’t-buy memorabilia? Tell the story.

‘How it works’ ideas

Your audiences will come to you for help when they can’t figure out how to log back in to their account or how to change their pledge. Make that support public.

  • ‘You’ll be charged when…’ – different platforms charge backers’ cards at different times. Find out whether it’s at the moment of backing, or when your campaign is successful.
  • ‘You can change your pledge by…’ – again, different platforms handle this in different ways. Find out if and how your backers can change or add to their pledge.
  • ‘How crowdfunding works’ – just because you’ve been immersed in this for a while, don’t forget this may be totally new to some of your backers. Walk them through it.

‘Stats and data’ ideas

  • ‘We’re just £27 away from £1000!’ – it may not be a formal goal, but everyone loves a nice round number.
  • ‘If everyone referred one friend…’ – do the maths for your supporters. If everyone brought in one new backer at £5, would you hit your target?
  • ‘Wow – after 48 hours we’re at…’ – share your progress and your milestones.

‘Our project’ ideas

These posts are where you can get into the real detail about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Remember, you’re making the case for the impact of your project – it doesn’t have to be world-changing, but it has to make a difference to somebody.

  • ‘What we’re doing’ – what will this funding campaign make possible?
  • ‘Why we’re doing it’ – what difference will it make, and to whom? Why does it matter to us?
  • ‘Why we’ve chosen crowdfunding’ – are other sources of funding unavailable, or exhausted? Does crowdfunding give you more freedom to create, or a better connection with your audiences?
  • ‘Who we are’ – who’s the team behind the campaign? Are you particularly well-placed to be doing this? Do you have knowledge or experience that others don’t?
  • ‘What will happen next’ – talk through the details of your project timeline, bring people on the journey with you.

‘Support’ ideas

Help your prospective backers feel part of a wider community who all see the value in this project. Share the support you’ve received.

  • ‘We’ve had 97 backers so far!’ – share some publicly-appropriate data about your backers.
  • ‘One backer commented…’ – if your supporters leave positive comments on your campaign or on your social media, share them.
  • ‘Taylor Swift recently told us…’ – if you’re fortunate enough to have big-name endorsements (they don’t have to be as big as Taylor Swift!) or influential supporters, put them out there.

There are, of course, plenty of other things you can talk about in a busy campaign – and the most powerful social media ideas for crowdfunding campaigns are always about the project itself, how you’re going to make it happen, and the impact you want it to have.

Hopefully these ideas should give you a starting point, and help you realise how much you have to say! And if you’re still wondering about how to structure your campaign planning, I’d be happy to work with you on a personalised strategy.

Why bother backing other people’s crowdfunding campaigns?

Understandably, a lot of people start out planning their own crowdfunding campaign by focusing on… their own crowdfunding campaign. If you’re thinking of launching a campaign, you might take a quick look over other live projects just to get an idea of what’s out there, but should you be actively backing other projects? Absolutely yes. Here’s why.

  1. Learn how to help your backers
    If you’ve never supported a crowdfunding campaign, it’s time to jump in. Go through the same process your backers will. How/when do I choose which reward I want? Do I need to create an account? Is it clear when my card will be charged? Once your campaign is live, you’ll need to provide plenty of practical support to your backers; if you already know where their points of confusion might be, or how to create an account on your chosen platform, you’ll be able to be much more help.

  2. Join an emotional journey
    A great crowdfunding campaign makes backers feel special, like they’re part of a wider community, contributing to something bigger. Back another campaign to get a sense of how they’re working to make you feel special – do you feel like you’re part of the team? Are their updates honest and informative? What are they getting right?

  3. Be part of the wider ecosystem
    Right now, when so many businesses and organisations are facing huge uncertainty, it benefits all of us to make sure there’s a thriving scene on the other side of all this. You may want to lead the field in what you do, but you need there to be a field. Support other projects operating in a similar area, even just with a pound or two, because working together is crucial.

  4. You scratch my back…
    Alright, this one’s a bit more self-interested, but it’s true – if you’re out there supporting other projects, the creators behind them may take more notice of yours and be happy to support you in turn when you go live. There’s a reason I didn’t list this one first; this is never a guarantee, but it’s worth a shot!

  5. Find out how not to do it
    You might back a campaign only to find that you feel dissatisfied with the process – maybe their updates aren’t informative, maybe you don’t feel part of a team, maybe your rewards are later than promised, or not what you expected. This is great – because it’s showing you how you can handle things differently. You can’t guarantee that nothing will go wrong with your project, but you can plan how to manage and communicate delays or changes.

Ready to get moving? Take a look at some of the live campaigns on Kickstarter, Crowdfunder, or Indiegogo. What catches your eye? Who’s doing something you love?

PS – want to make sure you’re getting your campaign started right? Let’s talk about how I can help – don’t miss your crucial pre-launch planning.

Crowdfunding in… not-lockdown?

This started life as a Twitter thread (I’m @thejobreeze over there) – here it is in slightly tidied-up form.

Right now, there are a lot of crowdfunding campaigns live – and more being planned. Lots of people are (quite rightly) thinking about crowdfunding as a possible funding route, especially given lockdown closures, drops in consumer spending, behaviour changes, social restrictions for reopening spaces, etc. But is there anything specific you need to think about? (Spoiler: yes)

First: yours is not the only crowdfunding campaign your audiences are seeing. Even in ordinary times that’s true – but right now, doubly so. Businesses and creators are launching campaigns, but there are also SO many great causes who need money right now: charities, campaigning organisations, activism, legal costs, individual costs.

So remember, your audiences may not be willing to spend the same as they would have maybe last year. They may already have invested in a bunch of other projects, and may be making decisions about supporting charities/activist causes over gifts for themselves right now.

Second: familiarity, though, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Often, crowdfunding campaigns need to provide some handholding for backers and prospective backers – how payments work, when do I get my stuff, help I’ve forgotten my password, etc. If your audiences already know how the platform/s work, you don’t need to spend so much time on helping them with those admin issues (which frees you up to spend more time telling your story).

Third: your audiences may be facing their own financial uncertainty. Whatever their work situation under lockdown (furloughed? key worker? running a business?) they may not know if it’s about to get worse or better. Keep that in mind when pricing your rewards.

Fourth: as restrictions lift, people’s interaction with public spaces is going to be determined more by their own feelings than by government policy. So it’s hard to predict if and how and when they might be up for in-person events. If your work or your campaign genuinely relies on in-person events, then if you can, keep offering virtual options – a one-to-one Zoom masterclass, exclusive digital content – alongside it. Some people you’re hoping to reach may still be shielding or may be otherwise vulnerable and unable to attend events – don’t leave them out.

Fifth: remember your role in the ecosystem. Support other voices doing the same or related things – you’ll all benefit from having an infrastructure in place when everyone finally emerges. If you’re a venue, mention and promote other venues’ crowdfunding campaigns, for example.

Sixth and finally: the last few months have been really hard, for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. Use your crowdfunding campaign to give them something to hope for, something to be excited about, something to feel positive about. We all need it right now.