I had first heard about crowd funding and crowd sourcing at Brighton Documentary Festival in 2009 when documentary film-maker Franny Armstrong talked about how she funded her film The Age Of Stupid. It seemed such a simple and yet brilliant idea that I wondered why no one had yet thought of it.
Well, we had but this was one of the earliest examples of formalising what had always been a way of making a project a reality. That is, harnessing the power of your supporters to propel you forward. I squirrelled ‘crowd funding’ under the ‘May Need It Sometime’ folder in my head and got on with life.
Fast forward 2013 and now, I am now a social entrepreneur who remotely manages a sewing unit in India along with a colleague. We hear about crippling power shortage affecting productivity at our unit. I wonder if we could crowd fund for solar panels. My colleague and I do some research to identify suppliers and work out the costs. It is not very expensive but it is not so small an amount that we can self-fund it either.
We look at several crowd funding platforms and decide on own whose tipping point model appeals to us. Their fee for hosting the project seems reasonable and after deciding and sourcing the various rewards for the different tiers of patrons, we launch our campaign and then wait for money to start coming in. Little happens. We post on Facebook and Twitter hoping to jumpstart activity and nothing seems to rouse the campaign which seems to be fast slipping into a slumber and we don’t know what to do.
Here’s what we should have done. Prepare. We saw an opportunity, we had a need and we went for it. Of course, the world was waiting for just this project. And once we unveil it, people will be clambering to support us, we had tacitly assumed. But nothing could be further from the truth.
People have lives and their lives are busy. A crowd funding campaign for solar panels is not their priority. What we should have done is spent as much time and effort in gathering our support network and talked to them, individually or collectively and prepared them for what we were about to do. Instead, we sent them cold emails. I bin any unsolicited email asking me for money or indeed, offering me money. Chances are, our emails to our supporters went the same way.
If we had picked up the phone or invited them all to a wine and nibbles evening and played the video we had created and then passed the (metaphorical) hat, then I have little doubt that the results would have been different. But instead we rushed into it headlong and predictably, fell short of our target.
(more learnings from an unsuccessful crowd funding campaign to come)