One may think the concept of crowdfunding is relatively simple and a one day conference in 2015 would cover all the bases. One may also think to repeat a conference on such a simple seeming topic would be redundant and perhaps a waste of time. In speaking of the 2016 Utah Crowdfunding Conference it was definitely worth it to have a round two. From what was presented this year, a third conference in 2017 is going to be a must.
Put on by the Utah Small Business Development Centers and the Miller Business Resource Center, this year’s conference demonstrated how much crowdfunding has evolved in only a year. The agenda itself clearly showed how crowdfunding is maturing into several distinct categories; consumer, cause (philanthropy) and investment.
- The work is done before the launch.
- Have backers prepared to sign up on launch.
- The appearance of success breeds success.
- Create a reason to stay in touch; new products, new features/options.
- Catchy titles.
- Explanatory subtitles.
- Pictures are worth 7000 words.
- It’s hard to run a crowdfunding campaign profitably.
- It’s worth it to run if you can determine a proven business model.
- It’s worth it to run and gain an attentive audience.
The conference then took things up a notch by discussing specific things crowdfunding campaigns should do. Jay Davis of Izeni spoke on video production and creating the framework for a viral video. “It’s hard to create a viral campaign around a crappy product,” he explained. Virality is a function of a share quotient. Every time something gets promoted, it gets shared X number of times. You can’t guarantee a viral video but you can create elements that will increase the share quotient.
- Do the unexpected.
- Make it easy to share.
- Talk about your campaign early, before you even make any creative assets.
Eli Regalado provided some concrete instruction on recruiting influencers which also seems to be a successful formula for crowdfunding pitches.
- Explain what you want – be clear.
- Identify what they want – it could be a desire, alleviating a fear or a passion (love).
- Explain how you can help them get what they want.
- Be specific in your ask.
Who should you reach out to? Regalado’s theory is:
- A listers are influencers.
- B&C listers are doers.
- Find B’s and C’s on the cusp of moving up.
That portion of the conference wrapped up with a panel led by Zach Smith of Funded.Today discussing real-life, practical tips from actual crowdfunding campaigns.
As crowdfunding has become more popular, non-profits and causes are using these platforms as fundraisers. Devin Thorpe presented on crowdfunding for causes. Crowdfunding for donations offers its own unique set of challenges. Thorpe explained the crowd is your network and your job is to expand what that network is. 75% of successful campaigns come from within your existing network while 25% are external. As a fundraiser for a non-profit or cause it’s essential to flip that equation.
Your idea doesn’t have to be universally brilliant if you can execute well, you can raise tens of thousands of dollars – Devin Thorpe
At the heart of this concept…flipping the ratio…is evaluating your campaign in these categories:
- Face – Use an actual face or group of faces. Logos or products don’t work.
- Urgency – Raising money for a cause that has been around for a while (Save the whales) versus a recent catastrophe (Haiti earthquake) affects the campaign. Emphasize urgency for greater success.
- Politics – Apolitical causes inherently have a bigger audience.
- Community – How big is the community affected? Consider size and geography.
- Project/Event – Events are inherently urgent because they are time bound.
Remember, money doesn’t come from the platform. People aren’t browsing around looking for charities to give to. Your organization is driving the traffic to the platform.
The third portion of the conference revolved around equity crowdfunding or crowdfunding as an investment. Todd Crosland of Seed Equity Ventures spoke about the JOBS Act which will enable more people to invest through crowdfunding. The law goes into affect next month and will add a new dimension to crowdfunding for equity.
This tweet probably sums up the final discussion panel which focused on crowdfunding for non-accredited investors –
An investor, a regulator and 2 securities lawyers walk into #utahcrowdfunding -see what happens at our 2:30 panel on Title III! #UTCF2016
The conference ended with some product giveaways and the results of the Crowdfund Hero contest. Like last year, the conference was well run, stayed close to schedule and offered food and refreshments throughout the day. It’s definitely worth it for anyone interested in crowdfunding to attend this conference.