11 steps to crowdfunding success

Crowdfunding engages your fans beyond your asking for donations or getting them to buy merchandise. A successful campaign makes donors feel like active participants, channels their enthusiasm, and helps you spread the word.

Your success relies on organizing your efforts to maximize fundraising, and campaigns employing the following techniques can generate momentum and move past the initial goal into “stretch” goals to bring in even more funding.

To run a successful crowdfunding campaign, we suggest you follow these 11 steps in sequence.

1. Create a project your fans will want to be involved in

The most successful projects are campaigns fans want to be a part of: the more concrete, the better. Typical projects include albums or tours, but if you can be unique and offer fans something new they would want to see or hear, you will stand out and possibly gain backers just for the novelty.

2. Choose a platform

Kickstarter is a popular crowdfunding platform, but others like Indiegogo have different rules, such as the ability to use the proceeds from a partially-funded campaign, and PledgeMusic is focused on music. Every platform charges different percentages and fees, so do your research and choose the one that makes the most sense for you and your project.

3. Determine your funding goal and at least one “stretch” goal

Your first target should be the lowest necessary to fund your project – make it as achievable as possible. Don’t forget to add in the platform’s cut and factor in any money you'll spend redeeming your rewards for folks backing your project. You should also determine and announce your stretch goal on day one, because it might encourage people to pledge beyond the minimum.

4. Produce a pitch video

A compelling pitch video can go a long way toward generating interest in your project, especially for someone who isn't familiar with you or your act. Do your research: watch videos of other crowdfunding pitches and take the best elements from the effective ones.

5. Make a list of promotion opportunities

List bloggers, friends, other musicians, and anyone with an audience who can help you get the word out. You need to get the message out as broadly as possible.

6. Plan your rewards

The right rewards are critical to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Make sure to always have a $1 reward, with incremental increases up to very high-end rewards ($5,000+) for your big spenders. Also, make sure any rewards that have to be shipped or mailed are no less than $25 or you can lose money on each item just because of the postage. Read "Crowdfunding rewards: a plan for success" for more.

7. Identify initial backers

Find initial backers and get their promise to contribute before the project launches. These initial backers will help you “seed the tip jar” and provide social proof that your project has supporters and is achievable. People like to join projects they think are going to be successful. Your goal is to trigger this psychological reaction by using your initial backers effectively in the first days of your campaign. If at all possible, get celebrity or high-profile backers as this can provide additional proof that your project deserves support.

8. Choose your start and end dates

Studies show most funding occurs at the beginning and end of a campaign, and that four-week campaigns tend to do best.

Your start date should be on a Monday or Tuesday. This allows time for a “soft launch” and provides a few days for your initial backers to pledge before you publicly announce the campaign. Also, plan your end date so it doesn’t fall on a holiday or a time when people would be less likely to be engaged and contribute.

If your soft launch day is a Monday, ask your initial backers to contribute, but hold off announcing your hard launch until Wednesday afternoon. That way, when people check out the project, there's proof you already have people willing to contribute. It's no different than dropping ten $1 bills and a couple of $5 bills into your tip jar before playing at a venue. People are more willing to tip when they see someone has already done it. And if they see a bigger bill, they are more likely to tip with a bigger bill themselves.

9. Execute your launch

Launch the campaign on Wednesday at 3 PM in the time zone of most of your backers. Research shows that this is the day and time when people re-share the most on social media. Wednesday mid-afternoon is when people take a break from work or school and get on the Internet. Use this information to get the word out about your campaign. Don't forget your video is at the center of this, and if you can make something entertaining or sharable, you'll have a more successful campaign.

10. Keep in contact

As the campaign progresses, keep your backers in the know. These announcements are aimed at enticing existing backers to contribute more (perhaps to help you make a stretch goal) and convincing contributors to get people they know to get involved.

Make announcements at these points in the project:

  • The beginning, middle, and end of your campaign.
  • Every week.
  • When you are close to your main goal, or any of your stretch goals, to encourage new backers or more contributions from existing backers.
  • When achieving a goal (in which case, announce the next stretch goal).
  • If you have gained a high-profile backer or notable media coverage.
  • During the last few days, to encourage final contributions.
  • When the campaign has ended.

If you have a lot of activity, keep the announcements to no more than once every few days.

11. Close your campaign

Make the final announcements. If you’ve achieved your funding goal, celebrate and thank your backers. After all, each person who has backed you now feels like a part owner of your project and will want to follow your progress and see the final result. Also, make sure to talk to your accountant. Crowdfunding campaigns are taxable income and need to be reported to the government.

This post originally appeared on Electronic Musician’s The DIY Advisor column.

Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Together, they’re musicians who are working on their 21st album, authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual For The Do-It-Yourself Musician, 2nd Edition (Macmillan), creators of the 15-hour online course, Making Money With Music (CreativeLive), and regular contributors to Electronic Musician Magazine, including the free weekly web column, The DIY Advisor. They also teach and consult about music business.