Guidelines

Guidelines to a Successful Project

We’ve seen a lot of great project ideas that meet their goals and go on to do amazing things. Those campaigns have a lot in common with each other. We’ve also seen a lot of great project ideas that fall flat, and unfortunately, those campaigns also have a lot in common with each other. We want you to be successful because we know that the right project can transform a community, change a life or propel you to live the life you’ve always wanted.  These proven guidelines will help you pull your project together, explain it in a way that gets people excited and raise the money you need to make your dream project a reality.  In short, we help connect people with exciting ideas, needs and causes to dream enablers—those are the people who financially contribute to help make someone else’s dream come true.

Step One: Do the Legwork

Sounds boring, right? Legwork involves work, but it doesn’t have to bore you. In fact, our experience is that the most successful project creators are the ones who have built upon their own excitement by researching their idea and figuring out all the kinks. Here’s some of the ways how.

 

  •   Look around the site. First, check out our guidelines about the types of projects we allow. Does your project fit? We thought so. Now spend some time browsing the projects posted here. Pay special attention to the ones that really grab your attention, especially if they’re pushing close to their goals. Take notes. How do they explain their project? What kind of pictures and videos do they use? What do they offer for rewards and how do they communicate with backers? Each of these factors contribute to the success or failure of your fundraising campaign, so check out how the successful projects are using them and figure out how you can best apply them to your own project.
  • Do market research. You may not have the money to pull off a full-fledged focus group, but you can do the next best thing. Talk to people about your project and ask for their feedback. Don’t just ask your mother, either – she thinks everything you do is fabulous. This is where you pull in your toughest critics and the people who look for the cloud behind every silver lining. If you know someone who has done something similar, ask them for 15 minutes of their time to evaluate your plans. 
  • Treat your idea seriously. This is important. Don’t just spring your idea on friends to get their impressions. Treat it seriously and they will, too. Tell them you’re thinking about a project and would like their honest opinion, and ask them to name a time they can give you their full attention for about half an hour. Setting an appointment makes you think seriously about the best ways to present your idea and lets them know that you really do want honest feedback. Their enthusiasm and insight can help you refine your idea and may point out options you hadn’t considered before. Remember, getting the right help and input could be the difference in your dream becoming a reality or not.
  • The More Creative, Unique & Useful the Idea the Better. Something new, interesting and enticing always gets more attention and is therefore easier to raise money for and to get people to back. This is especially true if it is a very useful item and/or has new applications that have not been done before in the marketplace. Also, something to consider, how large is the audience and number of people that could potentially want or would benefit from your new product / service / business / idea? The larger the number of people that would benefit from your creation the better. But it is also comforting to know that almost every niche is represented in large numbers these days. Just be mindful of the benefiting audience for your creation.

Step Two: Focus Your Pitch

Marketing pros call this your “elevator pitch” – a one-minute description of your project that captures attention, delivers the essence of your project and sparks the listener to ask for more information. Think of your FundUsLocal campaign page as your elevator. Here’s the process to help you create the pitch-perfect elevator pitch.

  • Define your project.  Write down your general idea. Maybe you want to start a coffee bar, record a CD, build a community playground or help a family whose house was wiped out by a flood.  Write it down. That’s your starting point, but people will want to know more details.
  • Narrow it down.  Now add some specifics. Tell people what you’re trying to do and why they should care. Your pitch for a community playground may look like this: The equipment at the Main South community playground is outdated and unsafe. We’re raising money to replace the broken swing sets and benches with better equipment so the kids in the neighborhood have a safe, clean place to play. 
  • Tell the donor how their contribution helps.  Everyone wants to contribute to a good cause or help fund a great idea, but they want to know what their money will do.  To continue with our playground example, you might write: Your contributions will help us buy and install a high-impact playground surface, three play sets and four park benches for parents and grandparents. If your project will help your band put out a CD, you might write: Your contribution will pay for studio time, professional mixing and packaging materials.

 Step Two: Figure Out How Much Funding You Need

A major part of your elevator pitch is the amount you’re seeking – how much money do you need? Here at FundUsLocal, we know that your needs can be a moving target. We understand that projects can be done in one of two ways: the perfect way or the not-so-perfect, but-it-can-still-be-done way.  We believe in giving you both options to fund your project and then allowing other forces determine which path you must take. Let’s face it, not every project is going to reach its ideal funding goal, but we don’t think creators should have to give up on their dream when that happens. After all, should you give up on the playground if you only raise enough for two park benches and one play set? We don’t think so.

That’s why we decided to fund projects two ways—either when you’ve reached your ideal goal, or when you at least meet a pre-determined reserve goal.  It’s your call, but you’ll need to be methodical when setting them.  Here are some tips.

  • Evaluate your needs.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  But a lot of people miss some important expenses when they’re trying to get a project off the ground. Start with a list of all money you think you’ll have to spend. In addition to the actual cost of your project, remember to include promotional costs and fees, as well as the cost of the various rewards for backers or Dream Enablers as we like to call them – including shipping costs.  Now, show your list to other people who have done similar projects and ask if you’re missing anything. By the time you’re done, you should have a complete list of every cent you’ll have to spend to do your project with all the bells and whistles. That’s you’re ideal funding goal.
  • Figure out what you can do without.  Now, figure out your reserve funding goal. Are there places you can cut corners without affecting the major focus of your project? If you’re trying to build a dog park in your neighborhood, for example, you may be able to lop a few thousand dollars off your goal by choosing less expensive fencing, or getting a local organization to do the installation. In other words, take your project down to the bare …bones (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves).  What will it cost to get the project done without all the fluff? That should be your reserve funding goal.
  • Decide how long you want to run it.  Finally, you’ll have to put a time limit on your funding campaign—anywhere from a week to four months.  There are pros and cons to short and long campaigns, and only you can decide what the best time limit is for you.  Remember that the longer the campaign, the more that people will see and possibly donate, but short-and-sweet, on-fire fundraisers can be ideal to keep the momentum on your project that is necessary to raise the needed money and funding.

Step Four: Choose Your Rewards

 People love the feel-good buzz of contributing to something great, but they love it even more if they get a special “goodie” in the deal. No matter how generous people are as a general rule, the truth is that projects with cool rewards get significantly more donations and reach their goals much faster. Picking out cool rewards can be tricky, though. Put on your creative hat and start thinking of things your backers would love to get as a “thank you so much!” for their donations. These are some of the more successful donor thank you rewards we’ve seen.

  • Raising money to fund your band’s first CD? A copy of the CD is an obvious choice, but seriously? Anyone can buy it after it’s made. You want your backers to feel special – and the more they give, the more special you want them to feel. A CD personally autographed by the entire band is pretty special. A second “private session” CD is even more special. And for those really special backers who fund a big chunk of your project? What’s more special than a chance to sit in on the session and party with the band after you wrap?
  • Remember that community playground overhaul? Graduated rewards work here, too. Set up a protected page where every donor can view photos from the ribbon cutting ceremony – and make sure you get lots of pictures of happy kids swarming the new playground equipment. Promise bigger backers a thank you letter from one of the kids who play there – or better yet, post those thank you notes on a playground wall. For really big backers, you could offer to put their name on a plaque at the playground.
  • Maybe you’re passionate about giving the dogs in your neighborhood a place to hang out.  How great would it be if generous backers received a special thank you from the dogs—a plaster paw print from one of the dogs who will benefit from the doggie park?

You get the picture.  Catch a donor’s attention with cool, well-thought out rewards, and your chances of fully funding your project will increase.

Step Five: Putting it all Together

 Imagine that you’re browsing FundUSLocal as a potential backer—what would stop you from hitting the “next” button?  Would it be a catchy image or a succinct but exciting description of a project?  Maybe a photo of the creator working on a project would catch your eye.  All of these things are important, but to truly stop a donor in his tracks, you need a combination of pieces that give your project the “WOW” factor.   

  • Grab attention with a title.  Create a title that sums up your project and give it a personal twist.  “I Want to Open a Dog Park” is generic and boring. “San Diego Dogs Deserve a Place to Play, Doggone It” that is something that connects with locals and describes your project with a bit of humor. Wouldn’t you stop for that?
  • Catch eyes with an image. Your image should inspire the backers to get in on your project. Pair the dog park title above with a picture of a leashed dog watching children play on the playground, and you’ve got a winning combination. Bonus points if you can coax a sad expression from the pup when you take the photo. ;-)
  • Make an impression with a video.  If photos are worth a thousand words, videos must weigh in at a million. Videos are among the most-shared type of online content, so get out there with a video camera and start filming clips of happy dogs and sad dogs, dogs playing and dogs sitting behind fences. Add some captions, do some editing in a free video editing program, and you’ll get your message across loud and clear. Even if you’re not a pro at making videos, the free tools available online will have you yelling “Action!” in no time.  Check out the free tools available at http://www.demoduck.com/2012/03/beginners-guide-to-online-video-marketing-part-1/ to get you started.
  • Tell backers your story.  Remember step two? This is where your hard work from it will pay off.  Tell potential backers about your project. Give them enough details to make it enticing. Outline your plans and tell them how you will spend the money.  The more clearly people understand your project and how it will affect your community, the more likely they are to donate to it. Telling people the truth will help  you lend credibility to your cause or idea.
  • Get your brag on. We know it’s not easy to brag about your accomplishments, but this is the one place where it’s not just okay, but it’s important. Tell backers why you’re the best person to run this project and make it work. Tell people who you are, why you care and what qualifies you to take on this particular project. Your aim is to convince potential dream enablers that you really can accomplish what you’re proposing to do. Make them believe in YOU to make your dream come true.

Step Six: Getting the Word Out

Okay. You’ve got your project all set up and ready to go. Where are the backers? That’s where you come in. We make it easy to get the word out to friends, family, community and others with tools to connect you to your social media platforms – but don’t forget other methods of getting the word out in your networking.

  • Social media. Link your project page to all of your social media profiles and use the buttons to invite friends to visit. Make sure you tell friends to Like, Share and Tweet their donations to spread the word about your project far and wide.
  • Email.  Some people don’t check Facebook regularly – or even have a Facebook account, as hard as that might be to believe. Send out project announcements via email, and provide a way for people to sign up for a mailing list for updates. There are lots of free tools out there to help you with email list management. 
  • Community networking.  Put the word out among offline contacts as well. Have business cards made up with the URL to your project – they’re dirt cheap these days. Talk about your project at meetings and with friends, at the gym and in other places. If someone shows an interest, hand them a card so they know how to connect to your custom URL.
  • Throw a party.  Fundraising parties are nothing new, and they can definitely be used as a mechanism for raising funds for your project.  Get creative in your efforts and make it fun for your guests, and you could end the party with some serious cash for your project.  If you’re trying to raise funds to publish your book, hold a pre-release book signing and autograph book IOU’S for your guests.  If you’re project involves the community, get them involved via the local media.  Tell them about your idea, and then announce the fundraiser.  Local journalists love to support an idea that will improve their community.
  • Use Traditional Media Sources. Almost every community has one or more newspapers, radio stations and tv stations. These media centers are looking for relevant things in their community to share with their readers, listeners and viewers every day. Many times it is actually a struggle for local media companies to find stories to run day after day. Media sources such as throw away papers, newspapers, community papers, radio stations and tv stations are a gold mine for people with local community projects that they want to get funded on FundUsLocal. If you don’t know how to send out a press release. There are many places where you can get one created and distributed for you.

Step Seven: Keep Them Informed

One of the biggest reasons people donate to projects is that they want to feel like they’re a part of something good.  They’re tired of simply writing checks and not knowing what happened to their donation afterwards.  Keep them feeling like an insider by providing regular updates on the project status. As an added bonus, your updates can establish connection and leverage additional donations or a second round of funding. These are a few of the decisions you’ll need to make about updating backers.

  • How often will you update them?  Will you only update them when something significant happens with a project, or will you communicate weekly or biweekly even if you don’t have big news?  Remember, a simple “Ordered the park benches today!” will go a long way in establishing trust with your backers. 
  • Will big backers get more updates?  Some project creators choose to update their largest backers more frequently as an added perk to giving more money.  Some creators decide to update everyone who donated to their campaign at the same time.
  • Will you make the updates public?  Timely, public updates can increase your chances of more donations because visitors will see that you’re moving forward on your project.
  • Stick to your promises. Whatever you choose, make sure you follow through on updates as promised. Your commitment will inspire trust – and possibly even further donations. Be honorable to your word. If you tell people you are going to do something then do it. This will preserve your integrity and help your credibility.

Step Eight: Deliver the Goods

 You reached your goal! Now it’s time to deliver on those promises you made to your backers – and follow a few other best practices that will leave your contributors with a good feeling about your project, which could be important further down the line. Here’s how you should handle the ending stages of your fundraising campaign.

  • Write a thank you note. Your mom always told you how important it is to write thank you notes, right? Listen to your mom. Each contributor should get a personal thank you note when they make their initial contribution. After you reach your goal, you should post an update with a public thank you to all backers, and, if possible, send a personal thank you email to each one. Include information about when they’ll receive perks and contact information for getting in touch with you.
  • Send out rewards. If possible, send out the rewards as soon as you’ve completed your project.  It keeps things much more manageable. In addition, keep your backers in the loop with updates to let them know when they can expect their perks and keep them informed about the status of your project. Communication is the key to keeping complaints to a minimum, especially if your project falls behind schedule. 
  • Post status updates. Today’s backer is eager to know the status of projects they’ve helped fund, so oblige them with project updates to keep them informed. You can continue posting updates after your campaign deadline to let your backer community know when you reach milestones, announce upcoming events and share future plans. Your backers will have a dashboard of their own that allows to the check on your project and rewards status.

Get Ready, Get Set and Go Get Funding For It!

 Now that you have a deeper understanding of how to set up and run your campaign on FundUsLocal, all that’s left is getting it done. Browse the posted projects, get some ideas and get started on your own fundraising campaign today! It could be the start of something big! It could be the start of a brand new life for you – one that brings your hope and promise into the world and into reality!