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Ask the Experts: Convince strangers to give you money with crowdfunding

By Marty Minchin
Correspondent

The growing idea of crowdfunding – or asking people to support your idea by giving you money without necessarily expecting anything in return – can be traced back to the Statue of Liberty.

When money ran out to build the statue’s pedestal, publisher Joseph Pulitzer used one of his newspapers to ask the American people to give. More than 125,000 people donated, and Pulitzer raised $100,000 in about six months.

“The Internet has made things much, much easier,” said Mike D’Avria, owner and president of Charlotte Information Strategists, which helps businesses tell their stories. “We now have the ability to share on the Internet and accept money online.”

Websites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe have made crowdfunding accessible for anyone with an idea. In some well known instances, crowdfunding has raised millions of dollars for popular and well presented projects. Other times, however, campaigns fail because of lack of support.

Campaigns aren’t always just about money. Sometimes, groups and individuals run a campaign to gauge interest in a product or idea. Other campaigns, such as one that recently raised almost $6 million from more than 91,000 people for a new Veronica Mars movie, are as much about generating publicity for a project.

“If you can have that kind of perfect combination of being able to tell your story, ask people for money and have a good idea, it’s mind-boggling how much money you can raise,” D’Avria said.

D’Avria has helped a number of groups and individuals run crowdfunding campaigns. Here is his advice on how to convince people to back your idea with their wallets:

•  Present your idea clearly and convincingly. Before you begin your campaign, make sure you can articulate what you want the money for, who will give you the money, and why they will give you the money.

Crowdfunding websites allow campaigns to use video, pictures and text to tell their stories. D’Avria advises making a video explaining why you want the money. The video doesn’t have to be high-tech or filled with special effects, but it does need to come across as genuine.

“Tell the story of who you are and why you are doing this and what you are going to do with their money,” he said.

•  Tell everyone. “It can only be successful if you let every person know you’re doing this,” D’Avria said. Failed campaigns, he said, often didn’t share enough. Use Facebook, Twitter, email and phone calls to spread the word.

•  Offer incentives – and choose them wisely. D’Avria recently helped a local filmmaker raise $7,500 for a short film using local actors and crew members, implementing exclusive behind-the-scenes access for donors.

The filmmaker named a character in the movie after donors who gave $500, an incentive that sold out immediately, D’Avria said. Other high-level donors got their name somewhere in the movie, such as in the name of a bar that characters visit.

“It cost the filmmakers nothing at all,” D’Avria said. “It’s cool things like that that people want to be involved in.”

But offering a T-shirt that costs $7 to donors who give $10 can severely cut into donations, D’Avria said.

“You have to make sure that the incentives that you’re giving make sense and you’re not spending all the money you make giving stuff away,” he said.

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