Crowdfunder lesson – What I learnt from running a crowdfunder for Caroline Lucas’s re-election campaign, and how you can use this for business, social enterprise, or politics.
If you’re in the UK, you may have noticed that there’s an election on. I live in Brighton where we have the U.K.’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas. I think she’s great, and the Green party has lots of policies which are in line with my values so I decided to help out by organising a crowd funder to raise money.
Whether you’re a fan of Caroline Lucas and the Green party, or not (either’s fine, we can still be friends) here are some lessons which might be useful for you if you thinking about doing crowdfunding, either for investment in your business, or for social or political purposes.
Crowdfunder lesson one – don’t do it in a hurry
I’d actually tried to do a crowd funder for the Green party a few months before this, but haven’t been able to organise getting the video done. More about that in lesson two.
But Theresa May didn’t consult me on the timing of the election, so I had to just swing into action, and learn as I went along. I know lots of people who love this kind of thing, just getting going, not really knowing what they’re doing and winging it. But it’s not really me, and increased my stress levels and caused me to have to correct some mistakes after we’d gone live.
Crowdfunder lesson two – working with video makers
I’ve actually done a lot of work with different filmmakers before, so I should have been well equipped to know how to handle this. Some of my previous learning, however, went out of the window because we were in such a big hurry.
The bit that I didn’t think through enough, was how I was going to be effectively directing the film. In fact, on the day of the filmmaking, I was only going to pop in for 10 minutes to say hi and get them started, but I ended up spending the whole afternoon, kneeling at Caroline Lucas’s feet and holding a reflector!
If you’re going to make a reasonably complex film like this one, to use on a crowdfunder or for a Facebook ad, make sure that you spent a couple of hours working out exactly how it’s all going to come together. I should have imagined it all in my head beforehand, gone down to Brighton Pavilion where we were filming, and worked out exactly how all the different shots were going to come together. The film would have been a lot better, and more interesting, if I’d done that, and if I had compiled some other footage of Caroline in action and worked out how to put that into the rest of the film.
I also should have taken some photos of us making the film, to put on social media and get some excitement going beforehand.
I really wish that I’d been able to capture the guy who was walking through Pavilion Gardens while we were filming, and shouted to Caroline “you should be Prime Minister”. His spontaneous comment would have made a much more interesting film.
Even if you’re paying lots of money for your video to be made, do give yourself the job of Executive Producer or Director, and think through the film stage by stage.
Here’s the video we ended up with, which is pretty good.
Crowdfunder lesson three – launch with a splash
I singularly failed with this. I put together the crowdfunder with the video in a couple of hours, and set it live in about 9:30 PM. I could have…
- Set up a little party for the launch, got some people together in the pub to all publicise it on social media and email their friends.
- Had a big mailing list to send it out to people, with a pre-prepared compelling email to get hundreds of people to put money in at the beginning
- Got people ready by telling a core group beforehand what I was doing and getting them to spread the word
- Compiled a list of social media influencers, and emailed them to get them on board and ready to send out a series of tweets
- Done a FB live for the launch
Nope. I didn’t do any of that, I set it live, put a little tweet on my own Twitter account, and then went home to bed.
Crowdfunder lesson four – get some money in fast
I was able to do this by asking people I knew personally, and key members of the Green party locally to put in some money, so at least we got the first couple of thousand in within a few days. There’s nothing worse than a crowdfunder that has no support, so getting initial donations was really important.
Crowdfunder lesson five – keep the promotion going
This is a particularly interesting one. When you launch something, it’s the most interesting thing in the world to you, and when you do a ton of work to get something going, you kind of want to have a little rest after you’ve done the first bit. But of course, life doesn’t work like that.
You have to consistently keep plugging away, because it’s not the most important thing in the world to anyone else, and just because you put something out on Twitter, doesn’t mean that anybody else in the world has ever noticed it.
You have to keep telling people, reminding people, and keep the message going out. You also have to keep different variations of the message going out.
Because there was also a surprise election happening, everyone who would normally have wanted to help with raising money for Caroline Lucas, was busy doing all the other things that need doing for an election.
I’ve had to make sure that I keep my own motivation going, and keep telling the world about the crowdfunder, and asking them to put money in. Fortunately, when you run a business you get used to this, so as soon as I could see it as exactly the same as promoting my own business, I was able to get into the swing of it and make sure that I did something every day.
Crowdfunder lesson six – use Facebook ads
I was only able to spend £50 for an initial test of FB ads for this particular campaign, because there are very strict limitations on what a local political party can spend in a UK election. But, even that initial test told me that if I’d been able to continue spending a little bit each day on Facebook ads, we would have got money back in increased donations, with an ROI of at least 250%. You wouldn’t normally have this kind of restriction, so if you’re doing a crowdfunder, I would definitely use Facebook ads to increase awareness in a very targeted way.
If you haven’t used Facebook ads before, I would either get in an expert to help you, or I would practice beforehand, because it’s easy to blow lots of money on Facebook ads and not use the right targeting. See crowdfunder lesson one, don’t do it in a hurry.
Update & result
By the election date, we’d raised 11.5k. Which is not bad, but I must admit to being a little disappointed, especially as Caroline’s election campaign cost a lot more than. And there might be another election by October! If you contributed to the crowdfunder, then thank you very much for making my day and helping out.
Caroline won her seat with a massive majority, which was the point of all of this. But she’s still the only Green MP in Parliament, and there’s a long way to go. And although Caroline got a lot of votes in Brighton, in the rest of the country, many Green voters voted tactically for Labour this time, which meant that the number of Green votes overall went down dramatically.
Another thing I didn’t know about this complex politics business (and I thought VAT was complicated!) is that the amount of money a party gets to do its work in parliament is worked out by the number of votes they get. Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the leader of a party, hard working or a good person, there’s some equation which means that Caroline now has the funding for her support team cut by 50%.
So there’s another crowdfunder (not me this time) to make up this shortfall. I’ve popped in £100 to help out – maybe you could too? Here’s all the details and how to contribute.