Successful crowdfunding ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Publisher Colleen Higgs and author Ambre Nicolson decided to publish a book through crowdfunding.
Even if you’re an existing business, crowdfunding can provide a way to fund a product or project that would otherwise be out of reach. This was the case with A to Z of Amazing South African Women, a bright and colourful book with bold illustrations that celebrate impressive South African women.
“I came across a book published in the US called An A to Z of Rad American Women and posted something on social media saying that I thought there should be a local version. A clever friend of mine called my bluff and suggested that we make one together, and so the idea was born. Publisher Colleen Higgs immediately saw the potential for the project and came on board. From the very beginning, it seemed to resonate with people — particularly women — and it is really due to their support that the book saw the light of day,” says author Ambre Nicolson.
“Modjaji Books was very keen to publish the A to Z of Amazing South African Women, but we didn’t have the ready capital to fund a book like this, which is more expensive to produce than our usual text-based books,” says Colleen. “We needed funding just for this book, so crowdfunding seemed like the right idea. There are not many other ways of funding books in South Africa.”
The Thundafund crowdfunding campaign was a success, raising R104 400, slightly more than the stated goal of R100 000.
“You need to remember that a crowdfunding site typically takes a percentage of what you make, and then there are the bank fees to consider as well, so aim for about 15% more than you think you need,” says Colleen.
And how do you create a campaign that’ll provide you with all the funds you need? “I think the storytelling aspect of the campaign is very important. You need to give people a reason to care. In our case we wanted to showcase the strength and resilience of South African women, and this resonated with backers. Put time into the description of your project and into creating strong images. Your campaign has to compete with everything else vying for people’s attention online,” says Ambre.
Crafting a campaign
As is the case with just about anything, success in crowdfunding is a result of hard work and dedication. A great campaign requires an engaging story, a desirable product, clever marketing and a solid understanding of business fundamentals. Without a good story and product, people are unlikely to fund the campaign. Without a good strategy to turn a successful campaign into a successful business, backers can be left angry and disappointed.
“While every project is different, we have found that one of the most common factors with successful campaigns is the project itself: The idea, layout of the project page, and the whole concept must say the right thing to the right audience,” says Nicholas Dilley of South African crowdfunding platform Thundafund.
“Another thing that project creators are always encouraged to do before their campaign goes live is to build up a network of supporters who believe in their campaign.”
Lastly, the rewards offered are obviously also important. “Thundafund is a rewards-based crowdfunding platform so, as expected, the rewards play a fairly large role in a campaign’s success. While the rewards may not be the icing on the cake in every campaign, they can make a small donation turn into a large one in some cases. Certain rewards can help build the credibility of a new brand, or even test the market to see which of your products will be most successful in the future of your business,” says Nicholas.
Trust is key
When it comes to crowdfunding, the most important thing is trust. By funding a venture or product that doesn’t exist yet, backers are placing a massive amount of trust in the entrepreneur. This trust can never be broken. The results can be disastrous, and can follow you long after you’ve abandoned your failed crowdfunding campaign.
From the outset, you should ensure that people understand what you are offering in return for funding.
“Rewards-based crowdfunding is not very well understood in many parts of the world. When you say ‘crowdfunding’, people tend to think it’s some sort of charity, or that people are buying shares in a business. Rewards-based crowdfunding is essentially pre-selling a product online, and most people are not aware of this. It’s important that you make this clear to people,” says Steel Cut Spirits CEO, Rob Heyns.
Trust usually comes down to honesty and open communication. Issues will almost inevitably arise, but it’s important to relay these to backers. Don’t disappear from your website or social media platforms for months and leave them wondering where you went with their money. Keep them in the loop at all times, especially if you’re dealing with unexpected problems.
“You need to prove that you will deliver, and then you actually have to do so once the campaign is completed,” says Rob. “I personally took full accountability for this campaign, as it can be easy to hide behind a product, brand or company when problems occur. We also aligned with key partners to ensure we could deliver. We were supported by Yuppiechef, so we knew we could execute on the e-commerce part, and we chose Thundafund as we knew they were the best option to execute on rewards-based crowdfunding in SA.
“We did mess up the communication with two backers who bought smaller rewards. It was merely a miscommunication, but it was eye-opening to me how great an effect such a mistake could have on a customer. We went to great lengths to solve the mistakes but it did concern me that there is an even higher trust-related expectation with crowdfunding than with normal e-commerce.”