Many times, people mistakenly believe that crowdfunding is about raising money. It is actually about validation of ideas whether supporting a community-based project, launching a new product, or even raising an equity investment for a microbrewery.
The key to validation is to minimise the cost of asking the question while reaching the largest possible target audience. If you spend before asking the question, the question becomes less about the project idea and more about covering costs.
The rise of social media in the Digital Economy has also had a profound effect on reducing costs of reaching a large audience. The time-constraints of a crowdfunding campaign, though, create another challenge – how can a message be shared quickly and widely to receive validation?
Experienced crowdfunders will stress the importance of preparing support before launching a campaign which some people confuse with finding lots of friends and family as supporters. Although this may help, it does not necessarily translate into a digital crowd, especially if the individuals are not influencers or digitally inclined.
The MSc programme at Surrey Business School has embedded crowdfunding into the curriculum for several years now to improve digital skills for students and has faced similar challenges. Student teams create, manage and execute crowdfunding campaigns in the space of 3 months as part of an MSc module for a range of selected community-based and university-based projects. How do they succeed with such time-constraints?
The answer is with the gaggle…the initial digital crowd to help make crowdfunding campaigns fly. Funded by a small research grant from Santander Bank, Gaggle Connect, is a website where student teams can set up project pages to build support for their projects and evolve their project ideas based on supporter feedback. In turn, project goals are set in terms of number of supporters instead of funding.
The site is curated by a well-connected digital guru, Joe Gaggle, and his digital team who produce Bloggles with crowdfunding tips & tricks and a weekly Gaggle e-Newsletter with project updates. This increases the size of the digital funnel so all of the projects benefit. When the projects are ready, they migrate to a crowdfunding platform and bring their gaggle with them.
Last year, MSc students raised almost £85,000 across 6 crowdfunding campaigns. This year, student teams have set up 5 projects on Gaggle Connect that have garnered more than 1,500 supporters as well as several hundred messages of support so far. It is great start (see www.gaggleconnect.com).
On 30 October, the projects will migrate with their gaggles to www.crowdfunder.co.uk to go live, including community-based projects like Homes 4 Hedgehogs, Warren Park- Action for Children and Part of the Night (community-based experimental theatre). Now, they need your support to fly!
A Crowdfunding Launch Party sponsored by MR Solutions Ltd will be held on campus while mini-crowdfunding competitions sponsored by local companies such as NatWest Bank are planned during the campaign to motivate students and their crowds. We are looking for more corporate sponsors if you would like to get involved to support digital skills, local community and great projects.
Join our gaggle and make it a crowd…