By Patrick Dulay, Youth Co:Lab
Crowdfunding is a great option for social entrepreneurs to raise funds for their business and their community. It helps them mobilize their network and allows them to tell their story to a larger and new audience. We won’t lie though, crowdfunding can be challenging, and getting the results you want will require you to put in significant amounts of time and effort.
But #DemiLaut from Malaysia, Aretes Style from the Philippines, and DOCHAA from Nepal have shown that it is possible to achieve success in crowdfunding. Their stories serve as proof that with hard work, great storytelling, and commitment, you can turn an idea and need for your organization into a successful reality through crowdfunding.
Our startup support team at Youth Co:Lab, an initiative co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation, helped these three social enterprises plan and run their campaigns. It was a rollercoaster for all of us, but every second was worth it. All of us came out of the experience with new learnings on crowdfunding. Here are just a few that we’d like to share with you:
1. Take the time that you need to craft a great narrative for your campaign
A big part of crowdfunding is telling stories that will resonate with your audience. It’s easy to overlook deciding what about your story you want to tell, and just as important - how to tell it. What we learned works best for project creators is to put themselves in the shoes of the people that they want to connect with. To build a narrative around what they would want to know about a crowdfunding campaign.
For #DemiLaut, a social enterprise that works towards creating sustainable and empowered fishing communities in Malaysia, it became clear that they needed to tell a human story surrounding their goal. For their crowdfunding campaign, they raised funds to provide a fishing community in Sibuti with solutions to upgrade their cold chain management. The funds from their campaign would go to providing inexpensive and reusable ice packs to the community of artisanal fishers to help maintain the freshness of fish and minimize the impacts of fish wastage from improper fish stock management.
To tell their story in a way that would connect with their audience, they focused on telling Hj Idin’s personal journey of working with #DemiLaut. Hj Idin is a fisherman from the Sibuti community who they are transforming into a role model for other fishermen by providing him with knowledge and resources to cultivate a sustainable fishing culture that will lead to better marine food security in the South China Sea region.
#DemiLaut added a personal touch to their campaign and showed their audience the human story behind the bigger picture so that people who came across their crowdfunding page would see real people behind the monetary goal.
2. Invest in your campaign materials.
Once you have a good story to build on, you need to work on getting your campaign materials ready for everyone to see. The best mindset to have when preparing your campaign video, photos, and other publicity materials is simply to create something that you will feel proud of both visually and content-wise. If you have a great story to tell, but don’t give enough attention to how to convey it, then your message won’t be delivered in the way that you want it to. You only have a few seconds to capture the interest of your potential supporters, and your campaign materials will need to do just that.
For DOCHAA, a social enterprise that brings Nepal’s tradition and global quality standards together through their shoes, it was important to get their campaign materials perfect before they launched. They knew that the best way to convey their story was through showing their audience what they had created in the last few years. The thought, time, and effort that they put into their campaign video and photos translated to a positive reception of their campaign. Their products are colorful and unique, they highlight Nepals’ culture and heritage, and the best way to tell the story behind them was by getting straight to the point and showing the crowd how great they are. And that’s exactly what they did.
DOCHAA identified their strengths, and used that to their advantage when they were telling their story. This is a game plan that is sure to help steer any campaign down the right path.
3. Take full advantage of the opportunities that will arise when you crowdfund.
When anyone does a deep-dive on crowdfunding, they will soon find out that crowdfunding is way more than just raising money. Since you’re essentially running a marketing campaign, you reap the benefits of one too: exposure, new opportunities, and deeper connections with your audience. A lot of the time, potential partnerships or collaborations will arise because of people learning about your organization through your crowdfunding campaign.
Aretes Style, a social enterprise that creates clothing and accessories using a traditional weave from Marawi City in the Philippines, was able to bring their collection to a new market because they made the most of the power of crowdfunding. This was in huge part due to their carefully crafted campaign materials that were able to make a large impact on Facebook and Instagram. Without their campaign video, they would not have been able to expose themselves to their new collaborators.
We must never underestimate the power of social media. Through social media, Aretes Style was able to connect with an organization that not only donated to their campaign, but also offered to partner with them to bring their products to the United States, which was coincidentally one of the bigger goals that the Aretes Style team wanted to accomplish in the future.
Because they were open to collaborations and new experiences brought about by crowdfunding, in addition to reaching their goals for their campaign, they were able to turn what seemed like a far-fetched dream into a reality. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there, you'll never know what opportunities will open up once people see your campaign.
Crowdfunding is an exciting adventure that any organization or enterprise can be successful in if they take the time to plan out their campaign activities, implement strategies that work best for their project, and give the attention that is needed to run a campaign. Crowdfunding is an adventure that can put you up against challenges that will make you work harder for success. The good thing about this is that the success will be an even greater reward, and you will definitely come out of the experience with learnings and opportunities that will help you in the future.
If you’re interested to learn more about crowdfunding, check out our crowdfunding course linked here.
Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.