Create Personas for Your Crowdfunding Program in 3 Easy Steps

Before you launch your institution’s Crowdfunding Program, we recommend first learning what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign. From there, you can strategically seek out the groups on campus that reflect those attributes. Doing your due diligence by learning what makes a successful campaign (and team) will allow you to tailor your messaging to the people most likely to set a high standard for your program. After all, early success will be critical to building the momentum you need to grow your program into something amazing and unstoppable.

Here’s how we recommend investigating your target candidates and then using that information to create detailed personas for them:

Step 1: Determine who can fundraise with your crowdfunding program

For some colleges and universities, their Crowdfunding Program is accessible to anybody on campus – including students, faculty, and staff – who needs funding for school-related initiatives. For other institutions, the program is limited to a subset of the campus, such as faculty research or student organizations.

Before you can begin to develop targeted personas for you ideal candidates, you first need to know who can fundraise with your program. Fortunately, defining what makes an applicant qualified to participate is part of the Crowdfunding Policies that we help colleges and universities set forth early on when building their programs.

If your program will be open to your whole campus and all its stakeholders, you may want to organize them in groups so you can create more specific personas for them. Then, you can focus your outreach and marketing efforts on more targeted groups instead of simply “everybody.”

Step 2: Develop profiles of successful crowdfunders

One of the first things our Crowdfunding Advisors train first-time fundraisers to do is audit crowdfunding campaigns similar to their own. Doing an audit like this helps them define what successful – and unsuccessful – campaigns have in common, which influences how they approach their own crowdfunding campaigns.

Similarly, once you’ve established who can participate in your Crowdfunding Program, you’ll want to develop profiles of individuals from these groups who have successfully implemented crowdfunding campaigns in the past. Especially early on, it will be important for you to be strategic in your outreach, as you want the first campaigns that go through your pipeline to be shining examples of what others can expect from your program.

For example, if you’re seeking out successful student-led campaigns, you might want to investigate popular crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe, Generosity (IndieGoGo’s personal fundraising platform), or CrowdRise, using relevant search terms, starting with the name of your institution (you might be surprised how many results pop up!). For faculty research, you might need to get more specific in your investigation with a crowdfunding platform like Experiment.

During this investigative stage, document the similarities across successful and unsuccessful teams. Take it a step further and meet with leaders who have crowdfunded successfully. Ask “why” often to learn more about what drove those teams to crowdfund and how they found success.

Once you’ve created profiles of groups who have historically been successful at implementing their crowdfunding campaign, it will be much easier for you to build personas of the groups and people you should reach out to in order to kick off your Crowdfunding Program!

Step 3: Create personas of ideal program candidates

Once you have identified the types of crowdfunders who have been successful in the past, you can move forward with creating personas of ideal candidates for your Crowdfunding Program.

So why develop personas?

Personas allow you to create messaging and content that appeals to your target audience. The message you’d deliver to your student population (and how you’d deliver it) would be wholly different than how you’d encourage professionals on your campus to apply. Your message and outreach will either attract or repel. Of course, you want to attract the types of crowdfunders who will thrive in your program, which you already know all about from the former exercise!

Personas are also most useful when they are specific to a target person – not a group. Let’s look at two examples:

Persona #1: “Students who need funds.”

Persona #2: “Margaret, who is the new president of XYZ student organization. She is a senior, juggling full-time classes and other extracurriculars. With little time on her hands but a big passion for making the student organization financially accessible to new members, she is seeking opportunities to raise funds. She has never led a fundraising initiative. She spends much of her downtime on social media, like many of her peers, including Instagram, Snapchat, and Whatsapp.”

The second persona you could only develop through auditing campaigns, conducting interviews, and/or leading study groups. It takes work, no doubt. But look at the difference in what you now know thanks to the extra effort. With Persona #2, you know Margaret’s motivation (financial accessibility for new members), what she needs from your program (an accelerated, pain-free process), and where you can find her (social media).

You can also do this same exercise with negative personas. Which groups have you learned might not be a good fit for your Crowdfunding Program? While we love inclusivity, we also want you to be empowered to establish a program full of campaigns that represent you and your institution well. Not everybody is a great fit for crowdfunding (though we’re always up for the challenge!), so it is worth investigating what types of personas you might want to avoid, especially early on.

For more information in developing detailed personas for your target audience to grow a wildly successful Crowdfunding Program, check out our friends at Hubspot’s guide to developing a detailed buyer persona. While this is tailored more toward businesses, we believe it to be relevant for anyone seeking to market a new program, product, or service.

We wish you the best as you endeavor deeper into this learning experience. We can’t wait to see what you uncover!


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Kristen Gluch | Director of Content Development

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