The 5 Biggest Mistakes First-Time Higher Ed Crowdfunders Make

First-time crowdfunders are a lot of fun. When we first meet with them, they are full of aspirations and wonder and creative initiative. Often, though, they come to us with a few misconceptions and expectations about crowdfunding that could be detrimental to their campaign if they aren’t addressed.

With all of the crowdfunding success stories on display across media outlets, it’s no wonder that there are misconceptions floating around that could lead to disappointing results.

Here are the biggest misconceptions and mistakes that we’ve seen first-time crowdfunders make and how to combat them.


1. “If we build it, they will come.”

The Washington Post contends that the internet has approximately 305 billion printed pages worth of content – the equivalent to 212 million copies of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

And yet many first-time crowdfunders believe that if their campaign page is beautiful enough, or if the video is compelling enough, potential donors will find it on their own and give to it.

The truth? Crowdfunding is work. Engaging an audience of like-minded individuals, harnessing a community’s resources, and connecting various stakeholders for a common cause are work. Reaching out to donors is work, and asking them to give is work. It’s all work, albeit some of the most rewarding and energizing work out there.

Crowdfunders should expect to be the biggest advocates for their campaign, sharing it before, during, and after it comes to a close (for stewardship). If they won’t, who will? Because a potential donor isn’t going to happen upon the crowdfunding campaign by chance.


2. Setting an unattainable goal

First-time crowdfunders naturally set their funding goal too high. From our experience, they do this for one of three reasons:

  • They are afraid donors will stop giving if they reach their goal early
  • They underestimate how much work crowdfunding is
  • They want to crowdfund for the entirety of their budget deficiency
  • They are concerned that a small goal will delegitimize their project

Our mission is to help crowdfunding teams in higher education set goals that are challenging, yet attainable. Team morale plummets once they believe they won’t be able to meet their goal. This is especially tragic early on in the campaign.

Our recommendation? USEED has found that each dedicated fundraiser who commits to emailing at least 21 people from their personal networks over a 30 day period will raise approximately $500. This data helps ground new crowdfunders so that their first campaign doesn’t begin or end in disappointment.

Finally, we always encourage our crowdfunders by letting them know that they can raise their public facing goal if they exceed it early on. This way, everybody wins!


3. Expecting that one or two people can do all of the work

…and usually the people who believe this ARE those one or two people.

Crowdfunding in higher education is a team effort. It’s not only more exciting and rewarding to work with a team of like-minded individuals, but it is also significantly more effective. The amount of people you are able to engage by yourself in comparison to how many you are able to engage with a team is exponential.

And if there is only one or two people working on the campaign? Well then the first order of business shouldn’t be creating the campaign page – it should be identifying and empowering a team of leaders to spearhead the campaign with them!


4. Putting too much focus on a social media strategy

More than 90% of the time, a great social media strategy won’t fund a crowdfunding campaign.

While social media is great for stewarding donors and garnering attention and momentum, the significant portion of crowdfunding campaigns are raised through peer-to-peer fundraising. Namely, through sending emails to an established personal network of friends, family, mentors, and peers.

A first-time crowdfunder should be diligent in reaching out to the people they already have relationships via email with prior to shifting their focus to social media.


5. “Selling” vs “connecting”

Higher education crowdfunding is philanthropic crowdfunding, and it looks very different than the familiar rewards-based crowdfunding campaigns (think: Kickstarter). Donors won’t give to your campaign because you “sold” them on it, and they won’t give because they happened across your campaign and it seemed like a good idea.

The truth is, you don’t need the perfect pitch to successfully crowdfund in higher ed. All you need is authenticity, willingness, and an enthusiasm to connect people to your cause.

That’s it!

For some, this can be a relief. For others, it can be terrifying.

Crowdfunding in higher education means being vulnerable with the people you care most about: Your friends, family, peers, colleagues – the list goes on. It means vocalizing the direct impact your initiative will have on your college experience, your education, and your life.

People want to give, and they want to give to you. Ask them to join you in your cause. Bring them into the fold.

Don’t sell them – connect them.

You’d be surprised how much more they prefer the latter.


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