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Alongside building a crowd around your crowdfunding project, this post investigates why and how you should build a team around your Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or Crowdfunder project and campaign to ensure its success. Initially inspired by Bethany Joy Carlson’s post How To Succeed At Crowdfunding: Building A Team, I’d like to further explore the types of roles / team members you will need to make sure your crowdfunding project runs smoothly.
Your crowdfunding team – why do I need one?
“Campaigns run by two or more people typically generate 94% more funds than those run by an individual.”
“Indiegogo campaigns with 2 or more people working on them raise 80% more money than those with only one person. Campaigns with 4 or more people raise 138% more than those with only one.” (IndeiGoGo, 2011)
Source: IndieGoGo Insights 2011
Crowdfunding is a time and labour intensive activity – it can be exhausting and demoralising at times, but you can prepare for that. One way to counteract the burn of developing and funding a project is to involve other people in the process. Not only will you share the burden of the work involved, but you will also bring extra social capital into your project, and social capital is of massive value in crowdfunding.
It’s likely that when you look at the list of roles / team members below, you might think “I can do that, and that, and that”. That’s great – you will have to do lots of this yourself, but it is also worth remembering the words of John Donne “No man is an island, entire of itself…” and make sure that your connections with other people are factored into the project from its planning stages.
Your crowdfunding team – what do I need to consider?
When you start to work with other people on your project, it is worth considering the following:
How will you communicate with each other?
When you are bringing a team together to work on your project, don’t set yourself up as a bottleneck. It may be tempting to make sure that all communication has to run through you, but think about ways in which you can avoid the project stalling as tasks get passed from one person to another (eg the designer handing over finished graphics to the copy writer to add to a campaign page, or vice versa, or the social media person waiting around for the photographer to send through photos) by setting up robust modes of communication. Try using team working platforms like Slack or Basecamp for team communication and be clear about who needs to sign what off, in what ways before it can ‘go public’.
Will we share values & expectations?
Everyone working on the project will need a common understanding of:
- what the campaign aims to achieve
- its scale and size, and when it will happen
- what your expectations of each team member will be (their commitment)
- each team member’s ‘ownership’ over the project (including how they will be credited)
- what the markers of success will be
- understanding each team member’s responsibilities and overlaps in roles
It is really important to approach this with openness, honesty, respect and warmth for each other – nothing is certain in crowdfunding and you can’t take anything for granted. Each project is unique or “brand new” and the process itself is a massive learning curve. Things will shift and change throughout the project, and you’ll have to renegotiate things as you go along. As with the public-facing elements of crowdfunding, transparency is important – don’t hide things from your team if you want them to trust you, the project and each other
Why would anyone want to work on my project?
You are probably embarking on a crowdfunding project because it is something you are passionate about, something you really want to do, achieve or make happen in the world. This is a massive incentive for you!! Think about the types of incentives can you offer to other people you’d like to work with.
If you are crowdfunding, you probably don’t have any (much) money to spend, so think past this – what else could be of value to the people you’d like to work with? Maybe the opportunity to learn new things, to take risks, to try things out, to see behind the scenes in this type of project? To take on a personal challenge, or develop a new skillset? To have a financial stake in the project? Or a cut of future / post-campaign profits? Cost these elements out, and pay for it where necessary (especially when accessing specialist skills / equipment). View costs for things like campaign visuals / videos / copy writing / social media activity as an important investment in your project and account for these in your budget.
Your crowdfunding team – Identifying key team members & roles
In this list, I have separated out the roles that will be key to your crowdfunding campaign’s success. In reality, you probably won’t have one person for each role – you might end up being in many of the different roles yourself, and you may work with other people who will be able to take on more than one of these sets of tasks. However, you can use these titles to think through who you can/need to get on board with your project to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible. Think about who you know who has the necessary skills and personal attributes, and how else you could find people who would be useful to have onboard.
#1: Product development
Person spec >> expertise in working with the specific material/context, creative thinking, methodical, skills in prototyping / testing / revising When? How much? >> heavy involvement - pre-campaign; casual involvement - during campaign
This is the person (or people) involved in and responsible for designing, making and testing the actual thing you are crowdfunding for. They will need to work with feedback from the Product Testers.
#2: Product testers
Person spec >> willing to find faults, representative of your intended audience, confident to communicate honest feedback
When? How much? >> casual involvement - pre-campaign
These are the people involved in testing the product you are developing. They might be beta testers / playtesters / test audiences / people you can show test imagery to / people you can share links to your campaign preview with for feedback. As your project reaches the final pre-campaign stages, this group will also include reviewers – independent from the project, ideally with their own ‘crowd’ or following.
#3: Project Manager
Person spec >> organised, good communication with all other team members, attention to detail, ability to map out macro-view of the project, flexibility to re-think aspects as campaign develops
When? How much? >> heavy involvement - pre-campaign, during campaign, post-campaign
This person will be responsible for drawing up plans for the project’s timescale, budget and logistics, communicating these clearly, adapting them as necessary as the campaign develops or in response to changes in circumstances.
#4: Leadership, Drive & Motivation
Person spec >> enthusiasm, confidence, willingness to be the public ‘face’ of the project, good communication with press / interviewers, honesty & integrity, knowledge of the project
When? How much? >> heavy involvement - pre-campaign, during campaign & post-campaign
This person will be responsible for keeping everyone in the team motivated – even when things get tough (and they will!). They may also be the ‘face’ of the campaign – someone backers can relate to and trust. They may appear in the video and be the person made available by the project to meet with press or take part in interviews.
#5: Campaign strategy
Person spec >> strategic thinking, knowledge of the project, flexibility to re-think aspects as campaign develops, ability to consider both macro and micro views of the project, good communication with all other team members
When? How much? >> heavy involvement - pre-campaign & during campaign
This person will be responsible for developing creative approaches to campaigning and heading up strategic thinking about how the campaign is run.
#6: Visuals, photographs & graphic design
Person spec >> keen eye for visual composition & design, technical skills in visual production, ability to meet deadlines, attention to detail, willingness to receive feedback from testers, flexibility to re-work aspects as campaign develops
When? How much? >> heavy involvement - pre-campaign; casual involvement - during campaign
This role (which is likely to involve 2 or more specialists) involves the production of the following visual aspects for your campaign:
- Photographs – high quality images of your rewards, and of your behind-the-scenes process, making this relevant (showing it being used etc – gifs are useful here!) and attractive. The photos will need to be edited, touched-up, resized, and prepared for a number of different contexts (online & print).
- Photos & graphical images for social media – these may need to be updated during the campaign
- Campaign page graphics – work with a graphic designer to produce headings and infographics. These are useful for clarity and explaining where the money goes, the process of the campaign from design to delivery, stretch goals etc.
- ‘Brand’ assets – managing the distinctive visual appearance of all the aspects of your campaign / online and real-world presence. Typically, this covers things like a company or project ‘logo’, colours/typefaces used, advertising style etc. to ensure a distinctive and consistent look and feel to public-facing communications.
#7: Text & copy writing
Person spec >> keen understanding of text & writing for the target audience, technical skills in written communication, attention to detail, ability to meet deadlines When? How much? >> casual involvement - pre-campaign, during campaign, post-campaign
This role involves developing / producing all the text for the campaign, including:
- writing a script / outline for the video shoot
- writing the main pitch text for your campaign page
- writing press releases
- writing updates & copy for mailouts (weekly during the campaign, monthly after the campaign)
Person spec >> keen eye for visual composition & design, technical skills in video production and sound, attention to detail, ability to meet deadlines
When? How much? >> casual involvement - pre-campaign
This is the person who will oversee / do the production of your campaign video. They’ll need access to the right equipment (you can use a phone / webcam / laptop, of use/borrow more hi-end equipment as appropriate), know how to use it (ie act as camera operator during the shoot), work out location and production details with Campaign Strategy & Project Manager (ie where, when & how you will shoot the video), source correctly licensed music (if necessary) and have the skills and equipment to edit the video and publish it online.
#9: Online communications
Person spec >> keen understanding of online communication & communicating with the target audience, technical skills in using social media / other online platforms, attention to detail, confident online communicator
When? How much? >> heavy involvement - pre-campaign & during campaign; casual involvement - post-campaign
This person will be responsible for managing communications with your crowd and social media for your project and campaign, including:
- backer communication
- managing social media posts & conversations
- email mailouts
- continuing to build your crowd throughout the campaign
- creating a media page – with press releases, press images (lo and high res)
- collecting and amplifying positive online reactions to the project (eg reviews, praise etc)
- managing negative online reactions to the project (eg negative comments, trolling etc)
Person spec >> patience, good communication with potential backers, helpful & friendly
When? How much? >> casual involvement - during campaign
Onboarding refers to the process of sharing the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to help prospective backers to become effective ‘insiders’. This person (or group of people) will need to be available to help people new to crowdfunding through the process of finding your campaign online, backing it and understanding how crowdfunding works.
#11: Events Host
Person spec >> event organisation skills, confidence, willingness to be the public ‘face’ of the project, knowledge of the project
When? How much? >> casual involvement - pre-campaign & during campaign
Successful campaigns extend out from online platforms into real world interactions to widen and build your crowd, and reward your existing backers. This is a person in your team who helps to make that a reality by organising and running face-to-face events like campaign launch / closing parties, book readings / gigs / film screenings / other ‘taster’ events for your project.
#12: Campaign Cheerleaders
Person spec >> relentless enthusiasm, willingness to actively promote your campaign to their networks, knowledge of the project, strong existing social networks
When? How much? >> casual involvement - during campaign
These are a number of people who will continue to actively promote the campaign for you during your campaign. 30+ days of campaigning is a long time to maintain motivation and a positive outlook – think carefully who would be willing to take this on and then help them to help you. The more cheerleaders you have, the better chance of success for your project.
#13: Fulfilment team
Person spec >> reliable, available at the right time, fun to hang out with, good attention to detail, anyone who owes you a favour
When? How much? >> casual involvement - post-campaign
This is the team of people who will help you get all of your rewards to the backers after the campaign. They might be assisting on the production of your rewards, or more likely in the sorting / addressing / packaging / posting / delivery of your rewards once they are produced. This is one of the most important stages of your project (making sure backer receive their rewards on-time and as promised), so make sure you are well staffed to avoid delays and mistakes.
When you launch your crowdfunding project, you are likely to be approached by a (potentially large) number of marketing companies who will make you a range of (often great sounding) offers. BEWARE: Some of these offers will be scam messages, some will promise miracles in exchange for 10% of your project’s income, and some will simply be TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
Apply your critical eye – ask to speak to other satisfied project creators they have worked with (and ask them for concrete evidence that the services are worth the money) and speak to the company on the phone – do they understand your project, do they have existing links to relevant backers, do they understand the market in which you are working? For most projects, these services aren’t necessary at all – and you should focus your efforts on working with people you trust to actually build your crowd yourself.
Before pursuing any of these contacts, I would recommend reading Carol Benovic’s post “Before you work with a marketing service, consider this” and the Kickstarter Campus message board post discussing creator’s experiences of these marketing services.
Your crowdfunding team – Who to choose?
When you are working out who to work with, you might want to also consider some of the following points:
- getting an idea of people’s social reach / connections with others / networks
- getting an idea of people’s access to influencers – are they in touch with particular people who might be useful to your project?
- getting an idea of people’s willingness to tap up contacts, act as cheerleaders or advocate for your project publicly
- track record & potential – examples of projects they have worked on before, building your understanding of what they are capable of
- time & resources – do they have enough time (or other resources) to be able to contribute to the project when you need them to?
What do you think of this run down of the team needed to allow your crowdfunding project to run as smoothly as possible? Who have I forgotten? Is this list useful? Let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @RachelDobbs1
Rachel Dobbs is one half of LOW PROFILE, an artist and educator based in Plymouth, UK. Rachel works on a range of arts and education projects, has a long-term interest in creative approaches to community development and runs workshops, teaching & training sessions for a range of formal & informal groups including students, arts practitioners and communities – contact me for more details.