3 tips for crowdfunding #likeaboss

By Sara Veltkamp, Minerva Strategies —

The outdoor gear company MSR has just ended the active phase of their crowdfunding campaign to raise money to distribute their Community Chlorine Maker, a device that uses a car battery to turn salt and water into chlorine that can treat water from unsafe sources. We’ve been pleased to partner with MSR on communications for the campaign, which so far has raised more than $51,000 in six weeks – not bad for a campaign launched during a tumultuous and attention-diverting election season.

Here are three things that organizations can learn from MSR on how to crowdfund for a cause.

 

1. Focus on a product or service that is a unique solution to a problem worth solving. 1.8 billion people around the world drink from unsafe water sources, and that number is likely to increase with the mounting severity and number of natural disasters, as well as with a growing refugee population around the world. The Community Chlorine Maker, designed in partnership with the global health innovator PATH, helps solve this problem by empowering people to treat their own water. The maker was designed to work in challenging, low-resource environments. The tangible nature of this product makes it easier to crowdfund for than something more vague, like ongoing programs.

 

2. Partner well and let partners excel. The first time we sat down with campaign partners was exciting. The team included the Minerva team, marketing and communications pros from MSR, designers and creatives from Wunderman, strategists from Add3 Digital Marketing Agency, and others dedicated to making this campaign work. Each partner was chosen to take on different aspects of the project, and each had a specific perspective on the campaign that made it stronger.

In addition, MSR was willing to trust partners to do what they do best. They listened and learned, offering opinions and feedback, facilitating meetings as needed, but largely allowing each partner the autonomy to execute their portion of the campaign however that partner saw fit. This resulted in clear messaging for defined audiences, creative visual assets, and good social media and traditional media coverage.

 

3. Set goals and manage expectations. The initial goal of the crowdfunding campaign was to get 2,500 chlorine makers distributed around the world to make safe water for 500,000 people. This is an ambitious goal – one that would have required raising $400K during this crowdfunding campaign.

Ambitious goals are inspiring and MSR wanted to shoot for the moon. But MSR also had perspective. They had never tried to crowdfund for a product before and there were a lot of unknowns. They were uncertain how their largely outdoor enthusiast fan base would react to a global health-focused product, and they did not know if media would be interested in covering a campaign of this nature. Last, they were unsure if people would be willing to fund the distribution rather than the development of a product, which is the norm for tech-related crowdfunding campaigns.

Because of these and other unknowns, MSR set a more realistic but still ambitious goal of raising $50,000. They still aim to distribute the chlorine makers to 500,000 people, but they acknowledge that fundraising to hit that goal may take more time.

At this writing, the most active phase of the campaign is wrapping up and has exceeded MSR’s goal of $50K. But they will continue to take contributions from people like you to reach their ultimate goal of getting clean water for a half million people. In terms of execution, this campaign is huge a success – one that MSR AND the global health community can build on.