It seems silly. In the age where even your grandmother has a Facebook account, by and large the most effective way to solicit donations to your crowdfunding campaign is email.
There are a couple of ways you can do it, but on pretty much every campaign I have worked on this year, it’s true – in some projects, up to 70% of the pledges come from emails. But there is a method, and a madness to doing it right.
There are two types of backers
The first one is your friends and family. The other is a group of people you pull together around your project in a process known as Crowdbuilding.
This post will give you the templates and method you need to get your friends and family on board. For small projects (under $3,000 per team member), this should be sufficient.
If you are raising a larger amount, these techniques will still help get your first backers on board and are still relevant. But you’ll need to do some additional crowdbuilding, and have a robust communications strategy.
So… people are a lot like sheep
Pretty much every campaign follows a really simple pattern. Backers multiply once they see that someone else is on board.
The more guaranteed the success, the more likely someone is to back you. I think the TED talk “How to Start a Movement” sums the principle up nicely. So I’ll let Derek Sivers explain what I’m talking about:
Email allows you to be able to control who sees the campaign first
This means that YOU get to choose who sees the page, and in what order. You can use that to your advantage and stage the communication plan to maximise your chances of funding.
The first step to creating your perfect email strategy is to go and find EVERY email you have ever had access to.
Get into that old Hotmail account from 2007. Raid the folder in your hard drive where you used to stash copies of email from Thunderbird and Outlook in 2003.
Right now, you’re simply creating one really big list. Emails might be out of date… but they might not be.
You can just whip one up in Excel or Google Docs – you only need 5 columns: Email; FirstName; LastName; Group; PersonalMessage.
Copy and paste your emails into the template, along with the first and last names of each contact.
If you use Gmail, you may need help exporting all your contacts. Here’s a good resource to help you do that.
CrowdCrux have also published this really handy tutorial to help you export all of your Facebook friends’ emails.
Once you have this master list, you’ll probably recognise that you don’t actually know some of these people. And some you might not have talked to in a really long time.
Not all of your backers are created equally
Your list isn’t complete just yet. There’s a good chance Dave, who just became a dad and works in a law firm is no longer using that email@example.com email address he used in college.
The next task is to split your main list into 4 groups:
Group 1: People who know what you’re doing, and/or who you are close to.
Group 2: People who you are fairly close to, and who may or may not know what your project is.
Group 3: People who you haven’t seen in a really long time and who have no idea what you’re up to.
Group 4: People you don’t know/are not on good terms with/tech support emails/emails you KNOW are dead etc..
Use the template provided and number each contact 1, 2, 3, or 4 in the “Group” column.
The fourth group is the important one to get right. Gmail, especially, will literally save every email address you ever send something to. That includes the guy you sold your water ski to online, and tech support at your Internet Service Provider.
If you don’t know someone, and they haven’t given you permission to email them, then they need to be in the fourth group.
Highlight Column D.
Sort the sheet so Group 4 is grouped at the end of the list.
In Google Drive: From the menu, click ‘Data’ > ‘Sort sheet by column D, A → Z’.
In Microsoft Office, click the ‘Sort’ button > ‘Sort Smallest to Largest’.
This will reorder your contacts by their group number.
Highlight all the rows that belong to the fourth group.
Due to email spam laws (which differ from country to country), it’s probable that it could be construed as being spam to solicit them via email.
Now you have three groups for three different levels of friend or acquaintance, but it’s not quite done yet.
The same message won’t work for everyone
Each of those groups need to receive a different message. In fact, each person in each of those groups needs to receive a different message. Especially the first group.
The people who know what you’re doing, and who are close to you are the ones who will support you first. They already believe in you (hopefully), and they’re already on board. In an ideal world, these people will be able to take you to at least 10% of your goal. So it pays to be nice.
Think about instances in your own life where you have received an email trying to solicit funds. Do you like a generic ask that you know each and every person received, or do you like a more personal touch?
You are going to be sending three separate email campaigns. Each campaign you send will also contain a couple of sentences written especially for the recipient of the email.
Download the templates below.
Each template corresponds to one of the groups you have just built. They make a slightly different approach based on how close the person is to you.
Starting with the first template, replace the orange text with content relevant to your own campaign to create each of your 3 campaign emails.
Now you have created your emails, it’s time to attack that personal message. It will go where the green text is on the template. We’ll be able to automate this process to make it as easy as possible.
In the “Personal Message” column of the list template, you’ll need to write a short hello to each person on your list.
This could be a note about the last time you saw them – or the next time you plan to see them. It could be a congratulations on a new job or baby, or a comment about a TV show you both love.
The point is to make it clear that you have thought individually about every person on your list.
It doesn’t have to be long, just a sentence or two per person. If you can’t write that, then perhaps you should reconsider which group they are in. Maybe they should be in Group 4.
To make this easy, we’re going to start a Mailchimp list
Mailchimp will allow you to include a personal message to each and every backer on each list, while still making your life as easy as possible.
So if you haven’t already got a Mailchimp account, you’re going to need one. You can go sign up here. It allows you to send up to 12,000 emails to up to 2,000 contacts for free.
Create a list.
You just need one really big list. A step-by-step walkthrough for this is available here.
Create a radio button group with three options.
This will allow you to send the right version of the content to the right group.
More detail on how to do this can be found here.
Import your contacts to these groups
You’ll need to import each group separately, but you can do this with a simple copy-paste.
Select the ‘Copy-Paste from Excel’ option.
Copy the contacts from Group 1 from your master list. Make sure you copy all the details – email, name, group and personal message.
Paste into the box provided by Mailchimp, and select the group they belong to from the list.
Click ‘Import List’.
You’ll need to assign some fields. This means that Mailchimp will know which column contains what information.
First name, last name, and email address are all standard fields. That means you can select them from the drop-down. But there are two fields you need to customise.
The first is the group. Select ‘New Column Name’ from the drop down menu and call it ‘Group’. Ensure the field type is ‘radio buttons’.
The second is the personal message. Again, select ‘New Column Name’ from the drop down menu and call it ‘PersonalMessage’. Ensure the field type is ‘text’.
Click ‘Complete Import’.
Repeat these steps for Groups 2 and 3.
You won’t have to create new columns once they have been created, you’ll be able to select the same groups from the drop down menu to assign them.
You’ve now completed the hard work. You’ve created and segmented your list, written your emails and personalised each email.
The next step is to strategise the release of your emails
Think back to the TED video you saw at the top of this page. The trick from here is to release your emails in such a way that your contacts form a movement.
The obvious place to start is by sending the first email to Group 1 – the people who are most likely to get on board quickly – and who you have specifically asked to do so.
Create a new “Regular ol’ Campaign” campaign.
A HTML campaign means you can track opens, clicks, and forwards. It will help you manage who has pledged for reminders down the track.
You’ll find step-by-step instructions for creating a new HTML campaign here.
Set it to send to a New Segment.
You need to ensure it only sends to one of your groups. To do this, set as shown below.
Set up your Campaign Info
Paste in the email copy you wrote in using the template.
Make sure you remove the colours in the text. Just highlight your email and click the “Clear Styles” button.
Format your email by adding links and merge tags.
Before you test and send, you need to put in a couple of merge tags. Merge tags allows the email to suck in some of the information you uploaded when you imported your list.
This is how you can address everyone by first name, and include your personal messages.
The template already contains the merge tag to insert your contact’s first name (that’s what the *|FNAME|* is). But you need to insert the Personal Message merge tag.
Highlight the first line of text (the bit in green in the template).
Click the “Merge Tags” button in the text editor and select the “Personal Message” option.
That’s it! You now have a list and emails designed to get people on board from Day 1.
You need to preview and test the emails before you send them out to your list.
You’ll also need to repeat these steps for each of the other two groups.
Then, when you’re ready to go, stagger them
Send out Group 1’s emails the moment you launch.
Send out Group 2’s emails after 12 hours, or at 10% – whichever is first.
Send out Group 3’s emails after 36 hours, or at 30% – whichever is first.
This allows you to maximise the effectiveness of each mailout. The more likely someone is to give, the sooner they receive the email in order to increase the likelihood of the next person pledging.
Rinse and repeat
As well as sending out emails when you launch. Play with segments to create reminder emails to go out halfway through the campaign, and 24 hours before you close.
Download the templates below for follow up email templates.