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Kick-ass Kickstarter campaigns

kickstarterNonprofits should at least know about the potential of Kickstarter for crowd-funding small to medium-sized creative projects. Even if you don’t use this tool yourselves, your supporters and/or grantees might be interested.

Over the past year, I’ve watched a few friends launch successful Kickstarter (KS) campaigns for very worthy causes, but I wanted to learn more—especially from the communications perspective. Happily, there was a recent presentation on the process by local expert Lou Abramowski—sponsored by one of my favorite Minneapolis design agencies, bswing. I want to share Lou’s wisdom with as many people as possible in the nonprofit communications world.

One big lesson I came away with is that any crowd-funding campaign is going to require a significant amount of time, planning, and organization (not to mention creativity and knowledge of  your target donor audience)..and some up-front capital. Think about that before you make the decision to undertake a KS project. Also, make sure your project has a clear beginning and end date—KS requires that. This platform isn’t for funding start-up businesses or anything long-term—it’s specifically to raise money to fund the completion of finite creative projects. Be sure to check KS’s funding categories to make sure that your project fits easily into one of them.

If you have resources to devote to a KS campaign, think first about a budget. How much do you need to raise and approximately how many donors will it take (each giving say $50 each) to get to your goal. Remember, you’ll have to reach out to many times more people than that final number of donors—so consider if that’s feasible given your resources. And don’t count on Kickstarter (or any other crowd-funding platform) to get you to the finish line. Abramowski estimates that typically only about 3% of your donors will come from KS traffic. The rest come from your own aggressive outreach—emails, phone calls, videos, blog posts, Facebook and Twitter posts, other social media, events, etc.

When you’re figuring out how much you’re going to have to raise to carry out your project—consider that 5% of your contributions will go to Kickstarter and another percentage will go to Amazon for processing the transactions. Also, you will want to produce donation incentives (rewards you’ll mail out to contributors if the project reaches your funding goal), e.g., a copy of your project, calendars, frig magnets, greeting cards, events, etc. to spur various levels of giving and get people more engaged. Those cost money, too. So does the postage for sending them out, and the postage/printing for any mailings you’re going to be doing as part of campaign promotion or follow-up. If you want to recoup those costs, include them into the amount you need to raise. You absolutely need to be prepared for success, so make sure you have a plan and funding to carry out after-campaign follow-up, right from the beginning of the campaign.

Also think realistically about how compelling your project is. When you talk to people about it, do they get excited? Is there a great story to tell—something that can arouse the same kind of passion in others that you feel? The most important part of any KS campaign is the quality of the project. But, as Abramowski points out—people are not only investing in your cause, they’re investing in you. So make sure your personal or organizational story is also exciting and human—i.e., not institutional pablum.

As for choosing Kickstarter over other other crowd-funding platforms, Abramowski recommends it because it attracts a very high number of unique visitors. It’s the largest crowd-funding platform for creative projects in the world; that means a built in audience for you and good brand  association for your project. But be forewarned, the support staff probably isn’t going to be as helpful as staff on smaller platforms, like Indiegogo.

Here’s some of Lou’s best advice for mounting a “kick-ass” campaign on Kickstarter.

  • You’ll need a great video. Hopefully, you’ll be able to produce this yourself with smart phone or videocam footage and free online editing software. Tell the story behind the project, emphasize the need and the fact that this project just won’t happen unless people contribute. DON’T FORGET THE ASK!!!
  • Create fun rewards for different levels of donation. Try to get people to the $60 mark, but reward many levels of giving.
  • Build anticipation. Start marketing while you’re setting up your campaign on Kickstarter (which can take several weeks). During the actual campaign, a good rule of thumb is to focus 70% of your marketing on the first three and last three days. It’s crucial that your campaign period covers at least two pay periods during the month (Fridays). And time the campaign ending date so it gives people a chance to donate right after their second paycheck–which is more likely to be discretionary money.
  • Partner wherever you can. Find friends, colleagues, freelancers, and agencies who believe in what you’re doing and are willing to contribute ads, copywriting, videography, event venues, anything that can lessen your out-of-pocket costs and help spread the word.
  • Write exceptional copy. This is all about storytelling, authenticity, passion, and honor. Use natural language, no jargon. Keep it conversational. Make your KS pitch as creative as your project is. Stay honest.
  • Be yourself. This doesn’t have to be a Hollywood production. People need to feel the authenticity to share your excitement. They are investing in you as much as the project. Don’t read a script, tell a story. Keep it simple and engaging. And don’t forget the call to action!
  • Market like crazy.  Marketing is going to be responsible for 95% of your success—and 95% of your work! Be everywhere everyday. Over-update on social media. Answer every email. Take out ads. Do mailings. Throw a party. Get creative! (But don’t forget to build these costs into your total funding goal.)

After all this, if you’re still interested in trying KS, here’s a great post from Mashable that goes into much more detail about ensuring KS success. Good luck. And thanks to Lou and bswing for sharing their KS expertise.

Free Tools: Visual Timelines

Tiki-toki

Tiki-toki

Facebook isn’t the only place you may want to use an interactive visual timeline to tell the story of your organization’s evolution and accomplishments.

Lucky for all of us, there are some new FREE timeline tools out there that nonprofit communicators can make good use of: Tiki-toki, Timeline JS, and Dipity. Examples of each are to the right.

Check them all out and choose according to your needs. Of course, there are premium versions to buy that offer more flexibility, but any of the free versions probably would work fine for most nonprofits. There are several differences among them.

Tiki-Toki allows you (makes you) add months and days to the dates of your stories (at least I haven’t found a way around that!). That works great if your story takes place over a month or a week, but it doesn’t work so well for anniversaries where you just want to note years. You can only create one timeline and you can’t embed it on your website without upgrading to a premium account (lowest upgrade is $5 per month). You can share your timeline, just not embed it. There are also some limits on images hosted on the Tiki-toki server.

TimelineJS

TimelineJS

TimelineJS  is good if you’ve got tech support in building your timeline. It’s easy for the viewer to use, but not so straightforward for the person creating it. Personally, I found Dipity that simplest to create with. You can get a timeline going in 15 minutes. And I like the way Dipity hides the detailed information–you have to click on it. That makes the big messages in the headlines really pop, and lessens the distraction of the reader. Yet, anyone who wants more details can easily get them. Also, you have the choice of viewing a Dipity timeline as a flipbook or list.

The free version of Dipity allows you to create 3 timelines with a maximum 150 events. These timelines can be embedded and shared. Note–your timeline will have ads on the page unless you buy a premium version ($5 per month minimum). Also, Dipity allows you to sync your timeline with your twitter, facebook, tumblr and other social media so the timeline is automatically updated with those posts. (This feature could come in handy if your timeline is tracking campaign progress.) Here’s a good video tutorial on starting out with Dipity.

Before you even start thinking about using one of these cool tools, you need to have a good reason. Strategy first! None of us have much time to learn tools just for the fun of it. But, if your organization has an anniversary coming up or you’re trying to tell a story that rolls out over time, visual timelines can be a lot more effective than scrolling narratives. Like infographics, they offer easily digestible bites rather than a huge meal of text/photos. Consider the possibilities… And if anyone knows of other free timeline creation tools, please leave a comment below.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, Dipity has experienced long-term technical problems that have prevented creators to edit or add to their timelines. It’s been three weeks and the problem still exists. What’s worse, Dipity hasn’t been forthcoming with information to its users about the nature of the problem. They keep promising it will be fixed by such and such date, but that never happens. I moved my Dipity timeline data to Whenintime instead–based on a referral from another Dipity user. I don’t like the timeline mechanics as well, but it does offer an interesting blog template. Check it out, or one of the other two free timelines above. I can no longer recommend Dipity!

Nonprofits: New look for Twitter and LinkedIn profiles

In the past few weeks, two big social media platforms—Twitter and LinkedIn—retooled the look of their profiles. And–no surprise—both changes focus on adding fantastic IMAGES.

Nonprofits should get in on the action. Here’s the scoop on today’s public roll-out of the new LinkedIn company profiles. And here’s a good article from Mashable about the new Twitter profiles.

First, get inspired! Want some examples of what other nonprofits new profiles look like? I’ve included an image of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s new LinkedIn profile page–but since this change happened just today, I couldn’t find any other new nonprofit pages. I’ll keep my eyes open and add examples to this post as I find them. But here are some new Twitter profiles.

Now, down to the nitty-gritty…exactly how to make the changes. These two blog posts on Nonprofit Tech 2.0 provide simple instructions for how to rock the new looks for Twitter and LinkedIn. TIP: Pay careful attention to the optimal sizes for the images on each medium. And really be strategic with these photos.

Free photo editing tools for nonprofits

PIXLR

Visual content is online gold, especially for social media. But lots of nonprofits don’t have the money to hire great photographers or buy Photoshop, so they end up using lacklustre photos or no photos at all. But there are great free photo editing tools out there that can turn your photos into masterpieces, and allow you to do very creative things with them.

I’ve been using these a lot myself, so I wanted to let you know about them!

Quick and dirty photo enhancement: PICMONKEY

This replaced Picnik for me when it moved to Google+. It doesn’t require any download and it very quickly and slickly lets you fine tune photographs and add some interesting creative effects. Really simple to use. So if you need to adjust contrast, color, or brightness, eliminate red eye, resize, add text or overlays, or touch up a photo fie–this is the place to go. Also, try out the very cool effects section! Love it.

More advanced photo editing and manipulation: PIXLR

I tried GIMP for a while, but PIXLR editor has become my favorite for about every kind of photo manipulation tool that Photoshop offers. You can make backgrounds transparent, create image layers that are then compressed into a single finished image, and do just about anything to a photo or graphics file. GIMP had these capabilities too, but it seemed much less easy to understand than PIXLR. ( I don’t have time to pore over manuals, and I’m betting you don’t either.) I highly recommend watching this Norwegian’s introduction to pixlr video–it’s about an hour and half long, but he goes through almost every tool in an illustrative and understandable way. You come away ready to go!
PIXLR also has a vintage effects section that’s interesting.

Smart phone photo styling: INSTAGRAM

I’m sure you’ve all heard of this little gem, and many of you have used it personally. Think about ways you can snap photos on the run that relate to your nonprofit’s work, then style and post them on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media. Here’s a recent Mashable post about 10 inspiring nonprofits using Instagram.

Start with these three, but here are a couple of links to top-rated photo enhancement tools you might like, too.

Fearless Flyer’s 5 of the best photo editing software–for free!

Freeware Review’s Best free digital image editor

So, get yourself a digital camera and snap on my friends!

Pinterest Primer for Nonprofits

Flickr: stevegarfield

My name is Gayle Thorsen…and I’m a Pinterest addict.

Me and 21 million other users, more and more of whom are nonprofit organizations.

The demographics of Pinterest–82% females with higher education and income levels–hold a lot of promise for nonprofits. That combined with the fact that it now drives more referral traffic than Twitter doesn’t hurt. (It had already exceeded the referral traffic of Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined!)

Rather than repeat all the sage advice out there for nonprofits who want to add Pinterest to their social media portfolios, here are the most recent, best tips.

Getting Started

Why and How Causes Should Use Pinterest  (Joe Waters on Huff Post IMPACT)

How to Get Your Nonprofit Started On Pinterest (Nonprofit Tech 2.0)

10 Strategies for Nonprofits on Pinterest (Mashable)

Ideas/Best Practices

9 Pinterest Best Practices (Nonprofit Tech 2.0)

12 Ways to Use Pinterest for Your Nonprofit (John Haydon)

42 Creative Pinterest Ideas for Nonprofits  (Frogloop)

Role Models

11 Must-Follow Nonprofits on Pinterest  (Nonprofit Tech 2.0)

It’s important to acknowledge that there are still copyright issues related to Pinterest, despite the fact that they announced policy changes last month. The best advice (from the linked copyright article) is to:

  • pin from the source
  • pin from permalinks
  • give credit and write a thoughtful description

Ready, set….pin (and repin!)

CC photo credit: Steve Garfield

To self (and staff): Great job!

Flickr: Doug88888

When Marc Pitman asked us nonprofit fundraisers and communicators: “How do you say thanks to yourself?” The first answer that popped into my head was—yoga. The second was—a glass of wine and a long hot bath.

Then I thought a little harder about how I’ve rewarded myself in the past, after periods of taxing work, when complex projects have come to fruition. Here are a few things that buoyed me up and helped me celebrate what I—and my co-workers—had achieved.

  1. Dredge up the very first file or planning document related to the project. Take a look at it and marvel at how far you’ve come since it was written. Truly, our beginnings never know our ends (in a good way). You’re allowed to utter “wow” aloud.
  2. Go into the conference room and lay out all the communications products associated with the project on a big table. If there’s media involved, stream it on a computer. Gather your coworkers who helped with the project and create a moment of group pride where you all feel the power of working together to accomplish something big. Turn on Florence and the Machine’s “The Dog Days Are Over” and celebrate with a little wrap party.
  3. Take a minute to drop by your CEO’s office and let them know the project’s done and share any data about its success…then let yourself bask in whatever praise they choose to heap upon you. But be sure to acknowledge those who helped you. (If they don’t heap some praise on you…ponder whether you’re in the right organization.)
  4. Once the project’s done, take the team out for a surprise, mid-morning coffee-donut break. Throw in an inexpensive but appropriate gag gift for each member related to their role on the project. (These can be as simple as home-made award ribbons with funny titles, or those cheap button pins with wacky sayings on them). Let people enjoy each other when they’re out from under the press of assignments and deadlines. Let them know you appreciate their roles.
  5. Just for yourself—take a few days off and get away. Different sights and a new environment can recharge your energy and imagination.

But I wouldn’t want to leave it at that. Taking care of yourself (and your staff—because they can be real contributors to your well being) isn’t something you should wait until the end of a project or a tough work period to undertake.

Build in rewards (and fun) all along the way…at major milestones or just every few weeks. Small things (e.g., a great image/saying about gratitude with a little hand signed note from you, taped to each team member’s computer screen when they come in on Monday morning) to bigger things (e.g., a chill-out dessert potluck some afternoon)—the gesture is the important thing, not the cost.  And you don’t have to have all the ideas—invite your staff to think up cool rewards, too.

You work very hard, and so do your staff. Regularly acknowledge and reward that!!

Creative Commons photo credit: Doug88888

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