what I learned from crowdfunding

Crowdfunding my book has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. It’s no fun asking people for money!

As many people have asked me about my experiences with the process, I thought I’d summarize them here and hope it will generate some good discussion about crowdfunding campaigns.


Tips I’ve learned about crowdfunding campaigns

1) The crowdfunding platform is not going to bring you a lot of donations. You’ve got to do the work yourself.

All but one of the ~112 donations I rec’d were from people I know personally. So paying the hefty fees to Indiegogo for the “privilege” of having the campaign run by their site may not have been the best option for me. But the site does look professional and makes the campaigning more neutral and objective for donors, so that in itself may have made the fees worthwhile. The jury is still out on that.
2) You can never guess where the money will come from.
People you know who have considerable financial resources may choose not to donate, or may give very little. And people you know who you never would have expected to be overly generous, may floor you with an over-the-top donation.
3) Crowdfunding is like selling. It may take several approaches to a potential donor to get them to act. 
The key is not to be a nag. Send them your pitch. Wait a week or two, and if you haven’t heard back, get in touch again, in a slightly different way and see if you can make your ask different, as different people will react to different styles of requests. Some respond to a direct approach. Others need you to be more theoretical. People are busy and just forget or their diversions get redirected. I’ve been thanked for reminding people, and on occasion they have then donated. We are told via Indiegogo and other sources that it can take 5-7 contacts with someone before they may donate.
4) Crowdfunding is really hard work. You’ve got to develop a thick skin — quickly, and not get discouraged. 

There are days when no donations will come in. There are days when they’ll flow in quite nicely. Mondays are traditionally the worst days as most people are pre-occupied with other things. Would I do it again? I’m not sure. It’s really hard work. It drains your energy. But it’s short-term, and if you pick a 30-day campaign as I did, it’s easier to survive than a long campaign that just goes on … and on …

5) Some people don’t like to give online. 

I had several people insist that they don’t do any financial transactions online and that they preferred to send me a personal cheque via the postal service. Of course, all donations are most welcome, but having a significant portion of my campaign donations not showing up in the running total is not good for optics. It looks as though fewer people are donating than is the reality.

6) Indiegogo must have high rankings in the search engines, as the Indiegogo link to my campaign showed up in many of the free li papers that so many people have. 

At least that gets your message out to more eyes that you may not otherwise have reached and it didn’t cost you any time or effort. If you are unfamiliar with special interest li papers, here is the link to my paper, Chocolatour News:  http://paper.li/wizardofwords/1310439305.

7) Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding platform in the world but when I did my campaign, they did not accept Canadian participants. They do now.

In today’s world of online global monetary transactions, I cannot imagine why Kickstarter was prejudiced against non-US residents. I’m glad that has now changed. I found Indiegogo to be relatively easy to work with, but didn’t see them publicize my campaign once during the time that it ran. And I had a bit of trouble figuring out some of the details regarding transfer of funds as you can’t just call them and get a human on the other end. Communications are always done by e-mail and it’s sometimes difficult to get the answer you are seeking.

8) Your membership in professional associations will likely garner you the largest number of donations.

I was an active member of PWAC, TWUC, TMAC, Toastmasters International and some online groups such as Bloggers Helping Bloggers on LinkedIn at the time of my campaign. Members from each of these groups were generous with their donations to my campaign and I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful in raising the funds that I have had it not been for the networks I am a part of.

In summary, I raised $8,000 towards the $15,000 goal I set for my 30-day campaign on Indiegogo.  That was enough for me to cover the major expenses involved in getting my first print run of Chocolatour, volume I.

I hope you will help support my continuing research for Chocolatour by purchasing a copy of the book if you haven’t already done so. And I thank everyone who has joined the Chocolatour community by subscribing to this site. Please do, by offering your information in the box to the right if you haven’t already done so. Many thanks, and may every one of your days be sweetened with chocolate.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

54 Responses

  1. Amy Winters says:

    Thank you for pointing out that crowdfunding is like selling, but the key is to reach out and wait, not to continue to nag a person about donating to your cause. My brother has been thinking of starting a crowdfunding campaign to help with his medical issues. It’s good to know that there are ways for people to help donate online with today’s technology.

  2. First of all I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question that
    I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any ideas or hints? Many thanks!

  3. WizardOfWords says:

    News flash: I’ve just learned that as of Sept 9, 2013, Canadian creators will be able to use Kickstarter to launch their crowdfunding campaigns. It will be interesting to see how it goes for new projects on the horizon. Good luck to all!

  4. Letitia Puckett says:

    Most recently, Mark completed yet another successful crowdfunding campaign for The House That Jack Built which inspired the two part series which commences below. Finally, yet another film Mark had a hand in, Farah Goes Bang, will have its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival next week.

  5. Simona says:

    To be honest, it is the very first time that I hear the concept of crowdfunding and I found your article quite interesting. I enjoyed most the second point in which you have suggested that people who do not have the ideal financial backgrownd are more likely to donate than the rich. I`ve seen this many, many times. Great info!

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks very much for your comment, Simona, and welcome to the blog!

      Yes, even though the crowdfunding exercise was a very difficult one, I did learn much about human nature from it, and for that reason alone, it was worthwhile.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what I learned from crowdfundingMy Profile

  6. Hi Doreen:You’ve got great instincts, and you followed them to this crowdfunding. It’s good to hear the pros and cons and I’m sure you’ll be able to put that even more into context after the campaign is over and you’ve had time to return to writing your book–which, as you said, was the whole reason for doing the campaign in the first place.You’ve been constructive and helpful to others who might want to try this route, and I hope you are sharing your insights with the Indiegogo folks. I would hope they’d want to hear how to improve their services so that more folks will use them. Good for you for doing all of this!

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Christine. Yes, I’ve had 3 tech difficulties with the site during the Indiegogo campaign and so they gave me a 24-hour extension because of it. I’m at $7,300 right now and was hoping to reach $7,500 by the end of the campaign as that will enable a small print run and cover the editing and design costs.

      I’ve installed a “donate” button at https://chocolatour.net which is the main site for the book, so hopefully late-comers to the campaign will still donate there.

      Thanks for your friendship and support. It’s sure helped me thru this difficult endeavour.

  7. Doreen, This is all new to me, but I like the concept. A poetry site that I follow has recently added a ‘donate’ button. I think this is great! I’ll tweet this out for you as well. Good luck.

  8. Ariana says:

    These are fantastic tips! I’ve been collecting tips as I get ready to set up my own crowd funding project, so thank you very much! Pinned as well!

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Ariana. I do hope you’ll help spread the word about the campaign. We’ve raised $6,200 and are heading for $7K by the end of the week. All help is greatly appreciated. πŸ™‚

  9. Interesting post. I don’t know very much about crowdfunding except what it is but this post makes it a lot easier to understand. I know you wrote another post about people’s mixed feelings about it, but I am glad to see enough people have set aside their thoughts to help you raise money. That is awesome. Good luck! You still have plenty of time and you are doing great work towards your goal.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Mary. Yes, I’ve had about 85 contributors to the campaign so far and am encouraged by that. Hopefully, we can up the totals a bit by the end of the week/campaign as I’m still considerably shy of my goal, but the book will definitely be printed and published as we have a good start!
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what I learned from crowdfundingMy Profile

  10. What an interesting article Doreen. Makes sense that it’s hard work and that you have to make an effort to stay positive. Just like selling anything really, people need reminders, the request put in another way and so forth.

    What Debra suggests about contacting embassies is a great idea. Have personally worked a lot with diplomats and if they feel it would be beneficial to their country they may direct you to donors in their country.
    Catarina Alexon recently posted…Are you tweeting your investors?My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Catarina and thanks for your comment.

      Thanks, also, for redirecting me to Debra’s comment and the fact that she suggested contacting the embassies of the countries. As a travel writer, my contact have always been with the media relations people of the Tourism Departments. And financing a book is generally not within their mandates.

      But the embassies are a completely different story. I will put that strategy into place this week, as it’s the final week of the campaign and I really need some quick action.

  11. Doreen,
    Thanks for the update. It’s not surprising that so many people are reluctant to give online. It is a shame though that it does deflate your overall numbers. What struck me the most is that you received most of your funding through the relationships that you’ve cultivated through your professional association memberships. We really do need to get out there and network!
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…How Do You Avoid Keyword Stuffing on Your Website Blog?My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Sherryl and thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I absolutely got about 75% of my donations from folks in the various professional groups I belong to. Membership definitely pays!

  12. Andy Lewis says:

    Great insights shared !! I have mostly listened about crowd funding but not goes with action in it .In this post ,now i have cleared all my doubts about crowd funding.

  13. Well done, Doreen! I’ve often wondered how crowdfunding works and suspected there’s a lot of legwork. That you’ve raised this much is a testament to your ability to network and the people in your circles. Continued luck!
    Krystyna Lagowski recently posted…If Einstein was a woman …My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Krystyna. Every little bit helps. and my friends and colleagues have been great in helping promote my indiegogo site as well, so with everyone pitching in and working together, it’s not going too badly. But we still need more help. πŸ™‚

  14. Congrats! Yes, you have learned what I try to teach people before they go. It’s not magic money out of the sky. It works very well when you know who your tribe is and HOW to get to them. Without a well thought out plan, people fail.

    Dr. Wright
    America’s Crowd Funding Strategist
    909 235 9744

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Dr. Wright. Yes, I watched your videos today and was glad that I think (for the most part) I have done things right and am hopefully, appealing to my “tribe.” Of my ~80 donors to date, at least 60% of them are fellow writers. The rest are fellow Toastmasters, and a few family members and neighbours. Only 2/80 that I didn’t know personally! That really amazes me considering the fact that I have a fairly extensive online presence.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what I learned from crowdfundingMy Profile

  15. Hi Doreen,

    I’m sorry to hear that the process has been so challenging for you. I work with professional fundraisers and so I asked one that I really respect what she thought might help. She suggested approaching the embassy’s of the places you visit in the book and asking for their support she also suggested that you might want to consider folks like Hershey’s. Essentially, people who have a vested interest in chocolate or the places you visit. I’m not sure if this helps, but thought I’d pass along her thoughts.
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Remember Your Manners – A True StoryMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Debra: Thanks for the suggestions.

      I am in the process of approaching various destinations that have been covered in the book, but so far has had no luck as they have already invested some time and cost in having brought me to their destinations or helped with my costs while there. I have had some support from smaller chocolate companies. But the larger ones like Hershey’s are not being covered in my book as it is about artisanal chocolatiers and chocolate makers, not large commercially produced chocolate operations. So I am in an awkward place with respect to potential funders.

      Thanks for your encouragement. I hope you’ll visit the blog again soon.

  16. A.K.Andrew says:

    You are a brave soul Doreen. I thought that even before I read this post, and now even more so. It does sound like an incredible amount of work, as well as emotionally rather gut-wrenching. But there are not easy alternatives. Fantastic that you’ve given us all the benefit of your experience. It’s a great insight.
    I do hope the rest of the campaign goes well for you.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…7 Blogging Essentials for the Beautiful Blog AwardMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much, A.K.. It has been wonderful having you and the rest of the blogging community as supporters of my team. You folks have supported my campaign financially, and also been regular visitors and commenters on my blogs. That is so very much appreciated.

      I’m happy to share my experiences with hope that it helps others battle the rapids. Cheers!

  17. Thanks for this post. And you’re entirely correct. It takes far more energy than I thought it would to keep a campaign going. Alas this means my writing has suffered this last month or so.

    It has been rewarding, too. Especially all of the “Good luck, go go go” comments.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Yes, isn’t it ironic, Art? We’re doing these crowdfunding campaigns so that we can write our projects and get them published, but the campaigns themselves are so time consuming and draining that we don’t have the time or energy to write! I’m sure glad I chose the 30-day campaign as I don’t think I could have withstood anything longer!

      It’s been great having you on my team. I think that’s another tip I should have included: try and find a crowdfunding buddy who will mutually support and publicize your campaign while you do the same for theirs.

      Cheers, and let’s hope we both finish with resounding success. πŸ™‚

  18. Cole says:

    This was a really interesting post! I never really thought about how much work went into crowdfunding before.

    I heard about Kickstarter a few months ago, it’s disappointing that they do not accept Canadians. At least now I know that I can cross them off my list.

    Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚
    Cole recently posted…How To Get Your Kids To BehaveMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Glad you found the post helpful and interesting, Cole.

      Yes, crowdfunding is a tremendous amount of work. I really don’t think I would do it again. Be aware that it will take over your life during the run of the campaign. But it is indeed a wonderful opportunity to fund projects that may otherwise not happen or have to be compromised due to lack of funds.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what I learned from crowdfundingMy Profile

  19. Shoot typos! Inspiration — not inpriation. You are an inspiration.
    Allison Finnamore recently posted…Talking ag, old schoolMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      No problem, Allison. I corrected the spelling in your original comment, but didn’t delete the follow-up as you included a “Comment Luv” link here. I’m going to go check out YOUR blog! Thanks again …
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what I learned from crowdfundingMy Profile

  20. You’re an inspiration, Doreen! You seem to always come up with new and innovative ways to tackle challenges and we’re lucky to gain knowledge from your experiences. Thank you for sharing.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much for those words of inspiration to me, Allison. I have learned the writing ropes via generous people who have shared with me over the past 20 years, and I am pleased to share my own knowledge with those who are willing and interested to take the journey with me. Thanks for being here with me, and for your most generous donation to my campaign. Both are greatly appreciated. πŸ™‚
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what I learned from crowdfundingMy Profile

  21. satinka says:

    Hi Doreen, It’s great to get a user’s honest view of Indiegogo as your platform for crowd-sourcing, as many people are watching with great interest how this all goes. “Chocolatour” is absolutely a creation of your love, your soul’s desire. This project enabled you to travel the world and opened up your horizons. Feel all the love and support you felt these past three years that you spent meeting strangers who opened up to you. Know that you will successfully publish “Chocolatour” without a doubt! ~~Hugs, satinka
    satinka recently posted…Love of NatureMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much, Satinka. Yes, this project truly is and has been a labour of love for me, as well as a lot of fun.

      I have indeed met many terrific people and learned so much about chocolate and growing cacao. I am thrilled to be able to share this with my readers. And yes, the book will definitely be published by June. The campaign has temporarily taken me from off the writing regiment, but we’re definitely nearing the finish line on all counts.

      Thanks again for your generous donation. It’s great having you on my team. πŸ™‚

  22. Geek Girl says:

    I am one of those who needed the gentle reminder and was very appreciative of it. I enjoy sharing in your chocolate travels and love to support friends. πŸ™‚
    Geek Girl recently posted…Motivational Monday 4/1My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Yay, Cheryl! Thx so much for your friendship and support. You folks in the BHB have been so great in helping promote my links and giving me the moral support I need as well as actually contributing to the campaign. Wow! πŸ™‚

  23. Bruce says:

    Hi Doreen,

    I have been watching your campaign with interest for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I commend you on using this format to bring the book to fruition; previously I had only seen filmmakers do the same.

    Secondly, I have been tasked with raising funds to restore Nova Scotia’s tallest (and very much working) lighthouse, which is in a desperate state of disrepair and needs over $100,000 in restoration work, which will include my fee for organizing everything online.

    I have set a 90 day limit (April 15-July 15) and will be using GoFundMe (also USA-based). I’m very nervous about my “debut” with this, as my professional reputation as a PR guy and writer is also on the line! If you or any of your readers would like to follow this procedure, the Facebook page is “Friends of the Cape Sable Lighthouse Fundraising Campaign 2013”. A website will be introduced on April 15.

    Many thanks — and continued good luck with the rest of your campaign.
    Bruce recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Bruce, and for contributing to my campaign.

      Yes, crowdfunding is now being used for all kinds of creative and community projects. A fellow in a neighbouring community here in MB used it to raise finds to build a walking bridge. So there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work for your lighthouse.

      A PWAC member I know used GoFundMe to finance her endeavours. I never looked into that platform. Maybe I should have, as I am concerned about the fees. Not just from Indiegogo, but also the financial institutions as I just learned from my credit union last week that they charge a fee for every US transfer rec’d. So I’m hoping all the Indiegogo funds can be sent on one transfer. I need to conform that.

      Good luck with your project.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what I learned from crowdfundingMy Profile

  24. I really appreciate your thoughts and insight into this world of crowdfunding. I have known about it for some time but have not really seen it action as I did with you. I think Susan B. may be right, many do procrastinate and they may in fact need a bit of a nudge. Just a thought. πŸ™‚
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Reflections by Thomas Ross: Story (Podcast)My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Susan: Thanks again, for being such a great supporter of my efforts — on the blogs, G+, Twitter, and the campaign itself. It means so much knowing I have friends like you in my corner.

      Yes, I know people need nudging. But it’s such an awful feeling to have to ask people who know me more than once. If people receive a request from me to contribute, it would be great of they say right away whether they’re interested in helping. If they do, then sure … I will nudge. But many do not even respond. So you don’t know whether they care at all, and you don’t want to alienate people. It’s such a fine line to cross. The most difficult thing I have had to orchestrate in my professional career as a writer.

  25. Jeri says:

    Thanks for the overview. With 12 days to go, it will be interesting to see who procrastinates the longest. Sometimes I amaze myself at how long I will put a two-minute task off πŸ˜‰ However, I donated to your campaign right away given much I’ve enjoyed seeing and reading about your chocolate travels. If I ever get some of my curriculum ideas off the ground, I too will make a foray into crowdfunding. It’s always great to be able to learn from those who go first.
    Jeri recently posted…What is Poetry? National Poetry MonthMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Jeri, for being a great blogging friend and for being a supporter of my campaign and my writing efforts. All very much appreciated. πŸ™‚

  26. Ceci Snow says:

    Like the others, it has been interesting to watch your campaign and results unfold. I am in the process of debating with myself about launching a campaign for a project of mine and I haven’t quite figured out ‘the pitch’ yet – which is what is really needed to give people a reason to contribute, right?

    Best of luck in the remaining days of your campaign and let us know how it ends up.
    Ceci Snow recently posted…March is crawling to an endMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Ceci: Thanks for your comment, and for contributing to my campaign. My PWAC friends have really been integral to the success of my fundraising efforts.

      Re giving people a reason to contribute: As they say, you can’t please everyone. So the best thing is to be true to yourself and honest with the world. I’ve only had one person say she couldn’t support my campaign as it seemed too personal, but that she would buy the book when it comes out. I’m OK with that. Cheers and best wishes.

  27. Linda says:

    I agree with Suzanne. It is really interesting to look over your shoulder and watch you battle it out for funding. I can’t think of a more difficult mission. (And they say writing is a struggle, hah!) I wonder if Kickstarter isn’t into Canada yet because of currency exchange? I really don’t know…I’m just guessing, thinking that Kickstarter is relatively new and has grown like a weed since it started. Good luck climbing towards your goal.
    Linda recently posted…Editors – Three Important Reasons Writers Need Them!My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Linda, thanks for your comment, and thanks so much for helping spread the word about my campaign on Twitter. I really appreciate that.

      The currency issue is also relevant with Indiegogo, as it, too, is a US-based service. Definitely puts us Canadians at a disadvantage, but at least they allow us to participate.

  28. Interesting insights, Doreen. Thank you for sharing them. I do find people procrastinate so, hopefully, you will get a large sum coming in before the end of your campaign. Keep the faith! Your project is worth it!
    Suzanne Boles recently posted…BlogMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Suzanne and thanks for your comment.

      Yes, they say that you generally have a surge at the beginning and a surge at the end of your campaign. And a lot of agony in between!

      Thanks again for being a generous donor to the campaign. It’s so wonderful when friends step forward without having to be asked. πŸ™‚

  1. July 1, 2013

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