by Anoj Viswanathan
When I first worked at the grassroots, I was totally blown away by the reality of the huge, amorphous group we commonly refer to as the ‘rural poor’. I learnt then, that the solution to most problems of need, had to be sustainable, unless the need itself arose from a single, unfortunate incident, and that could happen to anybody. That is how we opened the platform up for anyone across the country to raise funds for a certain pressing need they had to address.
With new developments in technology everyday, there are newer ways to make the crowdfunding experience more convenient to people raising funds. It is important as a platform to stay updated and constantly come up with new features to help more people raise the funds they need, whether they are ‘savvy’ enough to do so for themselves or not.
We all know that some fundraisers do better than others. Keeping the need in mind, this does seem to be a little unfair, but we must also know that people who are successfully raising funds online are definitely doing something right. Here are the simplest crowdfunding hacks that have proven to have the best impact.
Research, pick the right platform, and then research some more
The Indian crowdfunding industry has just about entered a developmental stage. We are now seeing many new platforms come up to address the vast variety of growing needs. In truth, every crowdfunding platform is better at supporting a certain kind of need than others. Some like Kickstarter and Fueladream are ideal to give your start-up a boost, or fund a film you are looking to make, while some platforms are better at raising funds for NGOs and established organizations, and some others may specialize in funding medical needs. It is really important to pick the right platform for your need, particularly because the right platform can help you connect with the ‘right’ audience better.
It is also just as important to research other fundraisers on the platform you have picked. Small nuances, like the language used, the details provided and the way they have been presented could be important, and different for each platform. Therefore, it is just as important to read other fundraisers before you start your own to get a fair idea of what works with your audience. and what doesn’t.
Storytelling is important; so is formatting
When a stranger on the other side of the world makes a contribution to your fundraiser, he is not contributing because someone in the world has a chance to get cured of a life taking illness, it is because ‘you’ are suffering from a disease they can save you from. Our biggest learning over the past 8 years is that people contribute to people rather than to causes. The best part about online crowdfunding is what makes it challenging: the fact that you are not restricted anymore to a certain closed circle. You are open to receiving help from any corner of the world. So when a stranger comes across your story on the web, it must tell them who you are, how you know the beneficiary (if it is someone else you are raising funds for), what exactly happened, how it all began, and why you need funds.
When writing down the story of your need, you must remember that the person on the other end, might want to skim through the page before it catches his attention, and he actually gives it a read. Breaking your story down to paragraphs, and highlighting important details is very important. This helps the person get the urgency of the situation in a glance, and increases your chances of finding a donor in a simple reader.
Capture the strongest words in a frame, and add relevant documents
The same fact that people contribute to help people, not solve the issues of the world, also makes pictures of the beneficiary and their family very important. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a strong image helps build an emotional connect with a stranger more than anything else. Clear, good quality, candid pictures add to the story of your need, highlighting a very important aspect of the need, making it a very relatable one.
Relevant, attested documents are the strongest pillars in bridging that gap with financial aid. When we say we need a certain amount of money to address a need, the best way to assert credibility is through original, verified documents. This is particularly important in medical causes. A cost estimate provided by the hospital must justify the entire amount you are looking to raise. In fact, on the best crowdfunding platforms, no medical causes can be approved without a document on the letterhead of a renowned hospital, justifying the amount we are asking for.
Be honest and pro-active
The same tools that help transmit an urgent need with the rest of the world, also help transmit questions on credibility. The concept of crowdfunding is not new, but the digital domain is still fairly strange to many, especially in a still developing market like India. Donor apathy has more than one source to stem from in such a situation. The strange new domain is always taken with a pinch of salt, particularly when parting with hard-earned money is in question.
Keeping this in mind, most crowdfunding platforms today have introduced great tools and features to enable direct communication with the person raising funds, besides pre-qualifying such individuals by verifying all appeals set up. The key here is to be completely honest about the smallest details, and to proactively look out for any donor queries on social media. We strongly recommend you respond promptly to anybody who shares a doubt, through IMs, chats or even mails. You must understand that people who are shelling out their money could have all sorts of doubts before they do, and it is only justified that they be addressed patiently, promptly and honestly.
Keep them posted
It is only fair that we acknowledge the people who have helped us, but it is also important to show them the difference they have made, even if it is too early to thank them already.
Surprisingly, successful crowdfunding is not a linear process. The loop must be closed. Once help is received in any form, it is important to keep your donors posted regarding any progress in your cause. For example, if you are raising funds for 6 rounds of Chemotherapy, once you withdraw a part of the funds and use it for the first round, make sure you thank your donors, and tell them about any progress/change in the patient’s condition. A happy photo showing any progress helps you retain the trust of donors, and also motivates them to help again. The gratification of having made a difference with one small contribution drives many donors to not only contribute again, but also to share the need in their own circles and encourage contribution.
In the end, online crowdfunding depends on the belief that people would help others in need, if they are given a credible avenue to do so, and that is exactly where we, as platforms help people. We address the various apprehensions that potential donors could have, and try to make the experience as transparent as possible, but eventually, a donation is only an explicit expression of empathy. Especially in a medical need, the idea that a medical emergency could befall any other ordinary person and put them in the same situation is a major building block in bridging the gap, and helping a stranger in need.
Anoj Viswanathan is the President and Co-founder, Milaap, the largest crowdfunding platform in India.