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Crowdfunding & The Art of the Ask

April 13, 2017

by Caroline Halter, PieShell

At PieShell we think of crowdfunding as more closely related to charitable giving than anything else.

A large percentage of people who contribute to crowdfunding projects do so not for rewards, but for the gratification that comes from helping someone else fulfill their dream. And yet, we hear all the time about how difficult it can be to get people to contribute. So where’s the disconnect? The answer lies in how you ask for support.

Let’s discuss how to master the art of the ask, making it less painful and more fruitful.

Back to Basics

Before we get into the details of how to ask, it’s important to understand why people give.

There’s been tons of interesting research about why people give or help others in general. We’ve learned that there are many reasons why people give. Chief among them is that people want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Others include wanting to make a difference and because it feels good to help others.

Knowing how your supporters are motivated and then appealing to what they hope to get out of supporting your project will bring you closer to success. There will undoubtedly be some trial and error involved, so pay close attention to how certain people respond to different asks.

Lay the Groundwork

Making the ask is made easier when you’ve already built strong relationships. Take it from Amanda Palmer, an artist and former street performer. In her TED Talk, she explained how she ran one of the most successful music crowdfunding projects ever in 2013, raising over one million dollars.

Amanda had a large online community, and when the time came for her to crowdfund, she didn’t ask people to pay for her music even though they were essentially pre-ordering her next album. Instead, she asked them to support her and to be a part of her journey. Her messaging and the fact that she had made authentic connections with thousands of people helped her translate her community support into dollars.

The lesson here: with the right ask, investing in relationships has high ROI. We say “with the right ask” because many people are surprised when close friends and family don’t readily contribute. You still have to make the ask, sometimes more than once.

How can you turn your connections into contributions? It starts with everyday interactions.

Make It Personal

Relationships are the foundation of successful crowdfunding. But the way you ask is equally important.

Our first rule is to make your ask about you and your cause, not your business or your product. Your project may be the coolest thing to ever hit the internet, but even so, your ask should be about the personal connection between you and the potential contributor and the big picture idea that your project symbolizes.

When you ask someone to support you and your dream, you not only make yourself relatable, you tap into the motivations mentioned earlier in this blog. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and showcase your passion!

Ask in Multiple Ways

Crowdfunding involves a lot of trial and error. You may find that the methods you thought would be the most lucrative are falling flat. That’s why it’s important to make your ask in multiple ways and multiple places.

Send your ask out to different groups of people via different platforms. For example, approaching a group of close friends in person to ask for contributions may be more appropriate than just adding them to your mailing list. If you have a strong personal connection, then your ask should be personal. In other words, your ask should reflect the depth of your relationship.

You should always go into crowdfunding with a plan of how you’re going to reach out to different groups within your audience. The first step is sitting down and brainstorming

In order to avoid some of the headaches of asking, it’s helpful to segment your potential supporters ahead of time. Think about the people who will potentially support you and divide them into subgroups based on how you can reach them (your platform) and the most appropriate messaging. Start there and adjust your methods depending on how your groups respond.

Ask Multiple Times

If you’re shy about asking in the first place, then this tip might seem like a stretch, but trust us, it’s worth following. Why? Because people need to be nudged multiple times before they take action.

It takes more than one “touch” to reach the final goal, whether it’s a purchase, charitable donation, political campaign contribution or in your case, a crowdfunding contribution. Touches refer to any type of contact, from an email or phone call, to a meeting or direct tweet. This is something that marketers, salespeople and fundraisers know well. That’s why they‘re so persistent!

CrowdfundingCRM, a company that sells a customer relationship management software specifically for crowdfunding, claims, “It takes, on average, 12 marketing-driven ‘touches’ to progress a warm lead from the first point of contact to take action. The majority is made on the 5th-12th contact.”

While the number of touches may vary, the point is that the majority of your supporters won’t contribute the first time you ask. So get used to asking more than once!

Be Specific

Our last tip is to tell people exactly what you want. Often people who want to help out don’t do so because they don’t know how. It may sound silly, but being clear about the amount you’re looking for and what it will help you accomplish is crucial.

Make sure that the details of your ask make sense for who you’re asking. For example, tell a group of people who aren’t likely to make large contributions that you are seeking $10 contributions. By being specific, you’re empowering them to help you in a way that matches your expectations. Instead of thinking “I wish I could help, but I don’t have the ability to make a large contribution right now,” they may think “Sure, I can spare $10 for a friend.”

Get Your Ask On

Asking is an essential part of crowdfunding. Approach it as a skill that you can perfect with practice.

Following our tips will set you up for success, but don’t be afraid to make them your own. Asking should always feel authentic to you so that it comes across as genuine to others.

Now, get out there and start asking! (But don’t forget to do your homework first!).


This article was originally written for, and posted, on PieShell’s blog.