Reaching Professional and Personal Goals Through Crowd Funding by Megan Cutter
In a time of shrinking budgets, more community members are turning toward crowd funding and community fundraising, not only for personal fundraisers, but for creative projects, entrepreneur endeavors, and business proposals as well.
My husband Barton and I first stepped into crowd funding when we were on the verge of publishing our first memoir, Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll. We spent time researching crowd funding tools at the time, and interviewed our friends who had used crowd-sourcing tools, to find out the benefits and drawbacks to each avenue.
Popular crowd funding applications include KickStarter, Go Fund Me, GiveForward, IndieGoGo among several others. Settling on Kickstarter, we considered time limits, all or nothing (for example, with Kickstarter, if you don’t meet your goal, you do not receive anything), and tiered returns.
For Barton and I, we asked for half of the production costs, because it became very important to be responsible for our own work. And, offering something in return to our supporters, from including thank-you’s in the front of our book to providing complimentary copies gave a personal interest and investment to contributors.
We created a video to give a visual pitch (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/390763012/ink-in-the-wheels-stories-to-make-love-roll) , and we included b-roll outtakes, an all out laughing attack to begin our video off, which lightened the mood and showed our personalities for the vision we had in mind.
Within three weeks, we met our goal on Kickstarter! We weren’t expecting the support we received and could not believe we had made our goal. In February 2013, our memoir was released. At our release event, we were very intentional about including the community in our celebration, and sharing the success as a community event. From offering a wheelchair accessible venue, discussing the creative process to having a party afterwards, the release event was by far one of the most memorable events, and being able to invite the community into that celebration was phenomenal.
Another crowd funding avenue includes contests and campaigns. Barton and I fell into this quite unexpectedly, as the untimely demise of an inaccessible car led us to enter a contest to win a wheel-chair accessible van. The particular contest asked for votes, and the top 5% of votes would go through to an independent voting panel (http://www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/barton-cutter-raleigh-nc/ ). At first, we were timid to jump in full on into this contest. Yet we knew we couldn’t fully get our message to the general public without the ability to travel and speak.
At first, we only posted a few funny pictures of Barton, in a motorized wheelchair, trying to get into the truck of a tiny Honda Civic. Giving a visual picture of the need, the barrier, and the result if we were successful, enhanced the momentum of support we received for votes.
Before long, we were voting every day, sending out daily email reminders with funny photographs to supporters, and posting on social media sites (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meZhxY8boAQ) . Barton made it to the semi-finalist round, and while he was not chosen as a winner, we were again amazed at the support from our community.
In fact, the voting portion of the contest led me to reconnect with my college community in ways I could not have expected. I was able to attend my class reunion and connect personally with those across the country that I had reconnected with. And, everyone was talking not just about the contest, but our vision as well. Inadvertently, we had impacted a community with our vision through the contest.
In this case, we weren’t successful with this avenue, which is a risk in crowd funding. We went through a period of feeling like we had let our community down, and we had spent so much time and energy without success. Right away we created a Go Fund Me Campaign (http://www.gofundme.com/3393f8). Why? It was important to have an avenue to lead people to if they wanted to continue to support us.
Here, the challenge remains, and we return to the drawing board, as any successful innovator does. We are looking at crowd funding in another way and will attempt a new fundraiser in the summer, in combination with what we can do on our own and negotiating with an accessible van dealer. We will look at multiple funding sources, put them together, and hopefully reach our goal.
Critics of crowd funding are still abound; in fact we received several critical comments about becoming a charity case, and that we were a fraud because our vision and message is about independence for people with disabilities. Indeed, we have worried about overtaxing our community and asking too much, and continue to struggle with this balance.
Many times, we have been stubborn in refusing to ask for help when we have needed it most. For me in particular, it was one of the biggest lessons for me to learn: it’s okay to ask for support and to let the critic’s comments go.
In a time where budget cuts slash everything from education, creative projects, business innovations, and supporting new cultural paradigms, our community is where we must return to create the change we envision.
If we didn’t ask for help in reaching our dreams and goals, where would any of us be? What have you learned about Crowd Funding?
** Update – and the rest of the story! **
While Barton was a semi-finalist for the NMEDA Contest, he was not chosen as a winner for an accessible van.
And yet, in combination of a Go Fund Me Campaign, Church Fundraiser, Family Fundraising Match, and a serendipitous turn of events that connected us with Mobility Ventures, we were able to purchase an MV-1 Accessible Vehicle in January 2014!!
Since then, having accessible transportation has changed our lives by allowing Barton to experience the freedom of mobility, and for the two of us to impact others in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.
Through crowd sourcing, we learned that it was not one single avenue that helped us to overcome this challenge, it was indeed putting together several avenues, and if one did not work, we kept going until we found that tipping point. And, we continue to bring our community into our work and lives.
Check out these links for the rest of the story:
Success Comes Through Motivation and Perseverance
Trip of a Lifetime: Speaking at the MV-1 Launch Event
In the News
Guest contributor: Megan Cutter – Cutter’s Edge Consulting, LLC – 919-389-6423 – http://www.cuttersedgeconsulting.com