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How Crowdfunding Can Work for Conferences and Events

Here’s a four-step process for launching an event-related crowdfunding campaign.

Whether you’re wondering how to fund a fantastic new conference or expand an existing one, a crowdfunding campaign could be your non-traditional route to event growth.

A crowdfunding campaign raises money online from a large number of individuals to finance a new venture. The idea isn’t new to the events industry. For example, the Atlanta Film Festival raised $26,965 from 116 contributors to fly filmmakers to the 2019 festival, and various virtual events such as Practically Perfect PA’s Virtual Summit have been financed through crowdfunding.

With online crowdfunding platforms, event organizers can get their ideas in front of a wide audience who might be interesting in contributing, but they do need to provide some incentive. There are several different crowdfunding models:

Reward crowdfunding: Investors are given a reward or perk.
Equity crowdfunding: Investors are given a stake in the business.
Debt crowdfunding: Investors offer peer-to-peer lending, so the money raised is paid back.
Donation crowdfunding: Investors donate because they want to support a specific cause.

Here’s a four-step outline for how to get an event-related crowdfunding campaign off the ground.

1. Create Your Story
The first step is to set the scene and tell your story. Potential contributors must know about your event and its mission, and why you’re crowdfunding. What are your objectives? At this stage you might consider hiring a professional copywriter to help communicate your vision.

2. What Are You Offering?
Next, you need to decide what you are offering investors. For events, reward crowdfunding is most likely the route, with different rewards depending on the level of investment. For example, the Atlanta Film Festival offers a mix of perks, from a thank you in the program and on the website to tote bags, hats, tickets to the opening and closing night parties, discounted membership, and so on.  If your event is charity based, then you need to really push the story and let the audience know what their contributions will help to achieve. Equity crowdfunding would only be relevant if the business itself is the event—as are festivals—or an events firm.

3. Choose Your Platform
Next, you’ll need to pick a crowdfunding platform. There are plenty to choose from, but make sure it’s a match for your strategy and focus. Seedrs, for example, is focused on equity crowdfunding; Kickstarter has a special interest in “artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators;” Fundsurfer is focused on helping businesses grow; Causes works with nonprofits; GoFundMe is focused on individuals raising money for special circumstances. And there are many more. Once you have chosen your platform, you can upload your story, objectives, and imagery.

4. Market Your Campaign
Now it’s time to get your crowdfunding out to the masses. If you’re crowdfunding to expand your existing event, then your email database of past attendees will be the first place to start. If you are crowdfunding for your first event and don’t already have a following, then you might find more success with social-media influencers. The important thing is to be consistent in your message as you try various ways of getting that message out.

The most important part of your crowdfunding campaign is to get your story right and get it in front of the right people. If you can do that, you’ll be sure to see your event grow!

James Maddison is an executive with small business finance company iwoca.


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