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No Money, No Problems? A Few Tips on How to Finance Your Unique Idea Beyond the Usual Suspects

So what do I mean by usual suspects? Think government grants and loans. Let’s face it folks, the competition is fierce, the volume of paper work is high, the deadlines are tight, and well, it’s no easy walk in the park to get fed bucks. In my mind, forget about going this route and be more creative.

You want cash? Start thinking outside the box. Here are a few pointers to do just that:

Know What You’re Doing and What You’re After

Whether you’re promoting a service, a product, or simply an experience, you must be organized. Now reread this sentence and put it to memory. Why so militant? Often we have great ideas but we forget that pitching a half-baked concept isn’t going to get us anywhere. It’s crucial you know what you’re doing and what you’re after (how much money). Outline everything—from inception to play-out, from your audience to costing your services, ingredients, packaging and beyond. Once you have your five Ws done (and written up nicely), then you can search for funding sources. Until then, sketch out your plan and be specific!

Crowd-Funding

So what’s crowd-funding? Using an online platform, you can present your need for cash to web surfers and investors alike. How? Devise a simple marketing strategy/campaign whereby you provide info on your project and incentives for funding in exchange for real dough. In essence, you’re drawing people in, and when done well, creating an audience that will not only invest, but spread the word and follow you beyond this project/need for cash.

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are two crowd-funding platforms and are not just for the arts (but don’t limit yourself, the net is a big place). Think environmental projects, design prototypes, event productions, fundraising plugs and flick development. Now, both sites have their pluses and minuses. Kickstarter requires you reach your funding goals or no money changes hands. Be careful then that you don’t overvalue what you need and most importantly, ask for what you can get.

IndieGoGo offers two fee options: get what you ask for and get dinged 4% or don’t reach your target and get 9% off—not to mention service charges for credit card processing. The choice is yours. But before you go to the web in hopes of making the big bucks, come up with a marketing strategy. Make an enticing video for prospective funders—and nothing longer than a couple of minutes. Provide details on your project and how the money earned with help you—but don’t go overboard, your goal is to engage, not bore. And don’t forget to offer incentives.

Now I could go on…promote your project via social media, send out press releases and engage bloggers, media and industry influencers to spread the word…but what’s most imperative is you share your links and get people interested in what you’re creating. Don’t be pushy or beg for cash—the goal is to draw people in, make money and create lasting (not I need you now, forget you tomorrow) relationships. Building relationships, as we all know, is essential when it comes to business. This also applies to the online world. Sending your friends, family and web engagers to an easy-to-read e-petition will not only fund your goals but help build your audience. Think brand awareness, a greater number of followers (social media), more hits on your website and recognition for good work (assuming your online campaign is creative, boundary-pushing and on target).

Earlier this year I managed a film development campaign on IndieGoGo. Within 30 days, we raised over six thousand dollars. How you ask? By writing a concise and clear description of the film, outlining where the money was going and using language that would entice people to read the write-up, watch the video and want to know more. The incentives, while they play a big part in getting people to invest, are in my mind, secondary. Most important, the concept has to be good, if not great. Now, I sent the e-campaign to bloggers, film magazines, industry influencers—and of course, friends and family. I was diligent. I didn’t beg but followed the basic laws of marketing and publicity: be kind, showcase the positives, and connect with real people. I’m proud to say that that little film, Shhh…  went on to win the best sci-fi fantasy short film category at the Oscar-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival this month. We didn’t get the $15,000 we wanted, but the six grand put a big dent into post-production costs.

Imagine Canada

Check out Imagine Canada, especially if you’re a not-for-profit. Here you’ll find every funder under the rainbow: family foundations, corporate and community givers, individuals and associations. Each will have its own requirements and specs. Put your researcher hat on and search, search and search some more. You’ll find everything you need here, though it doesn’t come cheap, but lucky for those with a Vancouver Public Library card you can access it onsite at any branch for free.

Be sure to take a look at Vancouver Foundation too, although Imagine Canada covers it all (from science to art and everything in between) and includes American funders.

Biz Connects

Be bold and reach out to industry makers—not only as sponsors but as investors in your idea. Now, don’t go contacting businesses you like but wouldn’t be interested in what you have to offer. Do your research, know who’s who, and be fearless. (I cannot stress research enough. Doing your homework will differentiate you from the pack.) Look at companies whose vision matches what you’re selling. Think Redbull: music, visual appeal. Vancity: local and community focus. Coca Cola: a brand with longevity. Nike: inspiration, boundary-pushing. Don’t limit yourself. Connect with local, national, international players. At the end of the day, it’s about communicating your goals effectively (know your stuff), talking to the right people (do your research) and conveying how you will both benefit in the end (know what they do and what you can do for them). Be confident. And sell it.

Have questions on crowd-funding or want some feedback on your proposal? Share your comments and I’m more than happy to help. Good luck!