Crowdfunding – Tips from The Home of Honest Coffee

On Tuesday I went to a Q&A by Mark from Future Artists and co-founder of The Home of Honest Coffee.

The Home of Honest Coffee is a not-for-profit small coffee house in Salford, about 5 steps around the corner from Manchester City centre.

The creators wanted to build something that would enable them to give space to creative people to work in the city centre without needing to pay the extortionate rates.

How do they fund this, though?

Coffee

They merged it with the increasingly popular concept of the independent coffee shop which would pay the rent on city-centre premises that would allow them to host work spaces that people could come in an use.

Once profits start to be generated, these would be disseminated back into the community via grant-giving charities and community projects.

How do they get this started though?

After years of trying to chase grants and funding pots with other projects, they decided that they weren’t going to waste time waiting for someone else to approve it and were just going to:

use the power of a collective via social media to organise crowdfunding through Kickstarter.

It worked. Here’s how they did it.

They made a Kickstarter account

Kickstarter is an online host that puts thousands of hopeful creative project start-ups in touch with millions of potential donors from all over the world. Over $2 billion have been funneled into projects through its site.

You need 5 things to use it.

A bank account

A video explaining your product (because people prefer to watch than to read)

Mark asked an actress friend of his to perform a script he’d written – using human stories to get across the ideals of the project – which he shot from his phone.

Images that represent your product/idea/you

Text explaining the rationale behind your product

Give as much info as you can about the idea, who you are and what your vision is – basically give them the whole business plan.

Perks to give for donors

Mark offered a free coffee to donors who gave £5. They also had the idea to have names on the wall of higher donors. 10 slots were offered. If you donated £75 you could have your name on the wall in regular size font. If you donated £250 you could have it in large font. People loved it and the slots were quickly snapped up.

A goal amount and a time frame (you are offered 30 or 60 days to reach your goal)

They needed £6k and set themselves 30 days.

The visitor experience

Home of Honest Coffee estimated that visitors would spend 15-18 minutes looking at their page.

This means you have to get across your idea and sell it to them in a way that means they want to give you money in a maximum of 20 minutes.

20 minutes isn’t a long time to convince people to invest in something new – even though we readily throw our money at larger brands because they’re familiar. People are far more cynical about the unfamiliar and will look for tricks so just be honest.

They didn’t ever ask for money in their text or video. They simply asked “Wouldn’t it be great if one of these was on every corner instead of a Starbucks who don’t pay their taxes?”  They asked for opinions, ideas and feedback but never said “Please fund us.” People chose to fund them because they believed in the idea, not because they were asked.

You need to keep people on your page so don’t use links to signpost to information elsewhere. Put all the information they need on that one Kickstarter page.

They didn’t and still don’t have their own website so anyone looking for information about the project could only find it on their Kickstarter.

They set this up and then went about promoting it.

They chose 5 high-profile Twitter feeds to target

They made a Home of Honest Coffee Twitter feed and chose 5 high-profile feeds to target.

These feeds were chosen because they had similar interests to their project and over 30 thousand followers such as the Royal Society of Arts, a coffee industry feed, creative network feed etc.

Systematically, they went through each follower. They looked at that person’s bio and if it seemed like their project would interest them they would tweet them direct, asking their opinion on the idea.

They started unique conversations with each of these people, asking for feedback and ideas. Never asking for money. They did this 7 hours a day for a month.

In the end, 1 in 3 people donated and many of these didn’t even show up to collect their perks.

This network took their story elsewhere

As well as donating, people were promoting their idea. Press became aware of the idea as well as users on Reddit and other large community sites.

The message is clear: we are stronger as a group.

During the talk, Mark gave the best advice and insight

Planning is key

Mark estimated that 3 months is needed to plan a Kickstarter. You need the right text, you need to revisit the idea constantly, you need to have a strong marketing strategy and business plan so that you can be confident that if you do get the funding, you can actually deliver.

Most importantly, you need to build up your network so that you can start fundraising straight away when it’s live.

These are words of experience as they started the Kickstarter before building their network. It was nevertheless a success but going into a programme of fundraising with a network already in place is the best plan.

It can also take 3 weeks for your page to go live once you’re happy with it so make sure you factor that into your plan.

Never ask for money

People are asked for money all the time. People are rarely asked to be a part of something new and creative. We are rarely asked for our opinion and input on something that can make a tangible change.

Even when we are, many of us don’t bother. Just look at the voting crisis.

Ask for opinions and feedback. Offer them something instead of taking something away from them.

 

Value your network

Mark was adamant that the network created by the project was more valuable in the long run than the money raised. The power of the collective is more important than a cup of coffee, which brings it back to the whole purpose of the coffee shop – to find a way to empower a community and individuals.

It’s not about your idea – it’s about a shared idea that everyone wants to make a reality.

Home of Honest Coffee utilised Twitter to listen to what people are saying and understand what people care about. They also kept them informed with regular updates such as issues with finding suitable premises or when their partners were being chosen to install the WiFi (fastest in the city) and roast the coffee (just around the corner from the cafe).

Even though the delays in getting it up and running caused some donors to get (really) frustrated, by keeping the network alive, informed and valued, success was realised.

Don’t bother with Facebook

Facebook users don’t fund anything. Your updates drop off their newsfeed instantly quickly unless they’re constantly visiting your page and interacting with you. It’s also really difficult to get in touch with new people.

Kickstarter appeals to the savvy rich

Kickstarter allows millionaires and “beyond your wildest dreams” rich people from all over the world to use their funds in smart ways. Not just through “giving back”, and “reinvesting in the community” smart, but actually legally smart ways.

Set your goal about 5% higher than you need

Kickstarter takes about 5% of your funds as their fee for running the site. So, aim for at least 5% more than you need if using Kickstarter so you don’t end up with a successfully funded Kickstarter but an unsuccessfully funded project.

 

End note: I am by no means an expert or experienced crowdfunder (hence my attendance at the Q&A session). So, if people have questions I’m unlikely to be able to help you but certainly would love to hear about ideas.

 

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