How to Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign with WordPress
New business ventures are always exciting. You have a unique idea or solution. People seem to be really excited about it. But you need money to get the new business idea off the ground. You could go to investors or the bank to generate capital, but they need to see that there’s real interest in your idea, that people will be willing to pay enough to give you a return on it, and that you’re willing to put in the work to make it happen.
Everyone from the stay-at-home mom to the famous movie star can use crowdfunding campaigns to raise money and support for an idea or cause. It’s also just a really good way to get the word out about and start drumming up enthusiasm around your idea, even while it’s in the early stages.
While there are known platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that can be used, it may be more beneficial for you (or your client) to launch a crowdfunding campaign with WordPress.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of using WordPress for crowdfunding. If you feel like it is indeed the best option for you, we’ll also explore how to launch a new campaign.
Why Crowdfunding Isn’t Just for Tech Companies
In general, here is how the crowdfunding process works:
- You have an idea for a project, new business venture, or non-profit cause, but you need funds to get it off the ground.
- Before you take out a loan from the bank, you want to see if you can get individuals or companies to support the project by investing money in it.
- You determine how much you need for the first phase of the project. You set a fundraising goal and publish it online.
- You announce to potential investors that the campaign is live. Then you take time to share your story with them, what you’re planning to do with the funds, and what they will get once your project goes live.
- You can use different incentives to lure in investors. If you or your product is already well-known, you can use tangible items as leverage during the campaign. If you’re brand new, something like sponsorship levels (and benefits) or stock shares might make more sense.
- You track fundraising progress for your campaign. Hopefully, by the time it’s up, you’ve hit and exceeded that goal.
What’s nice about crowdfunding is that it isn’t just for someone wanting to launch a new enterprise. There are so many examples of people using it for the purposes of funding passion projects, giving us new gadgets to play with, and raising non-profit donations.
A Passion Project: Super Troopers 2
Despite the first Super Troopers cult classic status, the comedy team behind the film struggled to get financing from studios for the sequel. Because a sequel 17 years later was perceived to be a risk in terms of a financial return, the filmmakers were forced to raise $2 million on their own before they could get backing from a production company.
Using Indiegogo to run their crowdfunding campaign, the filmmakers not only hit their goal but doubled it and proved to the studios that fans really wanted a sequel. To incentivize fans and investors to put money towards the campaign, the comedy troupe created different levels of awards, gave away merchandise, and even promised to add certain scenes to the movie based on how much money they raised.
A New Gadget: Oculus Rift
By now, we’re all familiar with what modern-day virtual reality looks like. But back in 2012, the makers of the Oculus Rift headset originally launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring the new technology to life.
Unlike a campaign like Super Troopers, the team behind Oculus Rift created pledges that were more practical in nature since they didn’t have a previous version of the headset to leverage when generating interest in it. Instead, they appealed to gamers and investors wanting to get in on the ground floor of a ground-breaking technology.
A Good Cause: Red Nose Day
Red Nose Day is a fundraising campaign that donates its earnings to helping children in need around the globe. Since its first campaign in 1988, it has raised over $1 billion in charity funds.
Unlike some other crowdfunding campaigns, this is for a non-profit. The proceeds don’t go to help any organization; instead, they go directly to programs and people that work to end child poverty. The celebrities who participate in Red Nose Day aren’t the only ones working to raise money either.
Anyone interested in raising money for Red Nose Day can do so through the website. The Start a Fundraiser page allows users to build a crowdfunding page on their own or through the Red Nose Day website.
Should You Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign with WordPress?
In the examples above, you get a good sense of how different types of platforms work when you launch a crowdfunding campaign within them. I would suggest that if you or your clients still aren’t sure if your crowdfunding campaign should be self-hosted with WordPress or not, then consider the following benefits:
With a Crowdfunding Platform:
- Investors will instantly recognize and trust crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
- You don’t have to build an entirely new website for your campaign as they give you the tools and pre-made widgets to do so. (This also takes a lot of the brainstorming and planning out of it, too.)
- You know that a well-established platform like Kickstarter won’t have issues with navigation, performance, or security. It will definitely require much less work for you to manage a campaign page here.
- If your campaign is successful and you raise all the funds you need, you pay a small percentage of the money raised back to the crowdfunding platform. Otherwise, there are no costs besides what you do to promote the campaign.
- You have total control over everything: the design of the website, the way in which you process funds, SEO, where data is collected, and so on.
- You’ll get deeper insights into who is visiting your crowdfunding site. If you need to readjust your strategy based on who is interested, you can do so.
- You can use A/B testing to experiment with designs, copy, incentives, and more to get the best return on your campaign.
- You have more opportunities to stay in touch with investors as well as those simply interested in watching the progress of your idea and campaign. For instance, you could add an event calendar, use exit-intent pop-ups, and collect leads (even if they don’t donate right away).
- You don’t have to compete with other startups or similar projects. This website is all about your idea.
- Once your campaign goal is met and you’re ready to launch your idea or donate your funds to the non-profit cause, you can transition the campaign site into a live site for the finished product or organization.
The ease of use and low costs associated with crowdfunding platforms may be alluring for some. However, if you really want full control over your campaign–and you feel as though WordPress gives you the best chance to succeed–then don’t be afraid to build your crowdfunding site from the ground-up.
How to Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign with WordPress
For those of you who have decided that WordPress is the way to go with launching a crowdfunding campaign, let’s talk steps.
Step 1: Choose a WordPress Theme
When you build a WordPress site for a crowdfunding campaign, you have to take into consideration more than just how it will look. Obviously, you’ll want the WordPress theme to work well for the project. However, you’re not just building a website with a few contact forms for lead generation. You’re building a money-generating machine. Which means your theme needs to be super fast, agile, and secure.
While there are a number of non-profit and fundraising WordPress themes you’ll find out there, I would instead recommend using a high-quality and lightweight theme that’s easy to customize. The themes I’ve found for fundraising tend to be a bit clunkier and have integrations that you might not need or that you have to spend time replacing anyway.
Step 2: Choose a Crowdfunding Plugin
Once you have the basic framework and design of the website sorted out, you need a plugin that will guide you through the process of managing a campaign through your site. There are three WordPress plugins I would suggest:
Although this plugin brands itself as a donation plugin, you can use this for crowdfunding as well. (It’s basically the same thing, except that crowdfunding doesn’t always go towards non-profit initiatives.) With this plugin, you can:
- Create multiple fundraising campaigns.
- Set goals.
- Set timers to automatically close campaigns.
- Add donation forms to any page of your site.
- Provide suggestions on donation amounts.
- Integrate with PayPal for free. Other payment gateways are available as paid add-ons.
- Provide donation receipts.
Give is a donation and fundraising plugin you can use to create crowdfunding forms on your website. Forms can be customized to look and behave however you need them to, including adding progress bars and giving investors the option to submit recurring payments. It also comes with full-featured donor management and donation performance reporting.
The free version of this plugin would be best for non-profit websites as well as simple campaigns that don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. With the free plugin, you’ll be able to:
- Set a funding goal
- Create start and end dates
- Add a submission form
- Manage user registration
- Set recommended donations as well as minimum and maximum
- Add your own payment gateway
The premium version, on the other hand, is best if you plan on launching a massive crowdfunding campaign from your site. With this one, you’ll get everything else, which means:
- Defining the rewards system that dictates what investors get at each funding tier
- Your choice of a native wallet system, PayPal Adaptive, or Stripe Connect
- Email notifications
- Social shares
- Premium theme
Once you’ve found the plugin you want to use, install it.
Step 3: Add Your Payment Gateway
If your crowdfunding plugin doesn’t process payments–or it doesn’t include the payment gateway you want–add your own. Make sure it works when it’s connected to the submission form, too.
Step 4: Install All the Other Plugins You Need
If you want your crowdfunding site to run just as smoothly as the Kickstarters and Indiegogos of the world, then you need to fully optimize it while also only installing plugins you absolutely need.
In terms of performance, these are the plugins you absolutely need:
- Defender for security
- Hummingbird for speed
- WP Smush Pro for image optimization
- SmartCrawl Pro for SEO
- Snapshot to make sure you have a backup plan
Step 5: Install an SSL Certificate
Because you are actively taking payments from donors and investors from this website, an SSL certificate is essential. Make sure it’s installed before you launch the site.
Step 6: Get a CDN
Unless you’re launching a local-only crowdfunding campaign, you’re probably looking to collect money from investors around the globe. While your optimization plugins will cover you in part, you will need a CDN if you want to ensure there’s no friction or sluggishness when international visitors try to make a donation.
Step 7: Devise the Crowdfunding Campaign Plan
It’s time to solidify your plan on the page. This means:
- Create a dedicated page that informs visitors what the campaign is about and tells its story.
- Create a dedicated fundraising page using your crowdfunding plugin.
- Create a dedicated contact page in case anyone has questions or wants to reach out and offer further assistance to your cause.
- Design a callout for each of the pledge levels and incentives, so investors know what they’ll get in exchange for making a donation.
- Add images and videos to complement the content on the campaign page.
- Add the campaign goal.
- Set a deadline.
Publish the pages to the site and arrange them within your navigation in a way that makes the most sense. If your idea, product, or business is brand new, then the About page should be prioritized as potential investors will want to be educated on what you’re looking to do and what their money will be used for. If you already have a well-established identity, the crowdfunding page can go front and center.
Step 8: Launch the Campaign
With your WordPress site published on the web, it’s time to actively promote the crowdfunding campaign everywhere you can. Notify people who’ve already subscribed to your newsletter, promote the website on social media, go talk about it on podcasts, get major news outlets to cover it, and so on. Then pay close attention to the activity happening on your website to make sure everything goes as smoothly as planned.
There are many reasons why you might need to raise funds, be it to launch a new business venture, get a product idea out of the visionary stage and into production, or raise funds for a good cause. Although you could use a platform like Kickstarter to do this, WordPress allows you to have much more control over the campaign’s image, process, and ultimate success.