One cannot precisely know how it feels to do something until he or she does it; until then, one can just imagine how he or she thinks it will feel. That is what happened to us with the crowdfunding experience: we thought it was simple because we had never done one before and we did not know how long it takes nor all the tasks that it requires, namely:
Before the crowdfunding launching:
- Prepare a video
- Improve our website
- Choose crowdfunding platform
- Project description
- Choose what communication channels to use
- Reach out to media and organisations
- Write and share introductory articles
- Prepare crowdfunding launching messages for social media, email and whatsapp
Once the crowdfunding has been launched:
- Continue to reach out to media and organisations
- Do interviews
- Write and share, share and share articles and posts
- Some real work and update on it
After the crowdfunding finishes:
- Real work and update on it
In the following paragraphs we detail these phases and activities and how they made us feel. We finish with our key take-aways and some interesting data.
Before the crowdfunding launching
Once the basics of the project were ready (fit to the context and fit to our organisation ́s capacities and vision), we completed the following tasks in a non linear manner:
Thanks god, we had great people around; else it would have taken us ages and we would not have achieved such a high quality end result.
The first step was to think about what and how we were going to tell. This was an iterative process. In parallel, and also repeatedly, we were shooting and recording the voice of the video. In order to do this, we had to get permission to shoot and to use the background music.
Our feelings ranged from motivation, when e.g. we “casually” managed to shoot children playing or nice landscapes; to frustration, when e.g. we shoot 1000 sunsets and none made it to the final video or when the launching day was delayed because of copyright issues of the song.
Improve our website
Our website was there, but there was a lot to update and improve and actually, there was no Njombe Beyond page. None of us knew about WordPress before and the IT at SHIPO had recently stopped working at the organization, so it was a nice learning process. Once the structure was there we had to create content: from basic things about who we are, our project description, to gathering the main things we had been working on the previous months and writing blog entries.
It was a nice experience where we learnt a lot and actually, writing down basic things about us and what we had been doing helped us to get a clearer picture of our situation and next steps.
Choose crowdfunding platform
We listed more than 20 crowdfunding platforms and analysed their main features. We felt lost due to that big quantity, plus that we didn´t know what their key features should be.
After some time, we managed to narrow the list down to 7 and analysed them in more detail.
Fun fact was that we first discarded the platform that we finally chose, Goteo, mainly because we felt that 80 days of crowdfunding were too many and we did not like the “all or nothing” feature. But when we were almost ready to launch (video, website, project description, etc. were ready) and we had to make the final decision on the platform, none of the other platforms convinced us: we felt some were very big and impersonal and we didn´t feel comfortable sharing the same platform with some of the projects we saw there; other platforms had a not good looking appearance for our taste; we found small issues to transfer the money to Tanzania on some others, etc.
So when we went back to check Goteo we liked its simplicity and its appearance and we valued the fact that they reviewed the projects before publishing and they seem professional, in fact, Javier has been helping us during the whole process.
It was a nice exercise to write down what our project was about. It helped us to make sure we did not forget any key aspect and to limit the scope of the project. The input and feedback of some members of the Precious Plastic community were very helpful here. Also the feedback of friends and family regarding the clarity of our description.
We also improved and refined the initial budget. This was key because it forced us to get to know more things in detail such as electricity price in Tanzania, common labour wages, local availability of materials, etc.
Due to our delay on the platform selection, we had to work further on our initial project description to make it fit to the platform´s requirements.
Choose what communication channels to use
SHIPO already had certain channels: website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. However, we thought it would be good to have specific accounts for Njombe Beyond, specially because since we were planning to be pretty active, if we used the existing ones it would seem that Njombe Beyond was the only active project. On the other hand, new accounts meant that we needed to grow the number of followers ourselves from 0.
Also, we thought a newsletter (a more personal email contact) would be nice, specially for the long term. In general, we felt somehow lost in this area, but again the advice of our collaborating friends was key.
Due to the nature of our project, Twitter seems to be a good place to reach out to people who are working on environmental issues. However, it is not that easy to grow the number of followers, since these people are not looking for beautiful, but meaningful content.
Facebook and Instagram can be described as “postureo”: attractive images with not much content. We are not sure about their usefulness in terms of donors reached. Ax an example, a story on Instagram with our video was once seen by 800 people leading to 0 donations. However, the Precious Plastic community is very active on Instagram and it is worth being there, even if it is just for inspiration. Facebook is where we have managed to gain more followers.
Reach out to media and organisations
This process did not only take place before the crowdfunding launched, but it started there.
Although social media has changed the way information flows, we still thought that traditional mass media, online blogs and organisations, especially those working on environmental issues, could help us spread the word about Njombe Beyond. We contacted over 130 mass media organisations or blogs and around 20 environmental organisations and we are very happy to look back and see the media coverage of Njombe Beyond.
These publications happened thanks to personal contacts who linked us to journalists, thanks to contacts made through social media with journalists and also thanks to emails sent and online formulaires filled at mass media webpages.
The process felt tiresome and repetitive: check the long list of media we got, browse the web for interesting blogs, journalists and organisations, contact them and wait for an answer; but was balanced with the positive answers, that were a good source of motivation. Also, we felt that appearing on TV was a nice push, specially for those potential donors who already knew about our project but had not donated yet.
We would like to thank all those people who gave us visibility and specially those who proactively put us in contact with journalists and content creators. Asante sana!
Write and share introductory articles and posts on social media
Besides the posts we wrote on our webpage, we created content to be published elsewhere and we shared this posts through social media, specially Whatsapp. We also published some posts on social media, where we briefly presented what we were doing in Njombe Beyond. The idea behind this was to make people aware of the existence of Njombe Beyond before the crowdfunding launched and to gain some followers on the newly created social media accounts.
This activity felt somehow “fake” because, in a way, we were “preparing the ground” for our next step and we were sometimes sending personal messages to people with whom we didn´t have such a close relationship. However, this same situation, from a positive perspective, could be seen as a nice chance to contact these not so close people and get to know about them.
Prepare crowdfunding launching messages for social media, email and whatsapp.
As advised by Goteo, the first step was to reach close people (friends and family) we knew were willing to contribute to the crowdfunding. Whatsapp was the main channel for that.
Due to our international team, a lot of our content had to be translated into other languages. We´ve used mainly English and Spanish, but certain content such as the video or the project description were also translated into Basque, Swahili and Italian.
Announcement: we totally dislike the video translation tool on Facebook.
At some point, our feeling was that we were “selling smoke”(from the Spanish “vendiendo humo”), meaning that we were just talking about what we wanted to do in the future and not doing much. This feeling was there for many tasks and it has been there until the first round finished.
In total, it took us more than 2 months to carry out all these pre-launch activities.
Once the crowdfunding was launched
The launching meant in simple terms sharing our promo video. Mainly through personal messages on Whatsapp and also, publishing it on our social media and website.
As our first messages said, we were really excited, nervous and happy. In a way, we were testing if a big part of our work on the previous months made sense or not.
As said, activities such as contacting media and creating content for our posts and articles elsewhere, were still done in this phase. And whenever content was published, our contacts were also updated through personal messages. This is how one of our typical messages looked like:
The first days and weeks, whenever Leire got an email notification on her phone we felt the excitement, because it often meant that we got a new contribution. Instead, days when we had less donations, we felt a bit disappointed. However, after those initial 2-3 weeks, we felt confident and both the excitement and worry decreased. We were able to talk about something else than the crowdfunding after work.
Asking for donations was not a comfortable task. It is not easy to ask for money, especially to close people. We have tried not to be “a bore”, but one of the key pieces of advice from Goteo was “quien no llora no mama”, meaning that if you don’t ask you don’t get.
A quite tricky situation was that of people who said who would contribute, but later on, did not. Should we send a friendly reminder? If so, how?
It was also somehow uncomfortable with those people who only understood the part of sharing, but did not understand the part of contributing (this does not mean that sharing is not helpful or that we do not appreciate the effort). How to let them know that even the smallest contribution is also highly appreciated, and in fact, very necessary? In this regard, we sometimes did the exercise of answering this question: if I was home in Spain, and even if I liked the project a lot, would I donate? We were sometimes surprised by the support we were getting, since although plastic waste is a challenge everywhere, Tanzania is probably unknown to many, and we thought the “distance”, not only physical but also emotional, could prevent potential donors.
On the other hand, we got very nice surprises with donations from people we did not expect to donate or with quantities from certain people that actually overwhelmed us. This “big” contributions made us feel really responsible for what we are doing: we just imagine going back home at some point in the future and being asked “how did the project I donated to go?”, and not having anything positive to answer… “tierra trágame” (let me die!).
The positive answer of our relatives has also been really comforting. Relatives are there when you need them 🙂
As our contributions chart shows, we have passed through three different stages:
- An intense highly promotional phase
- A relaxed phase
- A last punch just before the end.
Once the minimum was reached after around a month, we started to think less about promotion and more about real work. It felt really good! And finally, a week or so before the end, it was time to create some more content and send reminders to specific people and organisations. It worked amazingly well!
After the crowdfunding finished
It is some weeks that the crowdfunding finished; however, there are still some crowdfunding related tasks to carry out. Rewards are a key one: we should take action so that all our contributors get the promised rewards on time. We also have administrative tasks to make sure the funding arrives to our Tanzanian account with the lowest fees possible. And the last post and communication with contributors through Goteo platform has to be done. In case you haven´t done it yet, remember to subscribe to our newsletter here!
However, the main activity is real work, and it feels great! Although, we should also admit that we somehow miss that excitement of getting unexpected contributions and checking how the “thermometer” increased. The first machine is almost ready, market research is taking place and our workshop will soon look like a plastic recycling workshop.
We feel really responsible for the funds and we are trying to use them as wisely as possible. Let´s keep it up and continue working for a sustainable Njombe!
Learnings and take aways
- Running a crowdfunding is not a light task, especially for those not used to the audiovisuals and communication.
- Be ready to have a team of 2-3 people working almost full time on the crowdfunding for over a month or two.
- If your expertise is not communication, be ready to feel that you are not “working” and doing what you actually want to do.
- Be ready to be boring and “a pain” for your close people. It is a good practice!
- Choose your communication channels wisely: who do you want to reach? What type of message do you want to send?
- Reach out to your personal contacts for everything. Nice people are willing to help using their skills on projects they find meaningful.
We have categorised donors into four degrees:
- People we know directly: relatives and friends
- Friends of friends or people who have known it through 1st degree people
- People we do not know
- People who donate “regularly” in Goteo
Data is crystal clear. We can just say:
If you want to get detailed info on any of the topics, feel free to contact us, karibu!