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Ann Nkune FRSA shares her experiences of crowdfunding with the RSA and Crowdpatch.

Crowdfunding had been on our ‘nice to do, but no time to do it’ list for some time.  We had built up a strong community of local parents since starting Bloomsbury Beginnings in 2014, and thought that many would be interested in helping to meet our ambition of providing a family friendly place for them to work in the neighbourhood.  We’d heard lots of horror stories about failed crowd funding campaigns: months of work on designing and pushing ambitious campaigns which flop, platforms that take big commissions and give no real support and many new tech mountains to climb.

But when the RSA invited organisations to bid to be part of a pilot crowdfunding scheme with CrowdPatch, it seemed like the ideal opportunity for us to dip our toes in the crowdfunding pool.  RSA’s Area Manager Mark Hall, who knew us well, helped us to put together a snappy campaign with a clear, realistic goal: to give a facelift to the coworking room at our flagship site, the Calthorpe Project near Kings Cross.  He gave us an opportunity to pitch twice to packed rooms of RSA fellows  and promoted us through their extensive fellowship networks.  They even made a pledge to get the campaign off the ground.

Crowdpatch allowed us to keep all the money we raised, and didn't require us to hit our target to keep the funding we raised. Their platform allowed for cash pledges to be made, but also for volunteers and in-kind support. It was easy to use for us (and for the most part, for those pledging).  But best of all we got the expert advise and support of their Head of Crowdfunding, Chris Norris FRSA.

So how did we fare?  We certainly got off to a flying start when one of our parent entrepreneurs recorded and edited a really high calibre video to promote our campaign, a substantial piece of in-kind support. We launched at a networking event attended by many of the women we work with. We received a steady stream of pledges, mostly from people who had benefitted from our project in the past.  It was a real boost to know that they felt so loyal to the project. But even more important was the catalyst that it provided for our partnership with the Calthorpe Project. Together we worked on how we would like to see the space transformed to meet the needs of all the customer groups served by the community garden, café, early years facilities and meeting spaces. We were introduced to people who have been able to make a big difference to us: an eco lighting expert from Toshiba, Ikea’s dining club initiative, an interior design expert and a volunteer to help us partner with corporates. Just a few days from the end of the campaign, Digital Mums, an incredibly successful startup in the flexible working space, whose founders had been brilliant collaborators since they launched a couple of years ago, blew us away by pledging £500 to our campaign.  It will allow us to develop our partnership with them in new and exciting ways and meant that we hit our target of £3000.

The success of our crowdfunding is apparent in our beautiful new coworking space and the benefits it will have for our customers and the community. It also lies in the learning experience, which we hope to turn into future successes for ourselves and our customers.  The experience emphasised to us the value of collaboration and support. Using the crowdfunding to tap into the generosity of the crowd who are already loyal to you and making sure you begin knowing where 50% of your funding will come from before you start can help to ensure you will attain your goals. Choosing a platform that will give you the support you need to run your campaign, as Crowdpatch helped us, is essential. We also think it important to measure your success by the new collaborators you engage and publicity you gain as well as by the pledges you receive.

We aim to carry the success of our crowdfunding campaign further, using the valuable insights we gained to help our community of parent entrepeneurs to start their own crowdfunding campaigns. 

 

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