Crowdfunding in the Days Before Kickstarter

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As you read this, I’ve begun of one of my most ambitious initiatives -- raising $30,000 in 30 days via Kickstarter. The public launch began Monday and we’ve already raised 25 opercent of our goal to adapt my book Seeds of Success into a screenplay for a feature length film.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you my “Kickstarter chronicles” in this column. The good, the bad and the ugly. Unfiltered, like opening up and reading my personal journal. That’s my promise to you.

Benjamin Franklin said it best, “pain instructs,” so I will be sharing when I fall flat on my face so you don’t make the same mistakes. And as my mentor Randy Mills liked to say, “success leaves clues.” With that in mind I’ll give you some of my strategies that put money in the bank. Perhaps the best medicine is the soul searching gained from what often feels like a lonely yet public journey.

On some days, doesn’t entrepreneurship feel like you’re running a marathon naked? That’s what running a Kickstarter campaign feels like every day. My daily lonely, public, naked updates are here.

Related: 4 Steps to Help You Prepare for the Fundraising Process

What’s old is new again.

There’s never been a more true expression. When I get nervous, I clean. In an act of fear (and procrastination) just days before my Kickstarter launch I began emptying out my closet to donate clothes to Goodwill. I don’t wear my varsity coaching jacket anymore but they’re back in style and someone in need can benefit from it.

Looking at that varsity jacket actually gave me a confidence boost and got rid of my butterflies. It made me realize that old being new again isn’t limited to clothing trends, you see this same trend in the business of raising money. I share this with you for two reasons:

1. There’s a huge life lesson for all of us in something “new” like Kickstarter.

2. Success in business and life is about fundamentals.

The lesson is that Kickstarter isn’t new, just the online portion of it. I was doing Kickstarter before there was Kickstarter. For 12 years as a college coach, fundraising was a huge part of my job. I was writing letters, making phone calls and wining and dining boosters to raise money for my lacrosse program. I bet you do the same activities. That stuff is what we called “social media” back in the dark ages when I was coaching.

So this Kickstarter thing isn’t new. It’s about mobilizing and engaging your community. I’ve been doing that every day that since 1996 and I bet you do the same daily as well. The annual operating budget for my college team was $45,000 but we never had all those funds in one lump sum. Sound familiar, startup entrepreneurs?

I had to raise $30,000 of it at the start of each year. So in essence I was running a crowdfunding campaign every year. Making phone calls, holding benefit dinners, speaking to civic groups, sitting in a dunk tank, auctioning myself off as a butler for 24 hours to some lucky bidder, you name it -- I did it. I didn't realize how many of these "business development" activities got away from me over the years until I started this campaign. How many have you gotten away from?

Related: Start Early, Aim Low, Keep It Short: How to Run a Successful Kickstarter Campaign (Infographic)

What I learned back then and what is being reinforced during my campaign now is that the coolest thing about crowdfunding isn’t even the money we raised. It’s the fact that the support galvanizes your team and customer base. It’s a rallying point and source of pride for everyone involved and when done well can also be a launching pad.

This brings me to how my story relates to your business.

Make it familiar.

If you’re nervous about venturing into something “new,” find a way to relate it to something you’ve already accomplished. This is why baseball players make great sales people. They know they will face more failure than success, they know it’s a long season so to speak and that it’s all about consistency over the long haul, not any one single outing.

It's all about relationships.

None of what we did would have been possible without solid relationships. People make business, crowdfunding and most other things in life more complicated that they really are. It’s actually quite simple and there is a universal law to follow. Whether we are recruiting athletes, selling real estate, practicing law, curing disease or raising money we are first in the relationship business and then in the business of our actual profession.

Crowdfunding, sales, teambuilding, leadership and marriage are all about building strong relationships. You could have the best product in the world, but without good relationships your product will still fail. This week, make it your mission to add as much value as possible to the relationships in your life.

Want to add a little more value? Try my +1 technique. Add one additional relationship-building activity to your daily game plan. Make one more phone call, write one more handwritten note and thank one more person. It takes just five minutes, but that five minutes will make all the difference to the other person.

Related: Boost Your Chances of Fundraising Success With These 5 Preparation Tips