Top Ten Reasons Crowdfunding Campaigns Fail (and What Can Bring Them Back)

10/29/2013 12:34 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
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A crowdfunding campaign is an intense drama. You put heart and soul into your project. You believe in your mission. You launch a campaign and obsessively track your contributions. You go down to the wire as you work your social media connections. You contact bloggers and journalists and see if they will write about your passion and help you. The clock ticks down and, in the final moments, you don't make your goal.

It's devastating and disheartening. But crowdfunding campaigns that don't make it the first time can often have another shot.

In the last few months I've witnessed some crowdfunding squeakers -- campaigns that didn't look like they were going to make it, but pulled through at the last moment. The people running those campaigns knew how to plan, when to pivot and when try new things. When their campaigns hit the the wall, they knew what to do.

To understand their success, let's look at what's behind a crowdfunding failure. Then we'll examine the crowdfunding afterlife.

Top Ten Reasons Crowdfunding Campaigns Fail

Reason #10. Not making clear what the money is for. If you want contributors to take action and give, you need to be really specific about how you plan to use the money. Provide action steps, timetables, and explain who will benefit.

Reason #9. If crowdfunding a game, don't forget to post a link to the rules.

Reason #8. Failure to post a strong video. Games and products need a demo video so contributors will know what they're getting. Social good projects need the video to show who will benefit. Art and culture projects need a teaser or sample video of what you will produce. By now, everybody knows they need to post a crowdfunding video, right? But the video also has to be good, serve your mission, and show the 'why' of your campaign, not just the 'how.'

Reason #7. A video that is too long. Keep your video social media shareable. That means from one to three minutes.

Reason #6. A video with technical problems. Respecting your audience means recording audio they can hear and video they can see. If you're shooting in a noisy cafe, handholding a wobbly iPhone, stop now and find a better place.

Reason #5. Failure to post updates. Keeping your supporters and contributors in the loop is crucial. While your campaign is running, it's a brilliant idea to post updates to keep supporters engaged. I have seen crowdfunding campaigns that looked like they were going south turn completely around and self-repair because of inventive and engaging updates to supporters. The secret? The people running those campaigns held a few terrific perks and incentives in reserve, and rolled them out at the right time.

Reason #4. No testing. Before you launch your campaign, send the campaign page to friends, family and supporters. Get feedback on your pitch and presentation. People who don't know you will spend just 10-30 seconds looking at your campaign page. It has to deliver motivation and passion pretty quickly for them to want to join in and support you.

Reason #3. Not enough planning. If you want to create an effective campaign, people need to know about it. That means you will need to start some buzz as early as 90 days before you launch. You'll need to research how campaigns similar to yours succeeded or failed, research the most influential people online who might write about your campaign, and build relationships with potential supporters over several months' time. Creating an editorial calendar will help. Thinking about a long-term storyline for your campaign is even better.

Reason #2. Not enough time to run the campaign. When a campaign runs for 30 days it's an intense process that requires as much attention as you can muster.

Reason #1. Not enough social capital. Building a community before you start is the most powerful key to crowdfunding success.

These tips are useful if you're considering a crowdfunding campaign, but if you have tried one and it didn't work the first time, this top ten list is gold. Why?

A campaign can make it the second time around by examining lessons learned, switching crowdfunding platforms if needed, and using the assets you gathered from your first time. Yes, even if you ran a crowdfunding campaign that didn't work, you have assets. Strong assets. Consider all the social capital you built up during your campaign. Your new friends on Twitter, your new friends on Facebook and, possibly most importantly, your email list, which likely grew.

Those people believed in you and in your campaign. They're still out there, and if your mission is still alive, and if you still feel the passion for it, you can reach them again with a second crowdfunding run.

You are wiser now. You have experience. It could be your time to reboot.