Whose Crowd Is It Anyway?

Success Comes from Creating Community

One of the most pervasive misunderstandings we encounter from creators is an incorrect idea about where backers come from. We touched on this a little in our recent blog post announcing the release of our Community Directory, and we addressed it in another post about a year ago. But, it still comes up frequently enough that we thought we should address it again. Basically, the misconception is this: the crowd for a crowdfunded project is a product of the crowdfunding platform. In this view, a successful project comes more from launching on the right platform, and less from the nature of the project itself.

After launching many hundreds of projects, and observing many others, we have learned that is simply not true. What counts is the size of the community supporting the project and the faith that community has in the project’s value. What builds that faith is the degree to which the community has been exposed to, and then contributed to, the project. That’s one of the reasons why an emphasis on openness is so helpful for crowdfunding projects. Openness helps projects build their own communities by involving participants in the project itself. This means that not only are they involved with and committed to the project, they also have an active role in shaping it. Sometimes this happens during the design phase, before launch, and sometimes a community coalesces around a project after it launches. In any case, creating, building, and maintaining this community is vital for the success of your project.

For example, the LimeSDR project, a software-defined radio with open hardware/software, raised over $1 million on Crowd Supply, doubling their initial goal. Their campaign was supported by a discussion forum, public GitHub repos, and a wiki that were all very active throughout the design and development of the project, and then afterwards as the project got into the hands of its backers and they started using it out in the world. In this way, the LimeSDR team was augmented by dozens and dozens of regular contributors to these platforms, contributors who ended up becoming a community organized around the versatile tool that is the LimeSDR.

That’s a blueprint for a successful campaign. Note that the focus was never on page views or web-page analytics, but always on building and fostering an engaged community. While the Lime developers may have started with a great idea, it was a large and engaged community that propelled the campaign to a successful conclusion. That's all fine and good, you might be saying to yourself, but how do I build my community and how can Crowd Supply help? To figure that out, let's step back for a moment and get a better understanding of the concept of "community."

The term "community" means different things to different people. In crowdfunding, we believe communities coalesce around two kinds of things: interests and values, and the best campaigns address both. Think of "interests" as the "what" component: actual, physical, or digital things of a particular type or function. For example, a community can arise around amateur radio or audio amplifier design. Values, on the other hand, are more like the "why" of a community, they are the reason behind interests. Folk in an amateur radio community might be there because they value meeting people from other places, or they value alternatives to social media for communicating. Similarly, audio amplifier designers might believe in the value of knowing how things work, or the right to repair and modify products. For a crowdfunding community to thrive, it needs to align both interests and values.

One great way of doing this is through open source (a topic we’ll be talking more about in a subsequent post). For now, what ’s important to realize is that making your project open will go a long way towards helping you create, nurture, and grow a community around your project. In fact, broadly speaking, openness is a central value at Crowd Supply and helps define our community. You can see this in our Proclamation of User RIghts, which you can think of as our attempt to codify the values that bind us together, whether we are creators, backers, or employees.

In that sense, Crowd Supply is a community that can help you find your crowd. But here, your crowd is comprised of more than captured eyeballs and clicking fingers. Your crowd consists of partners, helpers, critics, and boosters who share both values and interests with you and each other. That’s what a campaign needs to be truly successful.

For more of our thoughts on how to find your crowd, take a look at this blog post, this other blog post, and this article in The Crowd Supply Guide.