How to Crowdfund a political website…

parlyTony Grew, Sunday Times Political journalist talks to Crowdfunder about why he’s launched a fundraising campaign to start his own hyper-local Parliament journalism platform. 

Take the stage Tony…

In a way, crowdfunding is an old concept. The idea of a community coming together to fund a new amenity, or spending their money in local shops to sustain the jobs of their neighbours, is at the core of what many think of as society.

The beauty of crowdfunding is that it reaches well beyond traditional physical communities. It allows us to access the global community, to be supported by people we have never met, to present our ideas to our virtual neighbours and seek their backing.

When I first started to sketch out what I wanted to achieve with my project, PARLY, I had a number of options for funding it. I very quickly came to the conclusion that the right way forward was to crowdfund.

PARLY is about our Parliament, taking a fresh approach to that institution and showing the world parts of Parliamentary life that tend to get missed by traditional media.

In other words, it is about our democracy. What better way to get the project off the ground than make PARLY as democratic as possible? I wanted PARLY to be something that people outside the Westminster village could have a part in creating – so ofter our Parliament can seem shut off, disconnected from real life.

PARLY is about opening it up, showing people inside and explaining what happens and why. To me, crowdfunding the project means that we begin as we mean to go on – an open, collective effort from people who believe in the project’s aims and objectives.

Crowdfunding also helps promote your project, provides you with an engaged audience for your plans and encourages your backers to interact with you. Companies spend huge amounts of money on market researching and testing new products. Crowdfunding allows you to do that even as you are raising funds. You can ask your backers what their expectations are, what they like and don’t like.

Crowdfunding is full of inspring success stories, of concepts, ideas or causes that have caught the imagination of the public and taken off. I guess everyone dreams that will happen to them when they first decide to set up a crowdfund.

Whether or not you end up as one of those success stories, there are lots of things you can do to make it more likely your project or idea will succeed. You know more people that you think – go through your email accounts and your social media profiles and identify all your contacts. Tell them about your plans in advance of the crowdfund launch. Have people ready to pledge on day one, to ensure you get off to a good start.

They are your early adopters, the ones who believe in the project and want to show their support as early as possible. The next stage is to promote, promote and promote again. Don’t be afraid to remind people that you still need their support. Then tell them again. And again.

The key here is not to over-do it, but your contacts, your potential backers, need to be reminded regularly that the crowdfund is live, it is time-limited and if it does not reach its target it won’t raise anything. Never assume your potential backers know those three key facts. Don’t be afraid to make it explicit.

A common reaction from your contacts is to say ‘good luck’. Thank them for that, but gently remind them that it’s not so much their warm words as their cold cash that your project needs.

Then there is the unknown backers, the global community I talked about at the start. You do not know, cannot know who out there in our connected world will connect with your crowdfund. There will be support from unexpeceted places and people you will likley never meet. Try to think of ways to reach them. If your project is brewing beer, are there forums, blogs or other places on the net where beer enthusiasts meet? Connect with them. You don’t know who out there is watching your project and wants to get involved. That is the intriguing, intangible nature of online fundraising.

My final observation about crowdfunding is this. Don’t let the fear rule over you. It is scary to start something new, from scratch, and ask others for their money. But fortune favours the brave. I had many sleepless nights before PARLY’s crowdfund launched, but I am glad I did it. I expect PARLY to hit its target, but even if it does not I will never regret that I tried something new, I overcame the fear and felt the warm sensation of seeing my project come alive on Crowdfunder. It’s a great feeling. Every individual has power when we act collectively, and nothing demostrates the truth of that more than crowdfunding.

Support PARLY today> and if you are inspired by Tony – add your project today and get started on fundraising your great idea.


Crowdfunding for politics - UK’s top 8 political crowdfunds
Crowdfunding Politics - a word from the front line...