Guest blog post by Martin Simon, author of “Your Money or Your Life: Time for Both” who successfully raised £4,078 with Buzzbnk is sharing his experience on crowd-funding.
It was New Year’s Eve at the Green Hotel in Mysore, Southern India when over dinner I mentioned to my friend Michael Norton that I was planning to write a book and that I really wished that there was some way to crowd fund the cost of producing it. Be it a happy co-incidence – or even a lucky happenstance – Michael replied that he was actually in the process of setting up a new social enterprise, later to be called Buzzbnk, which was to be the first crowd funding website in the UK. He offered me there and then to make my book, the first ever on Timebanking, Buzzbnk’s first book.
Some weeks later I went to meet Theresa and Qiaoling in their London office, (I was very touched that Michael cycled over to join us).
Their energy was infectious and I quickly decided not to go ahead with a commercial publisher as it was clear to me that crowd-funding and Timebanking were a natural match. It was obvious that we would all benefit from working together and I was particularly delighted to feel that I might, in some small way, be instrumental in helping to get such a brilliant idea as crowd funding off the ground in the UK.
The potential for crowd funding is enormous. I am sure literally thousands of people with limited resources want to contribute what they can to help make some great ideas blossom. And in time I am sure that they will. A contract was signed and all I had to do then was write the book, oh yes and get it edited, designed, printed and marketed – and now there was the little matter of having to enlist hundreds of supporters to pledge the money.
The team at Buzzbnk were very helpful throughout and even ran a workshop for all the projects on how to go about selling ourselves. A word of caution is due here, if you have a problem asking people for money be warned you will have to get over it quick if you want to crowd fund. When Buzzbnk gets the exposure and high profile it deserves it will be easier for projects to raise money by connecting you with new supporters. But as we were the first social enterprises to travel down this road the main burden of raising the cash fell to us. Luckily for me Timebanking had already attracted a bit of attention and we had a network of time banks and their members to focus our campaign on at first. It would have been far more difficult to have to start cold calling or pitching to complete strangers for those first pledges.
However, like so many things in life the first steps were the hardest and once we had a few supporters engaging with us finding the next few was easier, and so on.
As we went along I found that a book is quite a difficult product to sell on trust. People want to read a book, or at least look at the blurb on the back before they decide to invest in it. It was also my first book so I did not have a reputation to fall back on. I had to convince people that I would do a good job and do justice to Timebanking, which is a brilliant social innovation but new to most people. We had 500 postcards printed advertising the book and Buzzbnk and for the next few weeks they went with me everywhere. I handed them out to anyone who showed the slightest interest, or even if they didn’t. We also designed a ‘sampler’, a six page leaflet on the book, which contained endorsements from a couple of high profile supporters and an appeal on the back for people to make a pledge.
I gave the leaflets out at every talk and presentation I did. We posted copies out to our contacts, but most of them were circulated electronically as a pdf. This did not cost too much and I think the leaflet impressed people. I was also very lucky to have a designer who was prepared to work on the leaflet (and the book) on the promise of being paid later. The editing of the book was also done for a small fee and for some time credits.
We have reached our first milestone and, quite honestly, it is a huge relief to now have copies of the book to show to people and to send out to reviewers.
Our supporters have been wonderful (and patient) and it was with an enormous sense of achievement that I sent them their books and their other benefits last week. People love the book and seem to really respect that we have not taken the easy route and have produced a beautiful product in an ethical and inspiring way.
Our sincere thanks to all at Buzzbnk, may you go from strength to strength.
With 10 days left of this campaign, you can still get a signed copy of Martin’s book and other goodies @ www.buzzbnk.org/timebanking