How I Crowdfunded my Permaculture Project
Looking for funding to bring an idea to life? PM talks to Australian musician Charlie Jones about using niche crowdfunding platform WeTheTrees.com to raise nearly £3,000.
Hi Charlie! First of all, can you tell PM readers about your project?
It's currently called the Permaculture Ukulele Musical Project, but (with due homage to Bill Mollison) I'm considering entitling it Permaculture: A Rhymer's Manual.
It's an album of pattern-learning based, musical, 'edu-tainment', aimed at teaching permaculture concepts to a broad range of people through songs, hip-hop style rhymes and entertaining video clips.
What funding options did you initially consider?
I applied for a community sustainability grant that was being offered by my local council, City of Cockburn, and was pleasantly surprised when it was accepted!
With the confidence I gained from that, I decided to increase my budget in order to make a more polished product, and reach more people, so I started hunting around for further funding opportunities.
When did you first hear about crowdfunding?
A while ago my colleague Dr Froth told me about some people he works with in Melbourne who run the crowdfunding website Pozible.com.
I thought it sounded like a fantastic idea, and a really honest and grassroots way to fund a project. However, at the time, I didn't feel like my project was ready to ask for funding.
Why did you choose to use WeTheTrees.com?
As serendipity would have it, just as I was about to start investigating different crowdfunding opportunities, my friend was working with the organisers of WeTheTrees, and had been talking to them about my songs.
They got in touch and offered me the opportunity to build a campaign in time for their official launch in July – which was perfect timing!
What has the experience been like?
I was initially pretty nervous asking for $3500 (£2,250), as I had no idea how much people would be willing to pledge. But after only a week, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support that came flooding in.
In the first two weeks, I crossed the halfway mark!
How did you promote your campaign?
Social media websites such as Facebook were really effective, as people just had to click a link and they were at the campaign.
I also printed some old-fashioned paper fliers to take to gigs. Doing live shows and getting out there talking to people was a great way to promote it, as I got to connect one-on-one and share the enthusiasm I have for the project – which got other people excited about it as well!
How did you adapt your campaign after you launched?
Very little. I think most crowdfunding platforms don't allow many changes to a campaign once it's up, as it might start to differ too much from the idea that people were initially donating to.
The few things that I wanted to add after launching, I was able to do under the 'updates' section, which was mainly just keeping people up-to-date with how the planning and production process was going.
Why do you think your campaign was so successful?
I think starting in my hometown was a good move. They were already aware, to some extent, of what I was doing and have been a great, supportive, community network for me for several years.
Word of mouth really is the best method of promotion. And a few friends helped by sharing the campaign through their networks as well.
What top tips would you give to someone considering crowdfunding their project?
If you do have local support, try to encourage people to donate to the campaign via the crowdfunding website, as you need to reach your goal in order to be eligible for the funding. [Most crowdfunding platforms work to an all-or-nothing format]
I've had people try to shove $50 notes in my pocket. But, if people ask, I'll give them the WeTheTrees web address and make sure they donate there instead.
And finally, the million dollar question, would you crowdfund again?
Definitely! I'm already planning to start another campaign next year (is that a bit cheeky?), to fund a tour to the US, Canada, Mexico and Cuba from April to November 2013.
I'll be reaching outside the scope of my friends and family this time. But hopefully it'll be as successful as the last one!
For more information on Charlie's campaign, to buy an album or book a workshop on his tour, visit PermacultureSongs.com
'Funding your Permaculture Project – how to find empowerment in an alternative finance model, Crowdfunding' by Georgina-Kate Adams is featured in the winter issue of Permaculture magazine issue 74 (available later October).