What do you need to begin crowdfunding?

Take a look through popular non-equity crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and you’ll notice that the majority of listings are nothing more than basic requests, ideas that have not yet been implemented, and a lot of hope against hope that somebody will notice. To be sure, sometimes they do, and for reasons that are often hard to explain. Take the guy who put up a crowdfunding listing, explaining that he wanted people to give him money enough to buy 50 lunches. No explanation as to why, no social benefit, nothing–and he actually is getting money. I can’t explain it. And then there’s the bus driver who got picked on by junior high school students and received over half a million dollars just out of sympathy. But, those are anomalies.

Look at the listings that have received zero dollars, and you’ll notice a common thread: There’s really not much substance to the request. The first rule of crowdfunding is that your request has to go beyond the information you place on the crowdfunding platform. Besides your well-written plea and attached video, go beyond the Kickstarter platform. Here’s a few things to get you started:

1. Create an informative web site that goes into more detail.

2. Create written, printed marketing pieces. In all likelihood, at least a significant minority of your funding will come from people you have face-to-face contact with, and something they can hold in their hands and stick in their pockets will make your request a little more real to them.

3. Issue regular press releases. These serve two purposes: First, if you have a compelling story, you have a shot at a publication or blog picking it up and interviewing you. And even if they don’t, putting a press release on the newswire will get it picked up on a lot of newsfeeds, which will give you links back to your web site, and better SEO.

4. Not everything is print and online. A good crowdfunding initiative will also rely on you, standing in front of other people, and telling them about what you’re doing. Be prepared to talk.

5. Make yourself available. Business advisors have been going both ways on this, and there’s a temptation to try to remain anonymous and inaccessible–but that’s going to eliminate a lot of potential support. Be prepared to take phone calls and answer emails, and use your real name.

Crowdfunding is a game-changer for small business, but only for those small businesses that are willing to put the time and effort into making it work.