From fantastical storybooks to nail-biting films, compelling novels to interesting podcasts, we engage with stories throughout our lives. 

It’s here, through the power of narrative, that we learn, connect and make choices every day, making it no coincidence that we can find the classic structure of our favorite stories in the marketing of the most powerful crowdfunding campaigns.

Think back to a favorite childhood tale and break it down into its simplest form through the lens of your project at hand. 

Once upon a time, there was a unique cast of characters living their lives in a setting somewhere–the physical, economic and emotional landscape of wherever your audience resides [their place].

Oh no! A problem exists among these people, a conflict that brings them frustration or grief of some kind, but as any fairy tale tells us, a hero is on the horizon [that’s you!] to bring a fantastic solution to the crowd. 

Much like a choose-your-own-adventure experience, now your audience has the power to pick what happens next. 

In a clear and concise call-to-action, they can support your valiant efforts in bringing peace to the crowd by backing financially, sharing and spreading the word. Now, with your dedicated group harnessing energies and their generous support, the credits can roll, leaving happily ever after as the natural next scene.

It’s here, through the power of narrative, that we learn, connect and make choices every day, making it no coincidence that we can find the classic structure of our favorite stories in the marketing of the most powerful crowdfunding campaigns.

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When we think of business, we often think of a simple exchange: a product, service, or experience in exchange for cash. We swipe our debit cards as a means to fulfill our needs and often move about our day unfazed by the impact that this simple exchange has made, without pondering why we chose to walk into the store we did. 

Beneath the daily buzz of checking our to-dos and filling our shopping carts are dozens of silent, often subconscious, exchanges made between us, as customers, and the companies we support. We reach for sustainable eggs or cruelty-free cosmetics because our values align. We buy coffee from the roaster who sponsored our child’s soccer team or toss bills into the tip jar for the musician whose performance makes us feel fired up in just the same way. We are exchanging capital in cash, as well as equity in social value, supporting business endeavors because something said blatantly or subconsciously assures us that our visions for our community’s future align. We are on the same team

In times of crisis, this social wealth we’ve exchanged holds immense value, rallying us together to face times of great challenge knowing, despite the circumstances at hand, we are not alone. 

Resilience, of people and their places, is a survival muscle built stronger through the wealth of social capital–shared values made more robust by support, showing up and lending a hand to a neighbor to lift the entire neighborhood up. 

Now, as we face the world-wide economic, health, and psychological impacts of the COVID-19 virus, we are invited to get curious and creative, knowing that despite the state of our wallets, we are rich with social capital; we are not alone. 

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Historically, three sectors of our economies have been most prevalent: the public sector, or government, the private sector, or business, and the nonprofit sector. Today we see a forceful emergence and growing power of a fourth sector made up of for-benefit organizations with mission-driven companies and eyes set on creating impactful change.

These businesses, often called social enterprises, still focus on creating a profit, while also looking beyond their capital gains and identifying the assets they’re providing socially, culturally, or environmentally. The shared values of these companies and their supporters are defined as social capital–a currency that allows consumers and producers to rally around a mission and efficiently create change.

A local theater company providing thought-provoking art, a sustainable farm offering nutrition to their community while monitoring their impact on the environment, a coffee shop serving as a gathering space for marginalized populations to share stories and connect–these are all social enterprises, exchanging capital via sales as well as beliefs.

Many businesses within your community serve as representatives of this fourth-sector whether they’re aware of it or not. Regardless of industry, size, or notoriety, what each of these businesses share is care–care for community, whether that’s defined by a downtown district or a wider net cast over those with similar lifestyles, hobbies, or passions.

At its core, the caring economy holds profound power, because that core is fabricated from a simple yet efficacious desire to be of service to people, their places, and this planet. 

The Local Crowd’s origins are rooted in supporting these enterprises, fueled by passion and care, harnessing the power of their neighborhoods and lifting our communities one purchase, pledge, or act of kindness at a time.

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As we find a semblance of normalcy in our new-for-now lifestyles self-distanced from the comforts of home, it can feel as if our power to connect and support our community has been diminished entirely. However, we can find inspiration in looking to the symbology of rural history’s barn-raisings–the gathering of many hands, shared materials, and strength built by numbers to create a structure to feed the community collaboratively. 

Today’s circumstances insist that we reach for our digital tools instead of hammers, and we gather with our peers from a distance instead of around a wooden frame, but the formula for success is no different.

Here are a few ways you can provide impactful support for the structures in need of bolstering in your community amid the economic effects of COVID-19

  • Browse your local economic development agencies press to find where they’re specifically directing the community to rally support. Many agencies are coordinating contests and campaigns to drive traffic to businesses most affected by the mandated closures and stay-at-home orders.
  • Consider how you can support the organizations you’re missing most. Is your life in quarantine leaving you desperate for live music, your local library’s book club, or a favorite yoga class? Check-in with the hosting organizations and see how they’re asking the community for support.
  • What many of the businesses need now is cash flow, however as jobs are eliminated and hours cut, budgets are tightening for individuals across the globe regardless of industry. Remember that impact does not always have to be made with our wallets, and great influence can be made by sharing promotions, leaving kind reviews, or simply sending a message of support to the businesses you love.

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We’re often forced in times of despair to inventory our blessings, taking careful note of what elements of our life nurture our wellbeing in business and health. 

The term “crisis” originates from roots meaning to separate, to sieve, a process that author Glennon Doyle compares to sifting sand. In times of turmoil, our priorities slip through our fingers, leaving behind only the substantial pieces of rock and rubble that are of great importance, allowing all the rest to float back to the earth, leaving room in our palms for what matters most. 

Now, as the world shares the heartaches of a social climate profoundly marred by the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus, our collective attention is turned to the people and places that we call home. 

We have begun to watch the gathering spaces in our towns close their doors and lay off the familiar employees who we bought our lunch from, stood across from at the gym, bumped into at the library, or joined for afternoon tea. Our streets, once lined with signs of life, sit empty and quiet, while we all notice the uncomfortable gaps left in our world from these businesses. 

Fortunately, just as the fiery phoenix rises from the ashes, rich with new life, our communities will do the same with the support of our TLC: tender loving care. In this time of economic disparity, we can’t help but look to the roots of The Local Crowd–started with the intention of supporting local innovators with equal parts heart and capital-building support.

The power of community exists in its people, and right now, our people are prompted to show up. It is together that we will move forward, together we will rebuild, together we will stitch and hem the fabric of our towns. 

With many hands, we will rebuild. Here’s how you can start to help.

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Just like the sports of our youth taught us, there is no “I” in “team.”

The most successful crowdfunding campaigns are routinely built, not with one, but rather with many making a strong collaboration behind the scenes. A wide reach and balanced team are crucial in preparing a project to reach its most supportive and giving crowd before, during and after launch day.

Gathering a pool of partners with diverse skill sets and broad connections is a crucial and early step in the campaign building process. As you bring voices around the table, you expand your opportunity potential, dipping into the affinity groups of partners, opening up space for collaboration and building loyalty to your cause.

The temptation to charge forward alone is common among campaign hosts; however, the power of crowdfunding exists almost entirely in the many hands beyond your own that support, share and give within your crowd. Imagine the potency your project could gain with the power of a local book club sharing your news, the videography talents of a good friend or a handful of heartfelt personal asks for support from the businesses on your block.

As you begin to build your dream team in the early stages of your campaign, explore your relationships with customers, colleagues and friends. Jot down names of the folks who’ve supported you in your business, in your personal life and beyond. With a deep knowledge of the powerful work you’re bringing to your community, you can confidently reach far and wide, constructing a forceful team for your work ahead.

 A wide reach and balanced team are crucial in preparing a project to reach its most supportive and giving crowd before, during and after launch day.

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Most of us come to crowdfunding with focused visions of one end goal: funds.

The industry is speckled with what appear to be overnight success stories of accessories for the tech-savvy, quirky card games and gadgets with bells and whistles galore. With every Pebble Watch and Coolest Cooler, mainstream media has cultivated a narrative that, upon posting a project, backers will flood in, cash in hand, as the dollar signs shoot skyward on our screens. It would appear that as the adage goes, if you build it, they will come.

Truth be told, for every show-stopping crowdfunding project, thousands sit idle, unseen and unfunded across the same platforms that host successes in the millions of dollars. Campaigns built with the most stable structures can sit sound in body but empty in soul, without the appropriate time and preparation given to bring the people to the cause.

Overall, we know the most successful campaigns, hosted locally or beyond, start with detailed plans, commitment to daily work and sufficient time. Much like an airplane requires a runway to ensure a safe liftoff, a secure 30-day crowdfunding campaign needs at the very least, a 60-day taxiway.

It is here, in this crucial preparation phase, that you can focus on preparations including team building, creative storytelling, number crunching and crafting a buzz around the incredible project or product you’re about to launch in your community!

Campaigns built with the most stable structures can sit sound in body but empty in soul, without the appropriate time and preparation given to bring the people to the cause.

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For Kim’s birthday a few weeks ago we decided to do a chair bombing. We took an old bench, painted it, and placed it in an alcove by our office. Our process was pretty unstructured—we brought tools, cans of leftover paints, an idea, and enthusiasm for working creatively together.

top paint job of bench with words site and see painted in turquoise

The resulting flow was not only fun, it was instructive—about how we need to work at pioneering the 4th sector economy. Why? Because we had no map and didn’t know exactly where we were going. We had to trust each other and allow the process to unfold. That doesn’t sound a lot like business planning—but it reminded me that as sector-building pioneers, we need to be open to exploring, experimenting, doing art, using available resources, and listening to the voices of our communities along the way. That’s how we will build something radically new and intrinsically beautiful.

purple and pink gradient box with quote from Joseph Campbell

bench painted blue with white waves

view of the Wyoming plains grass and trees with blue sky

Sit and See! Enjoy the view from out chair-bombed bench!

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Crowdfunding has a heart. It beats like a drum—ba dum, ba dum, ba dum. It calls us to community—to help each other, build each other up, raise each other’s barns.

Crowdfunding campaigns carry the heart of our stories out to the world—broadcasting our aspirations, visions and needs. Through crowdfunding we invite our community to help out and become part of the rhythm of connection. And that’s where the miracle begins. Scientific research tells us that an innate characteristic of being human is to find pleasure in helping others (see TED Talk below). That means that every time we give to a crowdfunding campaign the results are three fold: 1. we support a tangible project; 2. we connect with our community and 3: We open our hearts to joy. Pretty cool, huh?

selfie of Diane Sontum and Kim Vincent in front of a heart

Kim and I are always on the lookout for hearts. We found this one in Chicago while there for the 2019 Social Enterprise Alliance Summit.

brick wall mural detail with stating when people get together miracles happen

Detail from the Cottonwood mural. Yep.

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It’s great to be in Chicago at the SEA Summit touring social enterprises, learning and meeting people doing The Great Work.

Darius Ballinger kicked off the conference and encouraged us to approach our work from both the micro and macro levels. He said the micro level represents the tangible things we can do today—the actual work of creating social change. The macro is more complex. It represents the big picture—like 4th sector ecosystem development—that requires conversations with “someone else, and someone else, and someone else, and someone else….” It takes time and conversations with many people to make macro changes occur.

These are the conversations we are excited to have. I like to start with a vision of what is possible—and I would love to hear yours. What does a robust social enterprise sector look like to you?

two women standing in a garden talking

Growing Home Urban Farm produces 25,000 pounds of food on one acre in the city! They also train individuals who are eager to work but need a supportive environment to develop skills. Thanks for your great work and awesome tour!