The co-founder of a site that helps athletes support their training through crowdfunding offers tips for all of us without huge social media followings. 

By Emily White (Co-founder, Dreamfuel)

Look at many crowdfunding success stories, and you’ll start to see a pattern emerge. Those who raise the most are generally also social media wizards, with substantial Twitter followings and robust Facebook pages, unafraid to sell themselves and their ideas. For many musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs, it’s all part of their personality. After all, you won’t get far as a musician if you can’t hustle for gigs. But even people who aren’t used to sounding their own horns can succeed at crowdfunding if they are willing to try a few new ideas and different angles.

Our company, Dreamfuel, helps competitive athletes raise money for travel, training, and equipment costs. Although some athletes have embraced social media, many shy away from it or fear they simply won’t have the time. Competitive sports are the ultimate meritocracy, in a way. Someone can pay for all the great coaches and training they want, but at the end of the day, he or she who throws farthest or runs fastest wins, and there’s no networking your way to the podium. While most athletes are comfortable enough with fundraising in the form of bake sales or car washes, many still haven’t made the jump the web, even though it allows them the ability to raise from people all over the world, not just in their community.

We’ve come up with five strategies for the non-­tweet-­elite among us to raise from fans:

Hit the Way­back Button

A friend of mine once managed a campaign for a woman running for local office and had great success raising money from the candidate’s teachers, from elementary school on up. She packaged the fundraising letter with a school photo for extra oomph, but you don’t have to relive your awful hairstyles if you don’t want to. Chances are, your teachers and coaches probably saw something great in you and want to feel like they helped you get where you are today ­­and after all, who wouldn’t want to be the little league coach who discovered a major leaguer’s skill, or the A/V club president who encouraged a budding filmmaker?

Mutual Admiration Society

Think of all the bands you listen to while training, the indie documentarian who made the movie you love, or the woman who created that app you just can’t live without. Reach out to them and see if they’ll promote your crowdfunding campaign to their networks; they might be thrilled to have a fan working on something so cool. Building a network of cool, likeminded folks means you can all support each others projects, and all benefit.

Get Local

Reach out to your hometown TV stations and newspapers ­­ they always love a local kid makes good story, especially if it has an inspiring hook. Are you living on next to no money so you can have a shot at representing your country in the Olympics, like many Dreamfuel athletes are? Do you want to tell an important story through a film, or create a piece of technology that will make people’s lives easier? These are all great story hooks.

Faith and Charity

If you’re a believer, reach out to your religious community. Many faiths are super­strong online and would be happy to spread the word about one of their own doing something cool. If you’re not religious, consider reaching out to charities you might have supported, or places you’ve volunteered.

Take a Holistic View

Have a pet that you love and can tweet about? Try reaching out to people who follow that breed or even pets of that breed who have their own twitter accounts. Wear a certain brand of clothing all the time? Hit them up and let them know you’re a fan. Start at the top of your day and work down, and remember no detail is too small — a toothpaste brand would probably love to know they help keep your Olympic smile pearly white; a coffee brand would be thrilled that they provide the fuel for you to create.

Bottom line: don’t be intimidated by crowdfunding if you don’t have a million followers. By thinking outside the box, you can raise enough to make your dreams a reality.

Have you found success with any unorthodox crowdfunding techniques?

image002About the guest blogger: Emily White is the co-founder of Dreamfuel with along with developer Emily Erdman and tech consultant Cortney Harding. Additionally, she is the co-founder of Whitesmith Entertainment with Keri Smith Esguia as well as Readymade Records & Publishing.
Image credit: Howard Lake via Flickr