Biz4all social entrepreneurship training programme consists of online and offline training events. Online assignments help participants to learn the theory and get better at practical things, while offline events provide opportunities to meet experts, gain experience and constant useful communication. On May 5-6, during the second day of the offline session dedicated to crowdfunding, the teams got deeper and deeper into the ins and outs of money raising activities.
Biz4all-2 training is part of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme organized by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands) with financial support from the European Union.
The day began with a session by Aliaksandr Skrabouski, director of the “Dobra” fund and manager of Social Weekend, a social project competition. Aliaksandr spoke in detail about his competition, which remains the most large-scale project of such kind in Belarus. More than 2,000 unique applications has been sent to Social Weekend. Within the framework of the competition, more than 250 projects received support not only in the semi-finals and the finals, but also beyond the competition itself, thanks to the connection network build during training. “A few years ago, the market of non-commercial projects required money, so most applications we received were asking for funding. However, now the priority is the social value of the project, and the money, even though always needed, is not the main thing. Two season ago we made the conscious decision to stop announcing how much money the projects received in the competition, because we moved past this a long time ago, and the resources that are raised in the competition are incomparably smaller than everything people receive after the finals thanks to their newly established contacts and project development activities”.
Kate Tikota (Biz4all-2 participant) and Aliaksandr Skrabouski during the Social Weekend competition
Photo: personal facebook page
At the moment, Social Weekend is in its 11th season. The competition is held twice a year: in spring and in autumn. The spring track starts in January-February with accepting and selecting applications. A separate event is the Hakathon dedicated to social projects. “Initially, we wanted to organize a Hakathon in order to encourage high-quality applications for our main competition. However, the very first Hakathon made it clear that it should be an independent event with its own target audience. At the Hakathon, we actively encourage the IT sector to take part in non-commercial projects, and the fourth Hakathon was even bigger than the main competition”.
Crowdfunding in Belarus: TALAKA and Ulej
At the moment, Belarus has two platforms where projects can officially crowd fund: TALAKA and Ulej. On May 6, representatives of these platforms visited an offline training of Biz4all to present their platforms.
TALAKA was presented by project consultant Gleb Anisimau. The first important innovation is that the platform now takes a 7.5% commission (until this year, the platform took no commission for campaign postings). TALAKA currently offers eight ways of crowdfunding on their platform. You can read their detailed descriptions and differences on their website in the Talakosht section. The platform has about 40,000 users, most of them active either as authors or as project team members, and many support campaigns as donors.
A campaign can last from 30 to 160 days, but in special circumstances it can be extended for a special period of time. Over the past two and a half years, the platform has hosted more than 500 campaigns raising about 950,000 BYN, and about 60% of them were successful.
Practical crowdfunding and project implementation tips from TALAKA:
• When you plan a project, answer the following questions: what problem do you want to solve, who is going to benefit from it, who is going to support you, what resources do you have to raise, and what are you planning to get in the end;
• it is better to write down the problem and re-read, review, analyse it several times;
• imagine the situation where the problem has already been solved and compare it with what you imagined;
• identify what prevents you from reaching your goals right now;
• set specific business tasks to use the platform;
• pay attention to details, because very often it is the minor flaws that spoil the whole project;
• when you face rejection, do not focus on it too much: instead use the criticism to adjust your behaviour;
• constantly talk to the target audience;
• first get a team around you, then build a community, and only then try and raise money;
• it is important to have a project at the time of campaign launch, since even the greatest PR efforts cannot replace a specific project (service);
• be honest with oneself and analyse the situation objectively.
Olga Mzhelskaya, PR manager of the ulej.by platform, started by saying that over the three years, they managed to completely defeat stereotypes related to crowdfunding in Belarus. “The numbers prove there is a huge increase in interest both from people who develop projects and from those who donate funds. We used to have a stereotype that only Americans could raise tens of thousands of dollars in a crowdfunding campaign. However, we have recently had a campaign to raise funds to publish five volumes by Svetlana Alexievich in Belarusian. The project raised $115,000 in 50 days”.
Olga urged the teams to be creative, as over the three years of Ulej the team realized that creativity was the most important thing. Without creativity, the project has few chances to become successful. It also needs an interesting idea and a clear project page. Ulej has held 154 successful campaigns, each raising 100% of funds or more, and has accepted applications from 2,400 project authors and financial contributions from 14,000 sponsors. The platform has totalled $530,000 in contributions, with $472,000 raised for successful projects. “In out first year, there wasn’t really a community to talk about, because each project drew in its own group of people, but now you can see that certain people regularly donate money to projects in a certain field. Three most popular project categories are books, social issues and music”.
The platform’s principles are: free access, comprehensive support provided to authors, a personal manager who is always online and does not allow users to stay idle, the “all or nothing” principle, and a 10% commission in case the campaign has been successful.
Crowdfunding for CSOs: expertise from Ivan Viadzenin
The training day finished with a master class on project development by social entrepreneurship expert Ivan Viadzenin. He noted that organizing a project means being really involved, so you will not be able to say about certain things “I can’t do this”, as you will have to do everything. When a project lacks resources, the company may turn to a crowdfunding campaign. There cannot be a definitive way to assess your chances of success: it all depends on the project and the approach. Ivan provides his campaign expertise after he has received answers to four questions: team and competencies, budget, number of sponsors and promotion methods.
Stop list of things one cannot do while organizing a crowdfunding campaign:
1 do not deceive or mislead people;
2 do not spam;
3 do not be boring;
4 do not say “please give” but say “please take”;
5 do not be unsympathetic and ungrateful;
6 do not fail to be flexible when things go wrong.
Some Biz4all-2 teams are already thinking about organizing their own crowdfunding campaign. Ivan Viadzenin did his best sharing his expertise on specific projects and requests from participants, so that they could start with a well thought-out and clear plan.
Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk
Photo by: Alyona Lis
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.