Kickstarter: The merger of Fundraising and Social Media

Kickstarter Campaign Image

By now most everyone has heard of it:  It is a site that allows people to fund creative projects that might otherwise not get enough attention.  The site has led to millions of dollars in donations to projects, that without the kindness of friends, family and strangers could have never happened.  It is the online community speaking with their wallets about what should be created, and what projects are not really worth making happen.  The impact of projects going viral and of social media on projects cannot be understated, those that have been successful play off of the media, link through various websites, share their projects on Facebook and Twitter, and fully engage with the online community.

Impressively, almost half of all Kickstarter campaigns get fully funded.  And of those that do get funded 94% get over funded.  Considering the average project asks for roughly $5,000 dollars, and the average donation $71, there is a lot of opportunity to create something great.  However, it is an all or nothing game.

Projects either receive 100% or more funding, or their creators, and their projects, get squat.  Further, projects are entirely limited to creative projects in arts, design, film, food, and music.  That means campaigns to raise money for a cancer foundation, sports team, to pay off college loans, are all out of luck.  However, the site will let individuals and businesses use Kickstarter funds to create something that might be used to support one of the aforementioned donor seekers, such as funding a video creation for a non-profit, or an arts program for cancer patients.

What makes a successful Kickstarter campaign?  Well, there is a lot of literature on that topic, on which I couldn’t hope to divulge meaningfully here.  But the basics lie in proper presentation, appropriate rewards, and successful networking online.

Design SketchA proper presentation means making the project page delightful to the eye, visionary, and well thought out.  Obviously typos and incoherent statements detract from the page viewers enthusiasm about the project, for why should anyone support a project that doesn’t even care to edit its own work.  But further, the page needs to shine.  A well-developed video can make the world of difference.  It can show the potential donor how important this project is, why they should care, and that they can trust you to see it through.  Professionalism and creativity dominate this aspect of any campaign.

Appropriate awards are also essential to a campaign’s success.  Designing price points that appeal to a variety of donors, from those who would like to submit a small contribution from $1-$25, and to those who might want to single-handedly fund the entire project.  However, rewards are also restricted in what can be provided.  All rewards must be produced directly by the project creator, cannot be financial incentives, coupons, or discounts, cannot be given out in quantities of 10 or more, and cannot be raffle, lottery, or sweepstakes tickets.  Further, drugs, alcohol and nutrition supplements are not allowed.   This poses an extra burden on the project creator, but also provides opportunities to really engage with supports of the project.  For instance if the project is to design a revolutionary stapler, you can offer anyone who contributes $25 a free stapler, and anyone who offers $200+ design art and a discussion with the design team (lets hope this is one really really cool stapler).

Early Bird RewardsPopular are early bird rewards in which only the first 10 – 20 donors of a certain price point can get the reward.  This supports the viral effect because there is an urgency to support the project.  Those who miss out on the best deals are still drawn to the product and can consider donating for a lesser reward.

Online networking serves as the keystone to a successful campaign.  For, none of any of this matters unless people actually get to see the project.  There are too many projects on the site for it to feature them all, so again the work lies with the project creator.  By coordinating well in advance with those involved in the project, and notifying anyone and everyone well in advance of the project even going up, you increase your odds of getting additional support.  Creating a Facebook event, a Twitter count down, an Instagram preview, all enable fans and friends to see not only what is going on, but how much effort and care you’ve given a project.  It cannot be understated how important it is for people to see how much you care, for if you do not care, why should they!  Further, be sure to share your video on other sites than just Kickstarter.  If you go through all that effort, more people should see it!

There are a few more concerns that every campaign needs to be aware of as well.  Kickstarter takes 5% from every project, and posts a warning that up to 5% more could be taken in payment processing fees. On top of that, the project owner will have to ship rewards out to the donors.  Remember, you only incur these costs if the project is picked up, but be sure to include them in your funding goal so you don’t find yourself 10-15% below budget.

Best of Luck!

Additional reading on how to make a Kickstarter campaign successful:
Income Diary
Boston University


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