I get an average of 5-7 cold requests (meaning I don’t know the person asking for the donation) to fund Kickstarter projects each week. It has become a bit of a game for me to place my own internal bet on whether the project will get the green “funded” light or not, based on how the campaign was created. (If I were playing my game with real $$$, I’d be able to fund my own Kickstarter by now!)
For those of you who don’t know what Kickstarter is, click here to check it out. But in a salted peanut shell, Kickstarter is a online platform that allows you to raise money for your project by seeking donations (non tax deductible, mind you) from people in any amount. You set a goal for the amount you want to raise, and different “rewards” are usually given for different levels of financial commitment ($100/$500/etc.). Each campaign has a time limit that you set, and if you hit your goal, you get your cash. If you don’t, then . . . (insert Game Show losing sound here) . . . you don’t. It’s all or nothing on Kickstarter.
And that’s why your campaign better be kick a$$.
Kickstarter has revolutionized fundraising for independent artists (I first blogged about it before it tipped here). But, because it has been such a successful platform, it has also become a cluttered platform, which means you have to stand out from all the rest.
A number of consulting clients have asked me to analyze their Kickstarters over the last several months (partly because of the similarity to the crowd-funding I did with Godspell), and in doing so, I developed a number of simple tips on how to build a more successful campaign. And now I thought I’d share them with you.
Ready? Let’s kick it . . .
1. People invest in people, not projects.
This old axiom, which was first told to me by my very first investor, holds true for projects of all different sizes . . . but it’s especially true for first projects, or projects for “emerging” or up-and-coming artists. So, while you need to talk about your project in detail so potential donors know what you’re doing with their hard-earned recession-valued cash . . . you also need to make sure you give them a heavy dose of you and your personality. Show them why you are the one that they want to help, and they won’t even care if your project is a call to save the Sri Lankan monkeys or a performance art piece that takes place in a public toilet.
2. Make your minimum more than their minimum.
Kickstarter will allow you to accept donations for as little as $1. But that doesn’t mean that’s what you should accept. There are a boat load of people out there that will just give you whatever the minimum is, so make sure you don’t let them off the hook too easily. That doesn’t mean your should make your minimum $100. But someone giving you $1 can easily find another four to give you $5. Do that a bunch of times over and you’re a heck of a lot closer to reaching your goal faster. (Bonus tip: The more you want to raise, the higher your minimum should be. Raising $100,000 a dollar at a time is going to be a heck of lot harder than $10 or $100/time.)
3. Don’t click OK, until your contact list is more than OK.
Remember, Kickstarter is a timed event. While 44.01% of Kickstarters reach their goals successfully and therefore receive their money, the last thing you want to do is work so hard at raising $10,000, only to not raise $12,500 and get sent right back to the starting line with nothing in hand. Since the majority of the money you will raise will be from your personal network or from people that know you or people who know people who know you (see tip #1), it’s important that you assemble a list of everyone and their brother that you think might give you that $5 way before you start your campaign. It’s fun to see your Kickstarter go live, and while we all wish “Trollers” (people who just cruise through Kickststarter looking for interesting projects to fund) were the main source of funding for successful projects, they are not. Trollers are as rare as a troll, so you can’t count on them. Build your list. Then add more names to it. And then find more. And then you’ll be ok to launch.
4. Shoot high, but not too high.
The average project on kickstarter raises between $1,000 and $9,999. While some have gone higher, it’s important to remember these figures to give you an idea of what the market is bearing. Now, your power to raise money will be based first on your contacts, second on you, and latsly on your project. If you think you can bust that average, then go for it. Set your goal high enough to fund your project and give you a cushion, but don’t go too high and put your project’s funding at risk. Because if you fail, I’d bet the value of your Kickstarter that you won’t even try again. (Bonus tip: If you are afraid of not reaching your goal, but still want that cash – check out Kickstarter competitors like Indiegogo and Fractured Atlas for their versions of K-starter campaigns, without some of the pressure.)
5. I learned this from MTV.
You need to have a video. Period. See next tip for more details.
6. It is a “campaign”, but it doesn’t have to act like one.
Make your campaign fun. Show your personality. Your video and your description should be passionate, yes, but they should also play into the fun of what you’re doing, as well as the gamification of Kickstarter itself. I’ve seen some Kickstarters that were raising money for serious “real life” projects were very successful in adding a dash of fun to what they were doing. And it helps.
7. More time doesn’t necessarily mean more money.
The fear of not reaching your goal gets a lot of people so nervous that they automatically select the longest period of time Kickstarter will allow them to run a campaign (60 days). FYI, the average length of a Kickstarter is 30 days, and I definitely recommend somewhere in that ballpark. Kickstarter is a lot like eBay, in that a huge chunk of your donations (“bids”) are going to come as you get close to the finish line. (Sometimes being far from that finish line just a few days out helps you blow through it and beyond.) People are lazy, and if they see they’ve got more than two months to donate, they will take that time – because heck, maybe you’ll fund it another way by then, and they’ll get out of having to give you anything! Put a little more pressure on yourself and on them and set a reasonable amount of time for your raise.
8. Pick rewards that have value, not just valuable awards.
When choosing your different donation levels and the different rewards that go with them, have no more than five. Too many levels just confuses a potential donor, and confusion will just lead them to picking a lower level or not donating at all. And when choosing your rewards (aka “Bait”) for each level, make sure you make them more about the donors than about you. Tickets are a yes (and not for the minimum – people that donate are also more inclined to buy tickets, so try to get both out of them at once), and signed programs and posters, etc. are also nice, but unless it’s Mom, a donor probably isn’t going to put your signed program of your piece out on the coffee table next to the graduation picture of their granddaughter. Parties are good (people like parties), and I’ve also seen some fun stuff (see tip #6) like, “For an XX donation, I will come clean your apartment, do your laundry and cook you dinner,” or “For an XX donation, our composer will provide piano accompaniment at your next holiday party,” etc. Get the point? These ideas show that you are super passionate and willing to do anything to get your show off the ground, and they provide an actual dollar value for a potential donor (odds are they won’t take you up on either – but like a groupon, they buy it and save it because it seems like such a good deal).
I know (for a fact) that many of you have had successful Kickstarter campaigns over the last couple of years . . . any tips of your own to share?
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