8 Tips for a Kick A$$ Kickstarter Campaign

All Kickstarters are not created equal.

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 an 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 lastly 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?

Need more tips on how to raise money for your project?  Click here to read all my best practices.


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  • Tom G. says:

    To add #9 – Follow thru on your campaign!
    I have funded a few, and one (a Broadway BAREs project)never began after they were fully funded. Out the money yes, but more importantly lost a little faith, and gave less for new campaigns.

  • J says:

    I have nothing against Kickstarter for the little guy, but when the seasoned professional theatre company does it, it looks like desperation. Firstly it shows me that this theatre company doesn’t have enough contacts or people already alligned with them who are invested in a particular project to do it on their own. Secondly it seems that someone could put money into a project that could potentially be a big hit and have more of a financial return than what a signed poster or tickets to a show cost.

  • James says:

    Friendly tip: Kickstarter’s great and all but I have to say that I’ve had better luck through FRACTURED ATLAS (www.fracturedatlas.org), which is similar in mission to Kickstarter, but you do not have to reach your goal to get disbursed the money that people donate in the name of your project. It has a $75/year membership fee (for which you actually get a good deal of year-round perks, including access to discount health insurance, etc.) and they charge a 6% administrative fee when funds are released to you, but the comfort of knowing that whatever money you DO raise for your project can go towards it (and you won’t have to start back at square one) is great. Also, F.A. staff is SUPER helpful and thorough.

  • Mattchow says:

    I just ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for my NYMF show Flambé Dreams. And Ken’s #3 advise is the most important. You should have an email campaign figure out before you launch otherwise you will miss out on potential donors. The “all or nothing” aspect of Kickstarter is terrifying but also the most brilliant part of Kickstarter. If used correctly it gives you a piece of powerful leverage to encourage your friends on family to donate immediately. One thing I’d like to add – Kickstarter works best when it’s a project that you haven already committed to. We had already signed the contracts and so not reaching our Kickstarter goal really wasn’t an option. Also you really only get to hit up everyone you’ve ever met once, so make sure it’s a project that you feel very strongly about.

  • Great advice, Ken! I must say, you’re #1 tip is spot on! I recently funded a cabaret show via Kickstarter to HUGE SUCCESS! Many people donated to support my singing partner and I, not necessarily the project itself. We also noticed that most of our money came in toward the last two weeks of making our goal. We gave ourselves a month to raise $1,500, and we ended up receiving over $2,000 by the end, more than 2/3rds of which came in the last week. So Tip #7 is a good one as well.

    In response to Tom G., you should follow up with the project that “never got made.” I speak for our own project when we originally intended to raise money to take our cabaret show on tour. We had at least 2 gigs booked by the beginning of the summer, but plans fell through when my singing partner booked another gig and we lost communication with the other venue. We also soon realized that many venues were already booked for the summer and were already looking for 2013. Thus, we are now using the money to produce our show here in NYC again as a monthly series. So although the money will not go to waste, sometimes our the original plans for our projects are out of our control. I would only hope that the project you supported went toward another project/funding from the same company with similar goals in mind. 🙂

  • Kevin L. says:

    We’re in the final 3 days of a 30 day Kickstarter campaign to raise $15k for a new performance venue, and met our goal yesterday. Ken’s points 5 and 6 were a key part of our success, as we made a focal point of our campaign that a member of the staff of the facility, well known in the region, would have to shave his long time beard. Shave Kaufman became a slogan for merchandise, and the theme of several very silly videos posted as updates during the campaign. The last one is due to go up this weekend. But silly as they were, the posting of each video was followed by a bump in donations for the next 24-48 hours. The shaving will now be filmed and played at a concert celebrating the rebranding of the venue next week, and a link sent to all our supporters. No cost, filmed in hours in house by staff, and immediate results.

  • Seth Lepore says:

    This is a great post and I agree with Ken except about using Kickstarter. They are all or nothing. If you don’t raise what you set out to they give all the money back to your funders. A lot of work for nothing. Use Indiegogo or Rockethub. Better yet get fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas and then be able to give tax write offs to your donors which is a huge incentive. Read more about my opinons on the matter here: http://www.sethums.com/2012/05/the-roller-coaster-of-self-producing-theater/

  • Jaye Maynard says:

    Thank you for this Ken, I successfully funded a theatrical performance of my show for the United Solo Theater Festival via Kickstarter. http://www.theblossomdeariesongbook.com

    It is important to find the right crowd funding platform for your project, if you do use kickstarter, find a sponsor or guarantor to kick it forward in case you are close to your goal at the finish. You can kick the money back less the fees charged by Amazon and Kickstarter.

    I also believe in Kickstarter Karma, you fund my project I will fund yours goes a long way…

    Thank everyone who kickstarts you personally and publicly with an email and a link on their Facebook page for momentum. It is a part time job and you have to expect the ebb and flow of energy to maintain a campaign will be prevalent for the duration.

  • Denis Taaffe says:

    I am about to start a kickstarter program for my 179th and 180th albums. I have seen some kickstarter programs that are sad.The people come off as begging like a pan handler in front of a grocery store “will work for food (after you buy me a six pack)” types.I just don’t want to beg so the rewards are really important or it comes off as begging. of course, I wont hesitate to mention that my new kitten will have to go back the pound and be put to sleep if the project doesn’t meet its goal because I wont be able to afford to feed him (complete with a video of me petting the kitten and sobbing “all he ever wanted was for this project to be funded”)..lol…….

  • I disagree with you about $1 donations. You can donate $1 to have the opportunity to watch the campaign and better decide on your larger donation. You can donate $1 to spread the word. If Richard Branson put up $1 and announced he’d donated to any campaign, how many others would check it out? Also, your $1 buys you another supporter on your mailing list. Crowdfunding is about reaching and empowering the crowd – regardless of how much money is pledged or what the reward is.

    I agree it is certainly preferable to have a video, but Order of the Stick – web comic – generated more than a million dollars without one, plus and perhaps because – they had WAY more than five reward levels.

    Thank you for encouraging others to use crowdfunding. It is such a gift for creatives! But please see how bountiful it can truly be! Maybe I can help you do a show about crowdfunding….

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