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Branding & Marketing

Kicking Ass & Taking Donations: 9 Tips on Funding Your Kickstarter Project

Have an idea that needs funding to get off the ground? We round up the collected wisdom from some of Kickstarter's most successful projects.


Kickstarter is getting pretty hard to ignore. In 2011 alone, creatives used the crowdfunding platform to raise nearly $100 million for projects that ranged from feature-length films and industrial design products to print magazines and pop-up restaurants. Over 11,000 projects successfully met their funding goals. So how can you use Kickstarter to get your creative endeavor off the ground?To create a simple reference guide, we rounded up lessons learned from some of our favorite Kickstarter projects — Scott Wilson’s TikTok+LunaTik watches, Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt’s Glif iPhone stand, Edward Boatman’s Noun Project, and more.

1. Tell your story (from the heart).

“Story is everything. Let me back up. Your story is everything. People aren’t so much getting behind the idea as they are getting behind your passion to produce it… It HAS to have heart,”says Nathaniel Hansen, an indie filmmaker who has raised over $350,000 on Kickstarter to date. People aren’t going to give you money because you think it would be cool to get paid to make a movie or design a magazine. You need to convince people with a purpose, a larger vision, or — at the very least — a lot of passion. Explain why the world needs your project now.

2. Decide on a number.

Ryan Koo of NoFilmSchool.com ran one of the highest grossing film campaigns in Kickstarter’s history at $125,000. He decided to set a big goal to make himself rise to the challenge, but he also made sure it was viable by calculating the number of people he had to reach at a 1% contribution rate for an average of $50. Don’t be afraid to dream big, but back it up with some math.

Story is everything. Let me back up. Your story is everything.

3. Shoot a stunning video.

If you look at the videos that do well on Kickstarter, almost all are professional, or near-professional, quality. This is no time to give a speech to your webcam. The founders of The Noun Project brought on a friend in the film industry to help them shoot their video. Designer Frank Chimero, meanwhile, stresses the importance creating a “stand-alone” video, that’s fun to watch outside of its connection to the project. Whatever your approach, don’t overlook the importance of showing yourself as someone others can relate to and support.

4. Design a simple, well-thought-out rewards system.

Kickstarter has you give out rewards to backers at different levels of funding (i.e. $5, $25, $50). Many projects make the mistake of having too many rewards or too complicated of a structure. “However simple you think your pricing tiers are, make them even simpler,” say Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost, creators of the Glif iPhone stand. Craig Mod has also done some great quantitative research on the most lucrative fundraising levels ($50 is the sweet spot.)

Many projects make the mistake of having too many rewards or too complicated of a structure.

5. Anticipate how you will carry out manufacturing and fulfillment.

Execution really is always the hard part, isn’t it? Isn’t not surprising then that manufacturing and fulfillment are frequently the biggest challenges for Kickstarter projects that get funded. Will you use a Chinese factory for mass production like Scott Wilson did to produce TikTok+LunaTik? Or would you want to use ShipWire like the Glif guys did? Make sure you budget for shipping costs, and that often means being ready to ship internationally for your supporters overseas.

6. Find blogs that will help you spread the word.

“If you are looking to promote your project, it mostly likely falls into a niche category that is covered by an influential blogger. Seek them out,”says Dan Provost of Glif. Taking a similar approach, The Noun Project created a spreadsheet of contact info for people at 40 design blogs so that they would be easy to contact upon launch. Do your homework on who you should be reaching out to, and it will likely pay off in funding.

If you are looking to promote your project, it mostly likely falls into a niche category that is covered by an influential blogger.

7. Craft a bulletproof email pitch.

Evan Luzi of the filmmaking blog The Black and Blue has never run a Kickstarter campaign. He has, however, received numerous emails from filmmakers asking to have a project featured on his blog. In this detailed report, he explains how to write a great email pitch that will get  your project featured. Here’s his guide to the perfect pitch:

  • Introduce the project and briefly describe why you’re writing
  • Add a link early on
  • Further describe why you’re writing
  • Explain how you want the blogger to help
  • Provide a little bit more info on the project
  • End strong with a final link and generous thanks

8. Fundraise like it’s a full time job.

Ryan Koo tracked the hours he spent working on his $125,000 Kickstarter campaign. Over 6 weeks, they added up to 345 hours, which averages out to 8 hours a day. That may not be necessary for a less ambitious project, but devoting time to working on your campaign each day will make it that much more likely to succeed. Spend some time designing a polished newsletter with some exciting plugs for your project and updates on the campaign. Write guest posts and offer to do interviews for blogs. Keep your campaign from hitting a slump by adding an exciting new reward part-way through.

9. Involve your backers.

In describing his relationship to the backers of his book The Shape of Design, Frank Chimero says, “When a backer gets this book in the mail, I don’t want them to come to it fresh. I want them to have a backlog of thoughts, memories, and emotions attached to it. I want there to be a personal story behind it before the spine gets cracked.”

People support projects on Kickstarter because they want to be a part of making an idea happen. In many ways, regular updates and thank yous are just as valuable as tangible rewards. Send personal emails. Create a backers-only page with special outtakes, photos, and updates just for them. Show them you care, and the goodwill will go far.

Comments (94)
  • Alex

     10. Be in the united states… after all, they are the center of the world

  • Royale Scuderi

    I cannot support or endorse Kickstarter. My experience with them is that they are arbitrary and more concerned with platform than creative ideas. 

  • Jeffrey

    Trying to use someone like Koo as an example is a very rare one. Not everyone is going to have had a website on filmmaking going for over a year now with over 100K visitors.

  • Evan

    Thanks for the shout-out of The Black and Blue Todd! I love The 99 Precent and it’s awesome to see my site in one of your (always excellent) articles.

  • Roem Baur

    Fantastic article.  Thank you.

  • Bobby

    That’s an interesting assessment. As someone who’s preparing a Kickstarter project, I’d like to hear more detail about why you feel this way.

  • Royale Scuderi

    I have dealt with them in past and done an enormous amount of research on others who have submitted projects. They will refuse a project on the basis that they supposedly don’t accept that type of project, but then accept a similar one that is less innovative, but the submitter has a larger platform. In several cases they refused creative book, publishing, or technology projects with the explanation that they don’t do those types of projects, while at the same time featuring a published author, who has asked for money to support himself while he completes his second book. That is not what KickStarter is for. It’s supposed to help finance new and innovative projects. They are more worried about keeping their numbers for fundraising up, than supporting new concepts. Very disappointing. I hope you are successful and I wish you the best of luck.

    Royale

  • GetViable

    Thanks – some great tips here that we’ll be sharing with up and coming startups.

    Leslie, GetViable.com

  • Mark Simchock

    Nice list. Especially since these ideas apply to non-Kickstarter efforts as well, eh?

  • Rene

    Indeed very valuable tips. Unfortunately Kikcstarter is still not available in Europe. Does anyone here know of a good alternative? Thanks! http://buymyidea.com

  • ajpaschka

    You should really have written about elegant follow-through. Like, be sure to file a quarterly estimated return, because kickstarter income is taxable. Make sure your campaign is for 133% of what you need to complete the project. Cos if you don’t you are hurting the customer and yourself/company. 
    Werd to the creativz…

  • weav1689

    Hi,

    My name is Ellen and my Kickstarter’s project’s name
    is NewInk. You can check it out here:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/pro

    Any help will be greatly appreciated, whether it is monetary
    or just spreading the word to your friends, families, and organizations.

    Thank you and I hope you are having a nice Spring day.

     

  • knockemout

    Help support my friend kickstarter this is his first album and it’s independent..Tired of this mainstream crap? he makes good music for all people no parental advisory…http://kck.st/NDdpVM

  • Constance

    Kickstarter ought to ensure that their featured “people/innovations” committ to having their products manufactured in the USA.

  • Jon Leaman

    Saw this and thought you might find it useful: http://www.fastcompany.com/184

  • CaneVentures

    Thanks for the insight. We have submitted a project and have received approval. We invite you to check our Kickstarter project out at caneventures.com. Please tell who people who need to do fundraising about it.

  • David

    Another key valuable piece of insight is to really ensure that you have a solid marketing strategy to get you through the duration of your campaign. Feel free to get in touch if you need help planning the marketing efforts of your campaign. I have a small marketing firm that helps folks do this for a very reasonable price. We love working to ensure that more entrepreneurs + creatives get their ideas funded! 🙂

  • Diego Gonzalez Joven

    Hello Royale. Im working on my campaign with indiegogo they are very different. Is there a way we can chat. I think i still have plenty of time to have a successful campaign…(I hope) http://igg.me/p/279868/x/17799

  • JamalLe

    Should there be another persuasive post you can share next time, I’ll be surely waiting for it.

  • RockoT

    If it all comes down to ‘bring your own donors’, why do you need Kickstarter at all? Maybe it does help….but if you have to market for your own donors, that’s a huge downside to the website.

    I preferred prosper.com you didn’t have to bring your own investors. (I tried it years ago, when it was available in my state). Of course, it wasn’t free money, you had to pay it back.

    Still just to understand the phenomena better, I am on kickstarter.com, but I am not going to try to bring any donors at all. In fact, I won’t even tell you about the project.

    Here’s my gut feeling: the kickstarter community won’t kick in a single dollar.
    What this site is all about, is a fancy way of asking your own friends, family, and acquaintances for money, and then giving kickstarter.com part of the kitty.

    Maybe that’s too cynical, but we’ll see. No promotion of any kind from me, lets see if even a single dollar gets invested for the cause 🙂

  • Pamela

    So I followed the advice here! Hoping my project goes well.. it would be awesome! My project is http://kck.st/Up5KAk
    Two Classic Phenomenons Colide to create unlimited games of Pleasure! The magic 8 Ball and the KamaSutra combined for your enjoyment! Wish me luck!

  • The Captain

    The is no comparison between Prosper and Kickstarter. Prosper used to be good in the beginning but now they run your credit and act like a conventional bank. If you don’t have a 680 credit score you cant even apply which is total BS. The idea is to allow PEOPLE to decide whether your request is reasonable or not.

    Kickstarter has NO personal criterion whatsoever, All you have to do is have an idea that meets their ‘project’ criterion and you are good to go. The only thing you will need is some marketing skills and a way to promote yourself and your project.

    Crowdfunding is the greatest invention to come out of the financial meltdown. Now there is a way for ANY entrepreneur or artist to get their ideas funded without the credit hassles and imbecilic myopia that one will face with traditional banks.

  • RockoT

    Your comment made me realize that I had’t updated my experience.

    Kickstarter brought in a grand total of $25 – and so the project was not funded.

    Granted, I take responsibility for not having the best project ever – but, so be it, that is the result.

    Prosper funded a 10K loan for the same project.

    So my experience is that prosper was a better choice, but I’ll grant you, everyone’s experience varies, and for some kickstarter may be better.

  • Daniel Lungu

    RockoT Why should you wait for strangers to get involved when not even
    you own family does it. You should change the way you think. What
    do you want actually? Get funded or prove kickstarter is fraud. If you
    care about the project YOU have to work for it, not somebody else. Does
    it bother you they take 5%. Try than indiegogo.com they want 9% if you
    don’t succeed 100%. So I other ways of speaking, If you are such a cool guy what don’t you blogg somewere, gather your own community, lunch your privat project on that blog and see how it works. I tell you how: it works working your brains off.

    Everywhere in this world, it works the same: you have something to offer? Find the right kind of audience that fits your area of production. Don’t expect to duck to fall on you lap. They don’t!

    This is my project:

    http://kck.st/YnMNiy

    Still working at finding the right audience!
    Cristina Marin

  • Daniel Lungu

    You should also take into account that this 9 tips presented doesn’t guarantee a successful funding! The most important tip that stands is: work for your project!

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