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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)
  • Hunter McLeod

    Hey, I was wondering how your proposal went. I am always wanting to make a kick started but I’ve been worried about the same issues you brought up.

  • Jay

    First- that is impossible to do about %99 of the projects in the U.S unless you are willing to pay a lot more for it (even if you are that is YOU/1 person)
    second- i know many many products bought in china i know where they buy them from and make nice video and intro get patent or trade mark and market it trough KS (kickstarter)

    I know several product they bought it from china one for about $1 or less and sold it on KS for $16 got nearly $160K

    Second $2 product sold on KS for $65 + 10 shipping

    I have seen many many other products. How i know this? because i spend a lot of time in china and purchasing products from there.

    MY personal recommendation for a successful KS project…. Get a good looking girl or a guy (model/Actors) to pose for your pic and even do the video. YES, pay them and do a contract so later they wont sue you and say its their project.

    Pay some one to proof read and do the writing for you and point out the key features.

    Last but not least……..know that many chinese and factories sell on KS now but hire people and some you can even seem in the video, see the pics with Hong Kong and Chinese money sticking out.

  • Jamie Kasza

    I agree with all these points. Though, it may seem obvious you success will ultimately be dictated by the merit of your product.

    1. It must APPEAL to the younger male-skewed early adopters – or at least tweak your pitch so that it resonates with this crowd.

    2. It must be DISRUPTIVE – backers are looking for the next cool thing. If it was already at Best Buy, why would anyone want to take a risk in supporting your ‘idea’?

    As mentioned in the article, granted the ‘sweet spot’ is around $50, high ticket products can achieve success. My project (the STACT Modular Wine Wall) is proof of this, with an average order of ~$400, and raising over $100,000.

    http://www.getSTACT.com

  • DreamW

    Most projects are from USA, but what to do with the rest of the world??? This is great opportunity for help developing countries. I think this is great project http://www.indiegogo.com/proje… Why? Because he said:”if I succeed in opening my restaurant “Tako Dobro!”, for every $1 that I would get here I`ll give, in next five years, $2 to local Red Cross public kitchen which helps the poorest residents in my city. “

  • Coder

    The internet is the centre of the world 🙂 (and no centre is not a spelling mistake, it is the original English language as it was, get your own, jk :p)

  • Soacial Community

    Please donate, if You care. Every single penny counts.

    A community is made to help struggling families settle their expensive debt chain (a serious issue in countries of Baltic Sea) and start new debt free life.

    If You are willing to help, please donate to:

    SIA AQUADOK MANAGEMENT, Reg.Nr.40103549058

    Bank: AS SWedbank, Balasta dambis 1a, Riga, Latvia

    BIC/SWIFT: HABALV22

    IBAN: LV21HABA0551035191336

  • http://twitter.com/cbashmusic Charlotte Bash

    Thank you so much for sharing this advice! My Kickstarter is up and running now and I really appreciate it. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/charlottebashep/charlotte-bashs-breakthrough-ep-journey-to-me

  • Ldowell

    read this post and have been trying to follow it during my project! Thanks for the great advice!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobbywashmusic Filmmaker Bobby Washington

    Kickstarter has really been a challenge. You Learn Who Your Friends and Family really Are! I Had A Perfect Stranger That Was Already On Kickstarter Drop a $1,500 pledge of my New Feature Film. I Can’t believe my own friends and Family didn’t drop $1. I Bet Once I Make It To The Top Their Hands Will Be Stuck Out! Lol. Anyway Here’s My Feature Film “STEEL CHAMBER” kickstarter link: Please Pledge and don’t do me like my friends and family did me! lol http://tinyurl.com/STEELCHAMBER

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.spacemerc Derek Spacemerc

    I been having a hard time, on Kickstarter I been posting so many blogs. and I hope my Friends and Family would help but not yet. I have strangers pledging for my game Arkayden I do feel good people are help out on the kickstarter link:http://kck.st/12O2g17 Please Pledge and help get Arkayden funded.

  • Fit-Wallet

    Great advice, thanks for posting! Please check our Fit-Wallet project out on Kickstarter too, thank you!! :). http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/111161307/fit-wallet-a-thin-wallet-for-a-fit-community?ref=live

  • Louis B

    Awesome article.
    We are nearly there but need your support. Please help us and send on to others as most who’ve donated are family and friends. How do we get ‘out there’ in the US? Link below. Best, Louis B

  • kangas

    I would say they’re all great tips, but the Kickstarter-as-full-time-job seems apropos! We’re in the last 3 weeks of our horror movie campaign: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1565131599/spread-the-hedonismgarden-of-hedon

  • Tiffany Bosslady
  • http://twitter.com/ugodevices Milton Quranda

    I am an engineer and a photographer. Was tired by running out of space with new apps, games and storing my data on my phone / tablet. I searched over the internet and couldn’t find a suitable device to use.

    I travel a lot and need an accessory that would let me view and transfer my photographs while I am traveling and also let me view my pictures in a bigger screen rather then the 3 inch screen on my camera. After lot of research I finally decided to may my own that I cannot loose and use it when I really need it rather then try to find it it my bag or at home.

    I have developed a prototype and posted it on Kickstarter for funding. If you are frustrated with ever running out of space, and need more space then what your phone gives then head over to kickstarter to fund this project.

  • Eric

    Thank you for this article, I hope to apply these tips to my Kickstarter for a new card game:

  • http://twitter.com/NinjaPenguin06 Frederik Christensen
  • mary bell

    I launched my project on GoFundMe on May 4! I would appreciate you guys taking a looking and, of course, making a pledge!! Thank you!! http://www.gofundme.com/puppypottytraining

  • http://www.facebook.com/jmschwarting Jeff Schwarting

    I’ve launched a few projects on Kickstarter and just built a tool to help with the PRE launch phase that’s super cool called Prefundia (http://prefundia.com/).

    Basically it lets project creators start building momentum during their pre-launch phase and then leverage it into their project so they can (hopefully) blow it up day one.

  • saheebsdream .

    I found a great documentary that I am going to back when it launches. Go to it and leave some feed back and state if you would like to help finance the project. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1789285883/2030710933?token=bc30f464

  • Derek Lingar

    Nucoustix – Porject Green launches kickstarter. Artwork speakers made green. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1239510900/nucoustix-artwork-project-green

  • Aaron

    Have a look at my humble art project at http://igg.me/at/Wilfriedsart/x/3365128 and tell me what you think. Would you like to be a supporter? Thanks for sharing.

  • dfala

    Also, I found that pages like http://www.prefundia.com are awesome at aiding with the pre-marketing and validation stages.

    They help collect emails while you are still working on your prototypes.

  • Reuben

    Hey guys! Blaze Clothiers at your doorstep! We are just aspiring students with big ideas..Please click the link, watch the short videos and support me and my team to make this dream a reality…God bless!

  • Nicola Lawson

    I love fiction and I love writing, please support me in getting a dark comedy/horror highly satirical novel out to the world http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1934240808/survival-the-novel

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