Some friends of mine recently mounted a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a project they created. And they failed. They came close to their funding goal, but not close enough. Thankfully, they’ve learned a few things and will be relaunching their campaign, with some tweaks, sometime next month. Over the years I’ve been a part of quite a few Kickstarter campaigns, and I can think of only two that were unsuccessful. And both of those unsuccessful campaigns were very worthy, but just couldn’t make their goals for variety of reasons.
As I look at crowdfunding campaigns that have been successful, either that I’ve helped fund or worked on, I can see some common threads. The same goes for those that have missed the mark. In some cases, project might not get funded just because they aren’t that good. But plenty of great projects go un-funded for one reason or another.
While there are no guarantees of funding, there are a lot of factors that play into the success or failure of a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter or any of the other platforms, including Indiegogo, Rockethub, Crowdrise, and more. But there are some things you can do that will at least give you an edge and increase your chances of meeting, and even exceeding, your funding goals.
Take time to plan
I’ve seen so many campaigns where it looks like the people just slapped it up there hastily in an effort to raise money. But you need to spend a lot of time planning the campaign out. Think about every aspect from start to finish. Pick your dates carefully. Choose your funding goal carefully. Choose you rewards carefully. Think about how you’re going to roll it out and market it to your audience. All of the other tips I’m giving here really fall under this category, so plan. Start early, and think through every possible scenario.
Choose your timing carefully
Don’t just start your campaign at any time. Think about the timing of your campaign strategically. In particular think about three things, which are all interrelated:
- Length of the campaign
- When you will start the campaign
- When the campaign will end
The reason this is important is because it affects how you will market it, and how well you do at the peak times for giving. In general, the biggest times for giving are during the first 2 or 3 days of a campaign, and then again on the final 2 or 3 days. No matter how long you make your campaign, it’s the middle portion that can be the drain. For a 30 day campaign, that means about 3 weeks where money will most likely just trickle in, and you’ll get discouraged.
The ending of the campaign is important, because this is where you make your final push. If the campaign is scheduled to end at 6 a.m., that means you’re losing out on some valuable final hours when you could be getting people on board, either as first-time funders or perhaps to increase their earlier pledge.
When you choose the timing of your campaign, think it through carefully. Start at a good, strong time, and plan it to end at a good, strong time.
Get your network ready beforehand
Before you launch, gather your biggest supporters around you, and let them know about your campaign and make sure they are on board. Depending on the type of product you are trying to fund, you’ll generally have two audiences of supporters: personal and professional. And while there might be a good bit of overlap, it’s important to get their support early. Tell them what you are doing, and ask them for their support well before you launch the campaign. Think of them as your street team. Mobilize them so that they won’t just help financially, but they’ll support you by writing blog posts, and sharing your campaign with their like-minded friends.
You might even want to host a party or get together beforehand in order to get them excited and give them all the details they need to help you out. You might even be able to get some early financial commitments from those closest to you.
Choose your platform wisely
Kickstarter is by far the most popular crowdfunding platform, but it isn’t necessarily the best for your situation. There are quite a few crowdfunding platforms out there, and some might be better than others for your specific needs. My friend Deni Gauthier went with Rockethub to fund his upcoming album because he thought it was a better fit. He actually had the basic album funding in place, so he was only looking for extra funding to pay for some top-notch musicians and also get some better production in place. With Kickstarter, you set your goal, and only get your money if you reach your goal. With Rockethub, Denis had the option of setting a goal, but taking home whatever he raised, whether it was $10 or $10,ooo. This was a great strategy that worked out well for him, just looking for the icing on the cake.
Before you choose your platform, look at them all. Read their terms of service, and read what other have said about them. Don’t rush into any decision without being informed.
Expect to get funded, but have a backup plan
If you choose your funding goal realistically, and plan well, this shouldn’t be a problem. As you write up your crowdfunding profile and campaign, as you record your campaign video, and as you communicate with friends and supporters, always speak as if you will get funded. Don’t be negative. Don’t talk about what will happen IF you don’t get funded. Lots of funding can come in at the last minute; that’s just the nature of crowdfunding, so don’t fall into despair mode.
Having said that, you do need a backup plan. While you will publicly communicate that you expect to get funded, it won’t always happen. So you need to think about the future of your project if for some reason you don’t get funded, or use a platform that helps you get partial funding.
- Will you try again?
- If you try again, what will you do differently?
- Will you use the same platform as before, or try something new?
Only you can answer those questions for your situation, but it’s important to have a backup plan.
Watch your language
This isn’t what you think it is. But in line with expecting to get funded, it’s important to carefully choose your words. A recent study from Georgia Tech examined 45,000 Kickstarter projects to determine what factors were important, and a big part of it was the language used. Researches determined that certain phrases helped, while others hurt. As I look through the phrases, the one thing that stands out is positivity. Again, be positive and expect to be funded. Negative language was more prominent in projects that didn’t get funded.
Be creative and use humor
Most Kickstarter campaigns are from people who are creative. And yet, I’m amazed at how often the actual campaigns are not very creative at all. It’s like they are super creative in putting together their actual product, but then check their creativity at the door when they post their pitch and campaign.
Let your personality shine through. Unless of course you don’t have one. But in most cases, humor works really well. When Steve Taylor decided to record his first album in about 20 years, he went to Kickstarter in typical Steve Taylor form. He is known for having a great sense of humor, and his pitch and video used that well. As a result, what was a campaign for $40,000 ended up raising three times that much.
Seriously, be funny. It works.
Be creative with your incentives and rewards
The idea behind crowdfunding is that your friends and fans are giving you money in advance to help you fund a project. In return, they are getting something special that is related to that project. As you get to the higher pledge levels, be extra creative. I’d tell you to “think outside the box,” but that’s not very creative. Be different. When my friend Adam Taylor was seeking funding for an album three years ago, he did a great job of coming up with some rather funny and creative rewards. While no one took him up on it, he had a $3,000 level reward that involved him flying the person to Lancaster:
We’ll be best friends for a weekend. I’ll take you to all the nicest AND the seediest places in Lancaster. We’ll go Amish hunting and maybe tip some cows.
Even if people can’t afford a higher level commitment, they still might appreciate seeing your creativity in the rewards, and still opt for a more affordable option. As you craft your incentive package, look at what others have done and see what you can come up with to get interest from your audience.
Communicate regularly throughout the entire campaign
As I mentioned earlier, a typical crowdfunding campaign sees its greatest funding activity in both the first few and last few days. The middle few weeks are somewhat dead. Interestingly enough, that’s also when you get to the point where you feel like you are becoming a nuisance to your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and become afraid to promote your campaign. But you need to be persistent. You need to remind yourself that these people are your friends, and they’ll forgive you. If your promotion of your crowdfunding campaign causes them to unfriend you, well, that’s their problem, not yours. Were they really your friend? This is why it’s important to get them on board early on and solicit their help.
As you move through the campaign, send frequent updates to those who have already funded, keeping them abreast of the situation. In some updates, you might ask them to share your campaign on social media. In other updates, you might ask them to identify one or two people they think might be interested in your project, and have them contact them personally to share it with them. In still other updates, you might find ways to encourage these donors to move up to a higher level.
It’s also important that your campaign updates include videos. Seeing you speak on camera is much more personal than a basic mass email.
With all of these tips in mind, it’s your turn. Take some time to look at some examples from some of my friends, in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned above:
- Joy Ike – album
- The Michael Ferrari – album
- Jeremy Bentley & Jeff Burkholder – book/comic
- Brenda Sieglitz – book/memoir
- Vekora – album
- Torchbearer Sauces – hotsauces
- Dancing Arches at Rodney Park – Public art
- Kern and Burn – book
If you’ve ever run a crowdfunding campaign before, what tips do you have for a successful campaign? What is your favorite platform? What advice would you have for someone who is new to crowdfunding?
- Tool Kit: Crowdfunding Tips for Turning Inspiration Into Reality (nytimes.com)
- Crowdfunding secrets: 7 tips for kickstarter success (holykaw.alltop.com)
- 5 Ways to Enhance Your Marketing for 2014 (inklingmedia.net)