In 2016, I helped put together three separate crowdfunding campaigns. And to be perfectly honest, I never want to do it again.
Or, at least, I never want to do it again unless it’s a project where I’m sure of three things:
- It’s offering real value to its intended audience.
- Research has been done to determine how many people are likely to pitch in, and by how much.
- It’s a project that I deeply care about.
In my first campaign, #3 was true, #1 was debatable and #2 wasn’t checked off until midway– and by then, it was too late to adjust the goal. The second and third campaigns were for other people’s projects, so #3 did not apply as much as it did in that first campaign. I had also encouraged doing #2, but it was neglected due to time constraints.
Full disclosure: each of these campaigns were successful, but they did need to be “helped”. Basically, there was a reserve of “emergency funds” that we pitched in at the very end to ensure that the goal was reached (since Kickstarter is an “all-or-nothing” model). Because of this, I would probably do Indiegogo next time just to avoid this in the future.
I will say that Kickstarter has a nicer layout, but it looks like Indiegogo just recently introduced an equity investing option. I haven’t tried the latter, but intend to research it. If it’s a possibility for future endeavors, I’ll share an article on my findings.
But back to the point: if you’re wondering how to run a successful Kickstarter, here are some useful lessons I’ve learned from my campaigns:
1. Plan and research as far in advance as you possibly can.
A crowdfunding campaign should never be an afterthought. If it’s even a possibility that you may need to run one at some point in your project, plan for it first thing. Also, make sure that you’re realistic with your asking amount.
Steps for Determining the Right Asking Amount
- Make a list of all the friends and family who are likely to donate.
- Next to each of their names, write a high and low projection for the amount they might donate.
- Add up all the low projections. This should be your asking amount.
Asking for a lower amount does not limit you– if anything, it sets you up for likelier success. Of course, you need to make sure that this amount will actually be enough to help you make your project happen. If the low projection sum is not enough for your original vision, make it work. Figure out what you can cut. And then, offer stretch goals for those deleted elements.
2. Offer perks that won’t be a huge hassle to deliver.
Personalized perks that can be delivered digitally are where the money’s at.
Just like any business, there will be a profit margin to maintain. That said, handmade items or anything that requires your physical presence or a significant time commitment should be offered at higher tiers. As much as you can, prepare your perks before your campaign so that they’re ready to go as soon as it’s done. This is especially true for instances where your campaign precedes the project itself. All your energy will be focused on making the project happen and delivering perks will end up becoming a hassle if you don’t have a comprehensive plan set up beforehand.
3. Have a content schedule.
Running a crowdfunding campaign is all marketing. A quick definition for those who don’t know: marketing is finding and vetting the right audience for a product or service. So in crowdfunding, you’re responsible for spreading the energy to the people who are most likely going to want to see this project succeed.
How do you get their attention? Content.
Videos, articles, photos, live events, etc. All of these will help immensely in promoting your campaign. Creating a schedule and content prior to the campaign launch will save you worlds of stress and trouble that you’d otherwise have to worry about during your campaign.
Here’s a sample content schedule that I wrote for one of the projects I worked on this year:
4. Have a team to help you, and keep morale high.
Over and over, I’m learning that having a committed team is the best asset to any project. Crowdfunding campaigns are exhausting. If all the work falls on one person, that person will likely burnout before the campaign ends. With more people fired up about the project, you can also reach a much larger circle of potential backers.
So how do you put together a team that loves the project as much as you do?
Let them make it their own. Let them have a part in ideation and collaboration. Give them a sense of ownership.
As artists, it’s so easy to hold all the reigns, but if we’re wanting people to pitch in and help with labor or even finances, it’s crucial to nurture a spirit of teamwork.