Since the goal of the campaign is to create a SourceForge for Open Source Hardware and I don’t expect there are a ton of open source hardware folks hanging out here* I’m going to skip the “give us money part.”
On the other hand, almost all of you are interested in how to fund the work that drives you, so I’ll focus on the three big lessons we learned from our first attempt at a Kickstarter campaign–as well as a bonus lesson that applies to successful projects of all kinds.
1. They aren’t kidding about the “project” thing.
Kickstarter is focused on funding projects–projects that have a clear beginning, middle and end. In most cases they are also looking for some sort of deliverable. If you are an individual looking for funding for a particular idea, this won’t be a problem, but for nonprofit peeps who often raise money for less concrete purposes it’s a potentially difficult paradigm shift. If you are able to view that hurdle as a tool to help your organization really focus on what you want to accomplish, the process of developing a Kickstarter campaign will be of great value. If you are really just looking for diversified funding sources–Kickstarter is probably not a good fit.
Note: This does not mean Kickstarter is not an option for nonprofit organizations, just that they don’t provide traditional funding. Nonprofit projects–so long as they meet the rest of the site’s project guidelines are welcome on the site.
2. Give yourself time
All Kickstarter projects require manual approval from Kickstarter staff. Our project was approved in less than 24 hours, but that’s not always the case. If your project isn’t well defined, or if your rewards are not concrete enough, it takes extra time to get your project approved.
Also note, if you are raising money for an organization rather than an individual, your Amazon Payments set-up requires you fax a copy of your bank statement. Amazon verifies these accounts fairly quickly–within 24-48 hours, but it’s not instantaneous like the individual accounts.
Finally, the projects that get funded almost always include a video, so also make sure you give yourself time to produce a compelling one. Mach 30 is an all volunteer organization, and none of the people currently volunteering have extensive video experience so, instead of trying to make a dynamic video on a too-short time-frame we used a text-to-video service–with mixed results.
Were we to use Kickstarter again on a more reasonable timeline, we would create a more traditional video using these guidelines.
3. Embrace the “All or Nothing” funding model
This lesson was the biggest surprise for me. In fact, we almost didn’t use Kickstarter because of the all-or-nothing funding structure. Now that we are 1/3 of the way through our project–and even though we’ve not yet hit our goal, I’m a believer in this funding model, because it makes it easy for people who are interested in seeing your project succeed, but don’t have a strong connection with you personally to make a pledge. It’s much less scary to pledge $25 to strangers when you know you will only have to pay if the project generates significant support from others as well.
Bonus Lesson: Good management can make or break a project
This lesson doesn’t apply to Kickstarter directly, but after helping Mach 30 launch its first campaign, and managing the process of securing our 501(c)3 status, I noticed the main difference between the projects that built momentum and the ones that lose steam was that the successful projects had someone dedicated to managing the work flow and keeping participants motivated. I also remembered, that I am an amazing project manager.
So before you start your next project make sure there is someone on your team ready and willing to take on the project management role.
Don’t know anyone who fits the bill? I may be able to help.
If you’ve got advice from your own Kickstarter campaign, or have questions about how to make the most of your first attempt at raising money on the site, please get the conversation going in the comments.
*of course if you are an open source hardware person, you should absolutely click the link and give us money :)
- 4 (more) lessons from a successful Kickstarter Campaign (lowhangingfruit.us)