4 (more) lessons from a successful Kickstarter Campaign

Kick starter

Get it?

As you might have gathered from the relative lack of activity here in the past couple of weeks,  my head has been somewhere else.   Specifically, it’s been over here in Kickstarter land.

I’m happy to report that the effort paid off, and as of last week, Mach 30 successfully met its fundraising goal.  More importantly (for you at least) we learned 4 more Kickstarter lessons since my last post.


A good campaign generates more than money

A sprout in a lightbulb.

Image via Wikipedia

Like most people, we found our way to Kickstarter because we had a project and needed money.  We were pleased to discover our backers and potential backers had a lot more than just cash to offer.

Thanks to direct messages, public discussions, and several hours on Skype, the Kickstarter campaign connected Mach 30 with the people most likely to benefit from ODE–at a stage of the site’s development where there was still room to incorporate new ideas.

Thanks to those discussions, ODE will have several features we’d not considered before the campaign– most notably a web store component.  As an organization, we also made several new friends.

For organizations used to working in private and releasing plans only when they have been fully vetted, pitching ideas so early in the process will be uncomfortable–I encourage you to give it a shot anyway.

By putting your idea out into the world while it’s still forming, you have space and time to incorporate the good ideas of like-minded people and make the project even better than you imagined it could be.  Plus, in doing so, you develop potentially strong ties with the idea-people themselves.  That’s good for the project, as well as the long-term health of your organization.

It’s not all wine and roses

Wine & Roses

Image by mbgrigby via Flickr

Don’t get me wrong, putting your ideas into the world before you’ve plugged up all the holes is risky.  There is no guarantee that people will be kind.  In fact, you can pretty much count on some strangers being downright rude and dismissive of your idea.  Even well-meaning people will sometimes offer suggestions in a way that stings.  You will either have to ignore the criticism, or if you are feeling especially brave, pull the useful bits out of the painful crap that surrounds it and thank the criticizer for the pleasure.

Sometimes, you will be be braced for criticism in one area, only to be surprised when it comes from elsewhere.

I mentioned in the first post we used a text-to-speech service to create our video, and that it was not well received.  What I didn’t tell you is that I personally really loved that video.  It was based on conversations J. Simmons and I have had about ODE, and we worked hard to capture the mix of dry and silly humor that defines our personalities.  When we were done, felt like we’d found a clever work-around our video problem.

So I was shocked to see how much other people hated it.  One person went so far as to suggest that if we didn’t make our goal it would be because the video was so off-putting.  Every comment I read about the silly robot video felt like a personal attack.

I’d really like to end here with some advice on how to keep from getting hurt by random comments.  Something about developing a thick skin, separating criticism from personal attacks, and maintaining a commitment to openness in the face of difficult voices.

Unfortunately, I have no magic bullets.  All I can say is smile in public, lick your wounds in private, and know that this too shall pass.  If you have more concrete advice, by all means, share it in the comments!

Don’t set it and forget it

a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot

Not a good metaphor for online fundraising

There is a bit of a myth around on-line fundraising that it is easier than asking for money in other ways.  If you have a good idea, write good copy, and develop an amazing video, your campaign will go “viral” and generous strangers will start throwing money your way.

That almost never happens–and when it does, it’s because the campaign creators found the right audience, at the right time, and pitched the campaign in a way that resonated perfectly.

The problem is there is no way to predict what you need to do to meet all of those variables at the same time.  All you can do is develop a strong message and then share that message with everyone you know who:

  1. might be interested in the idea
  2. might know people who are interested in the idea
  3. loves you enough to give you money even if they don’t care about the idea.

After that, you can leverage the support of your early backers to spread the word about your campaign to the people they know who fit into the three categories above.  Eventually, you might hit on the perfect combination and have a viral success on your hands–but it won’t be effortless, and you will still need to personally and directly ask supporters to contribute.

It’s not over until it’s over

Runners Den / Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon 5K Fin...

Image by Dru Bloomfield - At Home in Scottsdale via Flickr

Did you know your backers can adjust their pledge amount?  We didn’t notice this “feature” of Kickstarter before we started, and while it didn’t keep us from reaching our goal, the first time we saw a backer reduce a pledge from $25.00 to $1.00 it was a big shock.

What’s even more important is that backers can continue to change their pledges between the time you reach your goal and the campaign period ends.  This means it’s possible to reach your goal, and then have backers change their pledges enough to put you back under the threshold.  If you are under the pledge amount when your campaign ends you don’t get the money–even if you had raised enough money at one time.

The Lessons?

  1. Don’t let up on your messaging as soon as you raise your goal amount.  Encourage your supporters to keep giving to help you build a cushion to absorb any last-minute pledge changes.
  2. Be careful when you decide how long your campaign should run–a time frame that is too long is just as dangerous as one that is too short.

Your Turn

What did I miss?  Tell your Kickstarter stories, or ask your questions in the comments!

5 thoughts on “4 (more) lessons from a successful Kickstarter Campaign

  1. I love your campaign lessons learned re: Kickstarter Campaign. Cultivating relationships is so basic, critical and golden!

    Thanks for all that you do! Blessings, Linda G. Butler (www.butler-consulting.com)

  2. @superblackmarket– You are right, finding the right balance between reminding people about the campaign and irritating people can be hard. One thing that helps is alternating between messages that ask for donations, messages that thank existing supporters, and messages that ask for non-financial help (like asking your current supporters to share the campaign with their friends). That way you keep your campaign in people’s heads, but you don’t feel like you are asking for money all the time.

    Good Luck!!

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