Raising money is hard. Despite the proliferation of fundraising websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the truth of the matter is that this newfangled crowdfunding still works best when you bring your own crowd. Just witness the Veronica Mars Movie Project, which hit its $2 million funding goal within 10 hours of launch. How? Well, this was a project that already had its own built-in fan base.
You may think that Kickstarter is where you can float an idea and see if there are enough people out there who believe in your idea to make it happen. To some extent, that is true — you have an idea for a book or album or game or marionette theater that has a minimum cost to produce, and you want to see if there are enough people who would pay for it to make it worth actually producing. Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing funding is exactly designed for this.
What you might not know is that indie music fans aren’t all checking Kickstarter all the time for cool music projects to fund. Those would be Kickstarter fans who are also like indie music. Same with readers, board game players, and marionette theater enthusiasts. If they don’t already know about Kickstarter, chances are they won’t stumble across your crowdfunding project unless you get them there.Before you launch a crowdfunding campaign, there are a lot of things you should know. It’s not as easy as just typing out your story and waiting for the money to just roll in, despite the impressions you may get from the super-successful campaigns you’ve seen. One of the best ways, in my opinion, is to to back some projects. Find some projects you think are cool, and put some money toward them, even if it’s just a buck. Check the updates, see what project creators are saying and doing. Follow a project all the way through its successful funding and delivery. Learn about the potential pitfalls that can happen along the way, at least the more common ones.
But in addition to that, there are lots of other people writing about crowdfunding, particularly people who have run successful (or unsuccessful) campaigns. Lee Moyer, the artist and creator behind The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, wrote a white paper about Kickstarter that I found insightful. Jamey Stegmaier, who successfully funded Viticulture, has taken that a step further and created an entire series of Kickstarter Lessons. Richard Bliss, also known as The Game Whisperer, has been running his Funding the Dream podcast since November 2011 and it is filled with really great industry information.
Before I launched my own campaign this month, I’d also read through The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories by Don Steinberg. While the particular stories and a few of the Kickstarter policies may be outdated by now, the overall lessons still stand and the book is an easy read. What’s also great is that there is a list of other crowdfunding sites besides Kickstarter and Indiegogo that may be a better match for you depending on the specific type of fundraising you’re after.
I’ve also read a few sobering accounts about Kickstarter, too. The Baffler, a magazine that was itself funded on Kickstarter, has an article entitled “Who’s the Shop Steward on Your Kickstarter?” which raises some provocative points about what we think we’re doing when we create a project. Andre Behrens of The New York Times has an opinion piece, “This Is My Brain on Kickstarter,” which is a little more optimistic but nonetheless asks some questions about what you think you’re backing when you put money into a project.
That’s just a handful of resources I’ve found, but there are plenty more. What if you feel like that’s just not enough? Well, you could do what Dominique and Nathanuil DeMille of Blank Wall Games are doing now. The DeMilles launched a Kickstarter campaign for their board game Monster Moos and didn’t reach their funding goal, but in doing so they learned a lot about crowdfunding — and in particular they learned that there was still a lot to learn. They live in northwest Arkansas, and discovered they weren’t finding any good source of information at the University of Arkansas or their local Chamber of Commerce about crowdfunding either.
So now they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring Richard Bliss to town for a Crowdfunding Bootcamp. It’s not one that I expect most readers will back if you’re not from the region (though the $250 level has a personal consultation with Bliss for your crowdfunding campaign), but I think it’s a great example of somebody using Kickstarter creatively to bring a benefit to their region. It’s a small campaign, just aiming for $850, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this type of event in the future. Oddly, it’s labeled a “Graphic Design” project, but I think that’s probably because Kickstarter doesn’t have any categories yet that really fit this.
Whether you’re completely new to crowdfunding or if you’ve been backing projects since Kickstarter’s launch in April 2009, I expect that stories of crowdfunding successes and failures will become more and more common. Come take a look and see what all the fuss is about!