Need To Raise Money To Put On a Show? Kickstarter May Be Your Answer.
This week I helped a friend launch a project on Kickstarter to raise funds to take her show to Chicago. Kickstarter is a site that handles a lot of the painful logistics of fundraising. You put in a bunch of information about what you are trying to do and how much money you need, and if people like it they can contribute a little (or a lot). In my experience the people behind Kickstarter really want you to succeed in meeting your financial goals. The system is designed to give you a lot of helpful tips as you go along.
How it works
Part of what makes Kickstarter so attractive to donors is that you only receive their donation if you reach your fundraising goal. Suppose you needed to raise $1,000 to put on a show. Some people contribute and you get up to $400, but it isn’t enough to do your show. If you had collected that money from individuals you would either have to track them down to return it or spend it on some other purpose than it was originally donated for. Either option is messy and unsatisfying.
With Kickstarter people are only pledging a donation at first and entering their payment information. If (and only if) you get enough people to pledge, than the payments are processed, and you get your funds. That saves you some administrative headaches, and your donors have the confidence that their donation is only accepted if your project is actually going to happen. When you meet your goal and receive your donations Kickstarter gets a 5% fee, but you can just plan for that fee when you are setting your fundraising target. If you don’t raise enough money to meet your goal, then you don’t owe Kickstarter a dime.
What you need to be successful
So even though we just launched this fundraising project, I thought I would go ahead and share my observations on what it takes to have a successful campaign on Kickstarter. I may learn more gems along the way, but these are things that I already know are critical to be successful.
People want to help you do something cool. If you are trying to raise money to have a pizza party for your team of volunteers, that’s not very exciting. They may very well deserve a pizza party, but it just isn’t noteworthy. It’s not something I’d be dying to tell my friends I contributed to. Why not raise enough money to take them all to New York for a Broadway show? You’d have to raise a lot more, but I actually think your chances of success would be better because that’s a story that people would like to be a part of.
As I looked through the various projects on Kickstarter, I noticed that the ones that were really seeing some action had a great video. I don’t mean to imply that the production quality and editing of the video was always great (although sometimes it was). But every video was interesting, and gave me an idea of who the people behind the project were. I got to see why they truly cared about their project, and it made me want to help them. If you don’t have fancy video editing software, just buy an inexpensive web cam and record yourself passionately explaining why you are raising this money.
Where Kickstarter really shines is making it so easy for you to give rewards to the people who are donating. Obviously the reward needs to be appropriate to the level of contribution. You probably can’t give a pair of free tickets to every person who donates a single dollar, but for someone who is willing to donate $1,000 you can probably give a pair of tickets, take them to dinner, and invite them to the cast party after the show.
Make sure you also have rewards for people who donate small dollar amounts. For this project I just started, we’re giving anyone who donates $2 an mp3 of any song from the show. It only costs us the time to send them an email, but it gives them a nice treat for helping out our cause.
As people contribute to your project, they join what is effectively a miniature mailing list. When you post updates on your project, everyone who has backed you sees it. By regularly posting updates, you can keep them engaged. I’ll find out over the coming weeks, but I suspect this simple act is enough to keep people excited about your project and passing it along to any of their friends who might be interested in contributing.
So… need to raise some money?
So that’s what I’ve learned so far, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I learn quite a bit more in the coming weeks about how to get the most out of Kickstarter. If you have a cool project you need to raise money for, I definitely encourage you to give Kickstarter a try. (I don’t receive anything from them if you do, by the way, I just think this is an awesome, well-executed concept that deserves to be talked about.)