The Kickstarter Project
Passionate about literacy, learning, and architecture, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign on September 9, 2013 to build a Little Free Library. Founded by Todd Bol, the Little Free Library organization is a grassroots initiative to support and encourage literacy and community by building small housing structures to store and share books for the public to freely access.
Thirty-six hours after the Kickstarter project went live, it was featured as “Staff Pick: Project of the Day” and achieved its funding goal within 8 hours. On September 14, CTV News (Canada's national news channel) also featured the project on their website. The campaign was successfully funded on October 9, 2013 by 65 generous backers!
For those interested in launching their own Kickstarter project, I've compiled an action item list that I went through before, during, and after the campaign. I'm certainly no expert on crowdfunding, and this outline may not apply to every project, but I thought it might serve as a guide:
1. Project Description
Design a simple outline for your description. I'm used to writing grant proposals so I structured my project description similar to one:
a. Introduction: Describe the problem. Give some context. Provide the audience with a sense that you're an expert or knowledgeable in the field through your research or work experience.
b. Objective: Clearly indicate what your intent is and how your project will address the issue.
c. Support: Indicate how the backer's financial support will assist you in accomplishing your objective.
d. Incentives: Clearly describe what the backer will receive for their support. As suggested by Kickstarter and several other bloggers, creating a clear and simple incentive structure will help your backers in understanding what they are receiving for their support and will assist you in fulfilling these incentives if you are successful in your campaign.
e. Budget: I gave backers a detail of my budget. As a backer myself, I like to see that the individual has thought out all their expenses. Providing backers with the budget also indicates a level of transparency which is important in building trust.
f. Risks & Challenges: Be honest. If you have to outsource any of your incentives, then your ability to fulfill them might be delayed.
2. Do Your Research
a. Evaluate Kickstarter projects that may be similar to yours. Take notes as to what you think made their campaign successful.
b. Find platforms and venues to promote your project. I looked at this article and this one for advice. I promoted the project to local newspapers, friends, family, LinkedIn and Facebook connections, and local businesses. You may want to use Twitter too. I created a contact list and composed a short but descriptive email about my project to send out to these sources.
c. Visit the Kickstarter Tips & Tricks!
3. Create Your Video
a. Kickstarter campaigns with videos are more successful. I watched Kickstarter's "How to Make an Awesome Video" and figured what the heck. I composed a short script emphasizing why the project was important to me. I called over a neighbour, handed her my iPod, and said "Record!" My video is 27 seconds long and I think gets the point across. I would suggest keeping your video under 2 minutes. Remember that people have a short attention span and you need to sell them in those first 15-20 seconds.
b. Also, review other Kickstarter videos and jot down those aspects that you thought engaged you as a viewer.
4. Assembling the Project
a. Keep your project page neat and clean. Use a standard font and size.
b. Spell check.
c. Ask a few people to read and provide feedback on your project description.
d. Use high quality photographs to showcase your project.
e. I ran my campaign for 30 days and it felt like a lifetime. Kickstarter also suggests keeping your campaign to 30 days.
f. Remember that this funding model is all or nothing. If this is an expensive project that you're undertaking, you may want to break it into phases and launch a few Kickstarter campaigns to complete it.
5. Launch the Project
Once you've submitted your project to Kickstarter for review and approval, it's time to launch!
a. Review your project description and incentive structure one more time before you go live.
b. Begin actively promoting your project. Grab the contact list you created and your promotional email and start forwarding it to your friends and social networking sites.
c. If you're lucky, Kickstarter will feature it as a Staff Pick. Statistically, those projects selected as Staff Picks have a higher success rate.
d. Use your project updates to acknowledge the support you've received and to actively engage your audience. I really liked the Cup Cuff campaign. I loved the product but his updates are what sold me. I knew I was investing in a person as opposed to a company.
e. Keep an eye on your dashboard. Are people watching your video? Where are they learning about your campaign?
6. Project successfully completed. Now what?
a. Thank your backers!
b. Develop a plan/structure to begin fulfilling your incentives.
c. Keep backers abreast of the project's development via updates.
7. Project not successful. Now what?
a. Pick yourself up. Assess what went right and what went wrong.
b. Review your dashboard and statistics.
c. Talk to people who have launched successful campaigns and ask them for advice.
d. And remember, timing is everything. I waited to roll out my campaign in order to launch the same date as Kickstarter did in Canada. As one of the first Canadian projects to launch on September 9, I figured it might receive more attention and it did.
Truth Be Told
I was very hesitant about launching the project. When you create a Kickstarter campaign and release it to the virtual community, there's a vulnerability in that process. I was anxious about using such a public platform and experiencing failure. At the same time, it was sort of liberating to know that I didn't have complete control; the virtual sphere of Internet users would decide my success.
I encourage other creative-types to launch a Kickstarter project. When you truly and wholeheartedly believe in a concept, as I do in the Little Free Library, I think you're moved to put more on the line. Invest your time and energy in composing and assembling a piece of work that expresses to the audience why your project is so important to you and to the broader community. What will a backer's support allow you to achieve? Donors want to build castles too. And if your first campaign fails, learn from the experience and relaunch it with this new knowledge. Most of all, have fun!