In the wake of the Con Man campaign, I've looked at a few other campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo recently, as well as at stuff on Patreon in the wake of Amanda Palmer's getting started out there. Yesterday I looked at a Kickstarter project trying to fund a video... and I realised a few things about those campaigns and me. So here's my thoughts on the subject.
I've helped fund a few campaigns during the last years, but really only a few. I tend to be very picky on where to invest my money, and a project really needs to get me enthusiastic about it before I will contribute. There are things that all the campaigns I spent money on did, however, and if they are missing, the chances are extremely high that I won't contribute even if the general idea is something I like. Here's the stuff.
1. Make sure I hear about it.
Yes, I know, that one's a Thank You Captain Obvious. However, it's important - the more people that know your campaign and speak about it, the better your chances. Ask your friends to spread the word, and also ask those that visit your project page, whether they back you or not. If you know someone with impact on the 'web, ask them to spread word, too.
2. Make both the text and the video informative.
All crowdfunding platforms will let you post a video and a text. They often stress the importance of a good video. Me, I read the text first, and watch the video afterwards if I'm still interested. I'm most delighted if the text and video both convey the essential information but are not completely similar. A badly-made video will turn me off - it makes it seem as if you have not taken this seriously enough to part me from my money. Typos in the text and poor grammar? You have probably lost me already. Typos, poor grammar and poor layout? If you are planning to self-publish a book, you have definitely lost me.
3. Make sure I learn enough about your project.
I need a reason to get enthusiastic about your project. Concept art, design snippets, a trailer, music demos, drawings - you surely have detailed plans for your Thing, and I will want to see enough of them to let me a) understand what you are trying to do and b) become enthused about it. For you, a one-sentence description might be enough; it's not enough for me.
4. Offer me stuff for my contribution.
Whether they are called perks or rewards or whatevers, they are the backbone of the crowdfunding system for me. I'll own it right here and now: I might be generous towards my friends and colleagues, and other people that I know at least a little, but my altruism towards strangers is quite limited. Note that I wrote "invest" and not "donate" in the second paragraph of this post? Now you know why. If I'm helping fund your project, I want something back. There's always a few backers who will just want to give you money, and that's fine. Me? Sorry, but I'm not one of them. Offer me stuff. Lots of stuff, in different tiers, starting small. Digital things will work fine for me and won't be too much work for you to send to lots of people, or cost lots of postage.
5. Make your stuff attractive.
Attractive stuff, for me, is things I won't get later or otherwise, or things I will have to shell out more money for if I want them. I'll spend more on things that are guaranteed to be backer-only or campaign-only things. I'll also be more willing to contribute to a higher tier for something that I will only get that way. My decision process might be sped along if you have a limited number of early bird rewards as well - otherwise I'm inclined to ponder contributing or not for quite a while, possibly until I am sure the thing will definitely get funded. You also get me to invest if I feel like I'm getting a good deal - such as something for less than the retail price it will be sold at afterwards. Cut me a deal. I'm helping fund your idea, after all.
6. If you are funding a Thing, offer that Thing in your rewards.
I came across that one in a campaign to fund a book recently. The author was trying to fund a book... and that book was not offered in the rewards. At all. AT ALL. I read the sidebar three times because I could not believe it.
Now... if your campaign for a Thing sounds interesting enough for me to want help fund it, chances are about 100% that I am interested in said Thing. If I fund it, I want to get it. In the seriously weird case that you don't offer me a chance to get it in the funding, I will not contribute, period. To boot, it will feel as if you're laughing at me.
It's fine if you offer other stuff, in addition; it's also fine if your Thing only comes in a high tier because it is a physical object that costs a lot in production and you need to calculate correctly, and there's lots of other stuff coming before that tier. (I'm all about calculating properly, as you might know.)
If you make a book, or a film, or music, you'll have the highest probability of getting me if you offer a digital download for a low price. (I live in Europe. If I have to add shipping costs, which is usually the
case, physical things that may be fairly priced will quickly escalate
to "quite a lot of money".)
Tied in with this: be very clear on how your Thing will be available later. Will it be a downloadable film for free, and I get early access as a backer? Will it only be available for a price? Or only for backers, forever? Only for backers at first, and maybe for everyone later?
7. If your thing is artsy, make sure I learn enough about your art.
Want to fund a music project? Let me listen to what you do first. Either include snippets of music long enough and not voiced-over in your video, or add links to your music that are easy to follow. I will not buy music I don't like, and I want to know if I like it before I invest in your campaign. I'm a stranger. Show me your stuff, I might love it.
Same applies to film or art. Give me snippets, give me samples, give me links to your previous work. As long as I don't know whether I like your style or not, and I can't find out easily, you won't get my support. If I like your style, I might help fund. Even if your style is not to my taste, if I like what you do on a level of crafts appreciation, I might still spread word about your project.
8. Start your rewards small.
Start your perks or rewards section with the one dollar option that buys "a heartfelt thank-you for helping make this happen" or something like that. Give me a 5$ section next with a little download or digital whatever exclusive to the campaign. And if you are doing music, art, books, I'll expect the next tier to give me access to the digital version of the Thing, and to be somewhere in the range of 10 to 25$. You have more chances on my money if it's in the 10$ range than in the 20$ + range.
Yes, it is possible to donate any amount of money without getting a perk, and that includes low amounts, obviously. However, I've seen campaigns that start with a 100$ perk as the first thing - and even if the campaign runner writes that every little bit of money is very welcome, it feels to me like anything below that sum is not really welcome, or appreciated and seen as helpful. No matter how often that is stated in the text. I look at the rewards bar very soon in my evaluation, and you have most probably lost me already if there is no single-digit option in it.
For the record: I've never spent less than the lowest tier to give me the actual Thing, and more money just as often as not (the lure of the exclusives!), but I've never spent anything on a campaign that did not offer the one-dollar option for a thank you. (Contributing anything will also give access to the backers-only feed, which might be a perk on its own if you do update there regularly. Which you should, see next point.)
9. Keep us updated.
Celebrate positive developments with your backers. Read their comments and answer them. Address their concerns. If a lot of them request something, try to make it possible (unless, you know, it's a really, really bad idea, in which case you should explain that it is and why.) They - we - are your fans and we're invested in your project. Do take us seriously. Frequent updates and answers to comments will make me feel like you are taking us seriously, and appreciating our support, and are very invested in the campaign.
If you run into problems and things will be late, tell us. Chances are very high that you will get support and understanding as long as you communicate with us. We want to support you and your idea, after all, not make you feel bad and stressed out!
Give us updates on the backer page, and if possible stretch goals. I will get excited if the digital stretch goal goods are given out to every tier of 5$ and above, or at least for every tier that gets stuff and above. It will make me spread the word in hopes to get more for the same money. Yes, I'm greedy. You can use that greed for your own purposes here.
10. Don't whine.
I've seen a few campaigns that ask for money because someone is in dire straits due to health reasons. They usually come with a list of this-and-that amount of money needed to pay for this-and-that, and with an undertone of whine. Or with an undertone of "I'm not really motivated to work for a living, so will you just hand me some moneyz kthxbye". Both of them, even if they are in there by accident and if the person is actually a kind, sweet, motivated and hard-working person will instantly turn me off. Undertones of whine sometimes occur in other campaigns, or in campaign comments, and they will turn me off there likewise. Yes, life is hard. Yes, your funding might not go as planned, or hoped. But if you start to be negative, you will probably lose more people than win.
And that, my friends, is how you get me to contribute to your campaign. If I like what you are doing, that is. Does it sound harsh? Maybe, but that won't change the fact that this is exactly what I am looking for when I decide on whether to participate and contribute... or not.
So. Anyone has a campaign they would like me to know about?