Yeah, I'm a fan of Kickstarter. As of this post, I've backed over a hundred projects, each of those for more than a $1 (a reference which is a rant for another time). It's a bit addictive, being able to help people on their way to achieving change, realizing their dreams, or making a difference.
This recent Kickstarer addiction seriously kicked in after I talked to Nick Disabato at SxSW this past March. I asked him how he chose which projects to back. Fundamentally, he said, he backed the ones that interested him, related to his hobbies, or just entertained him.
Works for me, and I started backing projects in earnest.
I now watch the Recently Launched page frequently, daily when possible, but semiweekly at the least. I do that so that I don't miss any cool upcoming projects, but it also means that I receive a frequent number of "How did you hear about my project?" messages. While I'm usually hesitant to be the first backer, I've made exceptions, but they are very much the exception.
So, how would you make a project a successfully fundable Kickstarter project, from a backer's perspective? What projects catch my attention? There are other "how to create a successful Kickstarter campaign" posts, and Kickstarter has a good starter guide on making a good project video (though, honestly, I rarely watch the videos, preferring the text description), but why would I back a project?
From my perspective, I'm more likely to back your project if you can:
1. Be one of my interests
Not much you can do about this one other than be in my interests.
I tend to back projects related to farming, recycling/consumerism, bees, books, design, technology, environment and distilleries. There are exceptions to this, humourous or whimsical in particular, but I (and everyone else I can think of) am far more likely to back a project that sounds like something I'd do or like to do, than one that is completely unrelated to my interests.
For the most part, I stay away from movie, album, food truck and Burning Man projects. There are exceptions (always exceptions), but I find these less tangible unless they relate to something that amuses me.
I also stay away from projects that seem to be duplicates of others: there are a lot of Open Source CNC projects.
If you're not passionate about what I'm passionate, that's okay. Find someone who is.
2. Have a catchy title and opener
Since I watch the Recently Launched page, the project title and one sentence description are what catch my attention. It's all about the elevator pitch these days, in the short-attention-span economy, and this isn't much different.
If I'm unsure from the small blurb, I'll star/follow the project without backing it. I review that list every day or so and decide to back or remove from my list when I'm inclined to do so, usually when the campaign is within two days of ending.
3. Explain where the funds are going
A good description helps, but a general explanation of where the funds are going is going to convince me more easily to back your project. The description doesn't have to be detailed down to the last penny, but having a general idea what you're going to do with the funds will make me more likely to back.
4. Kickstart the project, don't reimburse
I'm less likely to back reimbursement projects. If the work is already done, you've already achieved your dreams, so I'm not really helping you at that point.
5. Market beyond Kickstarter
Relying on Kickstarter to do all your marketing, and hoping that you'll make the front page or the projects we like, well, isn't going to cut it if that's your only plan. Use Twitter and *groan* Facebook and your local D&D club. Go outside of your family and friends: try a meet up, post a flier or two at your local Starbucks, ping other online groups that you participate in and see if there's any interest. Going outside Kickstarter means that you're expanding the pool of Kickstarter backers when they pledge to your project, and that's great for not only your project, but every other Kickstarter project.
6. Post a lot of updates
You're trying to encourage people you don't know to send you money. You need to show that you are going keep all of us backers up to date, that you're going to communicate with us.
Of course, the updates should be relevant. And, of course, the updates mean you're making progress on your projects, and that's what we want to know about!
7. Have open updates
Until you've funded, don't have closed updates, for backers only. This makes me me sad, I don't know what's going on with this project:
The secrecy makes me less interested in the project.
8. Have an attainable funding goal
This also means, have a reasonable funding goal.
People tend to compare projects with other projects. If your funding goal is $50,000 and your project is similar to another project with a funding goal of $20,000, but you don't explain why you need two and a half times the funding, I'm going to be confused why your project needs more funding. Of course, if you explained where the funding is going, the amount matters less.
Some goals are crazy. Some goals are too low. If the project interests me, I'm not going to skip your project because I think the goal is unreasonable, but I will be sad if I back your project and it doesn't fund because you were shooting for the stars when you only needed to land on the moon.
9. Have non-physical rewards
I have too much stuff. I don't need more stuff. I'm trying to get rid of much of my unused stuff. I'm likely to pledge to support your project and select no reward if the rewards offered are all things that are just going to be more stuff. Not receiving a reward is fine, but the rewards are often WAY FUN!
Offer a digital download. Put my name and link on your website (without a nofollow in the link). Send me a postcard (which I will most likely photograph, post here, and recycle). Give me access to a frequently updated blog detailing progress of your project. Take a picture of you and your project in the setting of my choice, and let me post it on my site.
There are non-tangible rewards that are just as much fun without a physical reward needing to be sent.
10. Try again
I've backed a couple projects that are a second funding attempt for a project. If a project doesn't fund the first time, try again. Chances are awareness of a project wasn't broad enough to find an audience the first time through. The first project could create exposure, and the second attemped could fund.
Yeah, so those are my pointers, what I'm looking for in a Kickstarter project, how I choose to fund or not. I find backing projects on Kickstarter satisfying in a "give a hand up, not a hand out" way.
It makes me happy, in a selfish sort of way, to help others help themselves.
* I hesitate to be the first backer because when there is only one backer, you can see how much money the person backed with. The post will read "1 backer $X.00 pledged of $Y goal" and that makes me uncomfortable. I'm okay with the project knowing the amount I've backed with, but that's not anyone else's business. I prefer the anonymous side of backing, or close enough to it to be hidden in a crowd.