Eight Secrets to a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

Kickstarter Logo

“Every Kickstarter is a story,” began Stephanie Pereira, Art Program Director at Kickstarter Inc., during her panel at the Finding and Following Your Passion Conference. “It’s all about person to person interaction.”

The Kindness of Strangers to Kickstart Your Dreams

She then motioned to the screen behind her, which played a montage of her favorite Kickstarter detail videos. The cheerful faces in the film talked us through their project ideas, most using only low-quality cameras or webcams, though some had heavily produced media, and there was even one stop-motion cartoon. But it wasn’t the visuals that held the attention of the panel-goers. It was the message, the hopeful words emanating from the speakers in the video, all essentially saying come with me. Share my journey. Be part of something incredible.

For those of you who have never heard of Kickstarter before, it’s a website where entrepreneurs can try and get their business ideas funded. But unlike other donation and business investment sites, Kickstarter asks would-be business makers to offer rewards to their backers. “It’s not taking money from someone. It’s receiving ten dollars from an investor and giving them something valued at ten dollars in return,” says Stephanie. This could be a t-shirt with the business logo on it, or perhaps a personalized message from the company president. And there are different levels of rewards also, usually ones ranging from the $5 to $100 dollar range. As the donation amount goes up, so does the reward. A five dollar reward for a book project might be your name on the book website, but a twenty dollar reward might be a copy of the book, and a hundred dollar reward might be a signed copy of the book with a personalized message and a bracelet. The other thing that sets Kickstarter apart is its timing and funding process. When entrepreneurs first set up their idea page, they are asked to provide a total amount of money needed for the project. They then are given a month to raise that entire amount of money. If the full amount is not raised in the thirty days given, none of the backers are charged and the project is not funded.

NY Creative Interns Cities of You

City of You Sketch Courtesy of Brian Foo

Kickstarter Success Stories Like Cities of You

This sounds like a difficult task to accomplish and Brian Foo, author of Cities of You, would agree. Brian, a 26 year old freelance web designer by day, incredible sketch artist by night, had no idea what to expect when he set up a Kickstarter for his book, Cities of You. The book (which is absolutely beautiful) contains sketches done by Brian that represent what cities would look like if they were based on certain people. Brian had been working on these sketches for a long time, interviewing hundreds of people and sketching their cities based on personality traits and interests. In 2011, he decided to compile the sketches he had into a book, but he had no idea how to go about getting the money to begin the self-publishing process. So when he heard about Kickstarter, he eagerly signed up for an account.

“I did my first video with a little flip-cam,” Brian laughed, as he showed his video on the screen. It was pretty basic, and just showed Brian’s face and some of the sketches he has completed.  “I didn’t really think many people besides my friends and family would back my project, so I set the amount pretty low at $2,000.” But soon Brian noticed that more and more people were signing up to help him. “It was amazing. People I didn’t know where giving me money for my artwork!” In only three days, he reached his $2,000 goal, and still had money coming in from backers. Since everything was going to well, Brian decided to offer more intense rewards. His highest was originally $100, but he decided to go all out and updated to include a $200, $300, $400, and even a $1,000 dollar reward, which was an opportunity to have Brian as a live-in artist for a week and the buyers could keep any art he produced in that week. He only offered two of the top rewards, and to his disbelief, both sold. “It was then that I realized, I wasn’t just getting money, I was building a fanbase,” Brian said proudly. “And that’s honestly just as important.”

By the end of his 30 days, Brian had not only surpassed his original goal, but had raised $9,000 more, for a grand total of $11,000 dollars. He managed to not only self-publish his book, but begin marketing and distribution plans and start set-up for the second volume, which should be coming “soon.” You can visit citiesofyou.com for more info.

Keep in mind, this is not typical for most Kickstarter campaigns, but Brian’s story is far from the only one of this kind. There are tons of Kickstarter success stories, like the film Blue Like Jazz, which raised over $345,000, though it started with a $125,000 goal. In fact, a game design company called DoubleFine recently funded a game called DoubleFine Adventure which became the first Kickstarter to raise over a million dollars (their original goal was $400,000 and they actually ended with $3.3 million).

“Dreams can come true with Kickstarter,” Stephanie beamed when finishing the presentation. And judging by the look of hope and ambition on the faces of the panel attendees at the end of the session, I would say that they came to agree.

Secrets to Success with a Kickstarter Campaign

For those wanting more information, here are some facts and tips that were also covered in the panel:

  • There is a 45% success rate for the full-funding of campaigns.
  • Kickstarter charges a 5% fee when a project is fully funded. A 3-5% fee might also be added from Amazon.
  • Projects go through an approval process with the Kickstarter team before funding can begin.
  • $25 dollars is the most common donation from backers, though $70 is actually the average (to project how much money to set as an initial amount, use the formula “Number of backers x $70 =Your Total”).
  • Most successful campaigns offer 5 to 7 reward levels.
  • Success of a project really comes through updates. “People want to see what’s going on, where the project is headed. Even if you just tell them something small every day, backers will be more apt to share your story. People want to be involved in the process.” says Stephanie.
  • If a project does not receive full-funding, the project can try again immediately after the project time has ended, though all backers will need to re-submit info.
  • There is a project tipping point; once a project reaches 30% of its goal amount, that project becomes 90% likely to succeed.

What kind of project would you want to fund with Kickstarter, or what kind have you funded? Tell us in the comments!

About the Author

Steph Lippitt attended Hofstra University, where she triple-majored in Publishing, Creative Writing, and living off of less than four hours of sleep a night. She was lucky enough to get internships at three incredible companies: DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Sterling Publishing. Steph is currently the Education Assistant for Mediabistro, though she is also a Lead Blogger for NY Creative Interns and a regular volunteer for various comic conventions (New York Comic Con, MoCCA Fest). Steph enjoys reading every little bit of text she can possibly find, eating delicious and exotic-sounding foods, and going on random adventures in and around New York City. She also really appreciates air conditioning/space heaters in their respective seasons and loves writing about herself in the third person for blog bios.

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