How to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter for your social enterprise
After raising $109,955 on Kickstarter in July 2013 for Library For All, I often get asked for my top tips on how to run a successful campaign with a small bunch of volunteers, zero budget, and a limited network.
Here are my top tips:
1. Ask yourself: "Is Kickstarter right for me?"
Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform. That means that if you get half way to your goal, you do not get to keep any of the funds. I am an all or nothing person so that actually attracted me to Kickstarter, but be warned it will lead to a lot of sleepless nights! Also consider the community and eligibility - Kickstarter makes sense if you are launching a defined tech product or an art project, but won't work as well for other causes. The platform wont allow you to fundraise for causes that do not have a start/ end date. Check out Indiegogo and GoFundMe.
2. Do your homework!
Tim Feriss wrote this awesome article on hacking the Kickstarter campaign that I literally used as a roadmap. He did a much better job than I will likely do here at explaining how to run a successful campaign! Plus it has templates and lots of other goodies to help you along the way.
3. Engage your inner circle
According to an NYU talk that a colleague of mine went to, the success of your Kickstarter campaign depends mainly on having an "inner circle" of highly engaged individuals. These are your close friends, family, colleagues - those who will like and share every piece of content that you create for your campaign just because its you. It's not about how much they can give, it's about the echo effect they can create.
This completely holds true to our experience. We hosted a "Friendstarter" event two weeks before the launch of our campaign for our inner circle, where we shared the vision of what we Library For All was trying to achieve in an intimate setting. Everyone brought about 10 friends each. We shared a rough cut of our Kickstarter video, and we asked them to share their media contacts and other ways they wanted to be involved in the campaign. This group felt a part of our success (or failure!), and they helped not only create buzz around the launch, but to sustain it throughout the campaign.
4. Look at the camera
I am not going to lie, having a really good Kickstarter video is going to make a huge difference to your campaign. If it's good enough, it will be a great stand alone piece of content that media partners will also want to share (ours was posted on Upworthy). We were fortunate enough to have a volunteer photographer Nathan Johnson of Drift Studios come with me to Haiti to shoot ours, and we are still using the tons of amazing footage years later. We also onboarded a volunteer editor also to pull together the final film beautifully.
If you can't afford to shoot a professional video, at least rent a lapel microphone to ensure you get good sound and address the camera yourself. It's so important that your contacts see YOU asking them directly to support the campaign. All of the pretty 3D models or artistic photos of your project aside, people support people, not just ideas.
5. Consider an offline strategy
In the months leading up to the launch of our Kickstarter, we ran Facebook campaigns to ensure that we had at least 1,000 "likes" on our company page. At the time, it was not that hard to do, and those likes actually meant that our content would show up in our supporters newsfeed (note that since then Facebook has changed their algorithms, and the only way now to ensure your content shows up in your friends' feed is to pay for sponsored posts). That said, with zero previous track record of running successful online campaigns, we couldn't rely on that to reach our goal.
Instead, I decided to rely on the tried and tested method of fundraising: events! Being in New York City and having just met my (now) amazing Director of Business Development, Isabel Sheinman, we began planning a series of fundraising events. Together, we launched our Kickstarter campaign with a countdown at a beautiful venue - the Library at Soho House New York.
This was a different group to the Friendstarter - we targeted the private event to those who could afford the ticket and then some. We made phone calls. We hand-delivered intriguing invitations. People bought tickets (so we covered our costs), but they also made pledges to our Kickstarter campaign on the night, which was projected live on a screen. We had about 75 people in attendance in the room, and we raised $25,000. One week later, we had tipped over the half way mark - $50,000. This leads me to my next point...
6. Front-load your campaign
Perhaps the most important factor in a successful Kickstarter is generating that feeling of momentum. This is why what I call "front-loading" is vital - target all of your effort and energy at the beginning of the campaign, so that you create a snowball effect.
If you can raise $40,000 in the first 48 hours, as we did in our Kickstarter, it enables you to go back to all of your media contacts and say "Look! Our campaign is on fire! You need to write about this!" It also builds a sense of optimism around your campaign that will push the hesitant, potential backers to get on board. No one likes a sinking ship, but everyone likes to be on board with success!
7. Give yourself 3 months to prepare
If you have an ambitious goal (like $100,000), and you have no idea how to reach it, then you will need ample time to pull your strategy together. There is a lot of work involved in each step, and you must be prepared for when the timer starts ticking on your campaign.
8. Factor in the labor costs of delivering on rewards for your backers
We made a big boo boo with our rewards. They were beautiful, but they were far too finicky and costly to put together. It's a nice idea to personalize each individual reward by hand, but the reality of delivering those rewards to 763 backers quickly falls like a ton of bricks. We spent three months, too much money, and even burnt out one of our staff members by not carefully planning our Kickstarter rewards.
9. You lose about 20% of your goal amount to fees, rewards and labor
It's a harsh reality, but it's a fact. Make sure to budget in 20% of your goal amount for these fringe costs to ensure that you have enough funds after the campaign to complete your project.
10. Manage your list well
My only regret from our Kickstarter campaign is not having content ready to share once we hit our campaign goal. The momentum dropped off as we turned to the huge tasking of executing on our project, leaving our backers with little to keep them connected to the project. My advice would be plan for success, and to make sure that you have great content ready to keep your backers engaged post-campaign. That way, you will exit your Kickstarter not only with the funds you need to start, but later, a donor list that will carry you far into the future.