Post-mortem of a Kickstarter

Well, that was nuts. But now it’s been over a week that I’ve had to reflect on running a 3-week crowdfunding campaign on the “premier” (i.e. first widely-popular) crowdfunding platform, THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED & SHARED, and special thanks to Loren, for doing & re-doing the pitch videos. He’s a true artist, and I know he’s going to bring a great perspective to this movie.

Now, for the learnings. I knew I would learn a lot, and I did. I’ll try to keep my observations short; most of it isn’t much different from the rest of the growing literature of advice for would-be crowdfunders, on Kickstarter and elsewhere. But, I hope you find these interesting, and useful as a data point as you do your own research. Feel free to follow up in the comments with questions and clarifications.

  • Try constantly. Nothing just happens because it’s on Kickstarter or any other platform. Luckily, I knew this going in, and while I didn’t go over the top orchestrating promotion until the end, we had a phased outreach plan that basically broke down to close friends, family & allies the first week, extended “tribes” or social groups the second week, and all extended contacts for the third week’s final push.
  • Have a partner. This is one area where our campaign could have benfitted from me listening to the internet’s existing advice to do this thing in pairs. While Loren did all the video, and the family down at Pah Tempe cooperated and helped share the campaign, the success or failure of the campaign fell on my shoulders, and it would have behooved me to find someone to share that burden with a little more.
  • Timing is everything. I waited to blast *everyone* in my address book until we only had <3 days to go, because I knew that if I took that rather extreme step early on, lots of people would procrastinate. This is the catch-22 of crowdfunding: it gets easier for people to contribute as you run out of time, and the urgency increases, as long as you’re realistically close to your goal by then. Which means most crowdfunding campaigns are running behind a linear pace for most of their duration. This may be unavoidable in many cases, but it creates lots of comeback success stories.
  • It’s a fine line between annoyance and persistence. Of course it is. Deal with it; be persistent, but don’t intentionally waste people’s time–and if you accidentally do, apologize. Different people have different tolerance for being bothered digitally. If you don’t accidentally upset a few people, you probably didn’t try hard enough (especially if you fail). As the old saying goes: the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter, won’t mind.
  • Kickstarter is not for causes. It’s not like Kickstarter is unclear about this in their guidelines, but all of their judgments in selecting projects for their platform are subjective, and I thought it would still be possible to raise money for the hot springs itself–I even tried to argue that they should add an architecture category (why can some nice farmers do a Kickstarter for a greenhouse if we can’t do one for a hot mineral community pool?). But, it was not. We “settled” for a documentary, but in the end I’m happy we did, because it explicitly fits our initial mission of raising awareness about Pah Tempe, in a way that will last and provide a deep foundation for understanding what I believe to be a very special place. And, it allowed us to raise a lot less money — just enough to squeeze out a full-length film by December that does Pah Tempe justice.

I’m not one for long blog posts, so let me know if there’s anything you want to know more about. Thanks for reading!

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