Crowdfunding 101: 5 Questions to Consider

this article cross-posted from Emergent by Design.

Now that the Future of Money project has come to a close, I wanted to do a brief wrap-up post/case study about the process and our crowdfunding efforts.

Though we’d never tried it before, we managed to receive almost $6,000 in donations in about 6 weeks, and went on to get some pretty impressive media coverage. So, here’s a few questions to consider when structuring a crowdfunding campaign, and a few reflections about what I’ll do differently the next time around.

update: also added in reflections from Gabe and a new pie chart from Pati.

1. What is the value proposition?

How are you going to get the public excited and involved in your initiative? I announced the Future of Money video project here on the blog on Sept. 9. We hadn’t lined up any interviews yet or even defined any clear goals for the project. We just had the idea and took a leap of faith. Below is an excerpt from the initial post.

“We want to create a compelling overview of what’s going on in the world of currencies, followed by some provocative visions of where things could go. We’re going to be conducting interviews with the movers and shakers out there who are developing new business models, new frameworks, and new ideas about how we can exchange value, innovate, and empower each other. We’re going to ask some tough questions about ethics, morals, and trust. And we’re going to provide some ‘what if’ scenarios of how these things could play out over the next decade.”

reflection: The post generated over 40 comments from the community, providing us with links and resources to get the research started, direction as to what people were interested in seeing the project become, and general encouragement.  And it got some buzz going, which was great. Next time, I’ll have a logo prepared for the announcement, so a brand can begin to form around the project immediately. I’d also coordinate better with friends/supporters/media outlets to really come out of the gate with a strong presence.

Gabe: Nonetheless, it was interesting to see how the project emerged without a strong brand or graphic identity. Usually when KS12 develops a project we intentionally finalize our graphic approach from the very beginning. This time we took an alternate path, inspired by the emergent nature of the project and curious to see where we’d end up.

2. Who’s going to help fund it?

We went back and forth about whether to launch our fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, or just do it ourselves using paypal. I was apprehensive to use Kickstarter because of it’s all-or-nothing format. On the site, you have to specify a monetary goal for your project and a time frame for that goal to be met. People pledge donations, and if you hit the goal by the end date, you’re funded. But, if you fall short, you don’t receive any of the pledged donations at all. Though I felt confident about having built a strong online community, it’s one thing to get a nice comment on a blog post or a RT on Twitter, it’s quite another to ask someone to open their wallet for you. Having never tried crowdfunding before, I had no idea what kind of monetary goal would be appropriate, and I knew I’d be disappointed if we failed to meet it.

So, we took the DIY path. Gabe set up a series of PayPal buttons with different amounts on the project website, and we mimicked the Kickstarter format of assigning different gifts/rewards for the different levels of patronage. Here is the structure we decided upon:

reflection: If you look at the chart below, you can see where the donations came from. Apparently $25 is the sweet spot, with $5 and $50 close behind. Only 1 gave $300, and no one at $500. So, that upper middle range is a bit of a dead zone. Next time I’ll either cut out those levels, or give better incentives. Also, we didn’t “pitch” this to anyone directly. (the idea of asking people for money directly was a turn off to me). In retrospect, I see the patronage structure as appealing to two different audiences. You have the $5 – $50 range, which is your friends, family, and fans. Then you have your $1,000 + above range, which is for serious sponsors. For the next project, I’ll be putting a lot more about the higher tier levels, and what kinds of organizations to approach for partnership & sponsorship.

Gabe: I voiced concerns about Kickstarter early on as well. We had the intention to do the project no matter what, so it seemed like a slightly awkward fit. As I wrote about in this post, we borrowed heavily from the strategy used by the project “The Co-Create” for our PayPal sidebar.

Future of Money Project Donations

Click above image to download a PDF.
Design by Patrizia Kommerell.

3. What are your goals?

Though we chose not to use Kickstarter partially because of not having a goal in mind, we quickly realized it would be motivating to have something to collectively aim towards. We set 2: if we reached $5,000, we would create a comprehensive infographic that summarized all of our research. If we reached $10,000, we would edit all the interviews and release them as individual videos. We set the fundraising deadline for Oct 25, which was the day of my presentation.

reflection: They say people tend to care more about things that they can measure. As soon as we set these goals, it felt like we were all in it together. Everyone who donated had a stake in the project, and it was exciting to watch the “% toward goal” number slowly creep upwards. The tweet that said “We’re 50% funded!” was a milestone, not just a number. And even those who didn’t give money, but supported in other ways (i.e. spreading the word via twitter) celebrated along with us after each little victory. It seems like the community wants to see you succeed, and if you set the proper incentives for them and expectations for yourself, it will happen. For the next project, I’ll be more creative about what to offer at higher goal levels. Of course, the cooler the proposal, the more time and labor intensive it will be, and therefore more expensive to produce. But, if we managed to raise $5k, I don’t see why the next project couldn’t earn $10k or $20k or even more.

Gabe: I researched successful Kickstarter campaigns extensively, paying special attention to so-called blockbuster campaigns that had exceeded their fundraising goals. It seems the $25 sweet spot is a known phenomenon and shows the importance of providing a good incentive at that level. In the future it would probably be worthwhile to spend more time reflecting on and profiling the different audiences which correspond to the different patronage levels.

4. How are you going to build momentum?

Since we went into the project knowing we would create the video whether we raised money or not, we felt it was important to show as much of our collaborative process throughout as it happened. It’s funny, until I assembled the list below, I was thinking to myself that we maybe we could have been stronger in this area. But actually, we did 16 posts in the 6 weeks leading up to the presentation, and another 6 following it! It was a nice mix of updates, our reflections, 5 episodes of videoblogs of us telling about our day (a nice human touch :) ), interviews with our executive producers, and a bit about our media exposure. We were also tweeting daily, and set up a Facebook page to promote the project.

reflection: In our own defense, we were so swamped with working on the project itself and trying to also blog about it, that we really could have used an extra person just doing social media strategy. Considering the time crunch, I think we did great. If we had had planning time, we could have made some kind of media kit to get larger outlets to feature our project and amplify our messages along the way.

Gabe: The videoblogs were key to building momentum and sympathy for the project. We were novices in the areas of finance and currency when we started this project, and I think it was a good thing we exposed our process and were honest about our research and opinions. It should also be noted that editing and posting the videoblogs was somewhat of an epic feat of concentration, as I was simultaneously working on the story flow of the Future of Money video itself!

sept 9 – The Future of Money Project Begins!
sept 13 – Goals for the Future of Money Project
sept 21 – Update: First Round of Interviewees for Future of Money Project
oct 2 – Interview Themes: Sneak Peek
oct 5 – Future of Money Videoblog: Episode 1
oct 6 – Future of Money Videoblog: Episode 2
oct 7 – Behind the Scenes #1
oct 10 – Second Round of Interviewees
oct 11 – Meet Executive Producer Chris Skinner
oct 14 – Investing in the Process, Not Just the Product
oct 17 – Documenting the Open Innovation Process
oct 17 – Future of Money Videoblog: Episode 3
oct 18 – Meet Executive Producer Peter Vander Auwera
oct 18 – Meet Executive Producer Bernd Nuernberger
oct 19 – Future of Money Videoblog: Episode 4
oct 24 – Arrived in Amsterdam
oct 25 – Web Premiere: The Future of Money
oct 28 – Meet Executive Producer Sean Park
nov 1 – Future of Money Videoblog: Episode 5
nov 4 – Rant: Reflections from Sibos & What I Want from a Bank
nov 9 – The Future of The Future of Money
nov 25 – The Future of Money on Dossier Journal

5. How will you give the project closure?

The presentation at Sibos and the web release of the video was kind of like the end of the project. We sent an email to everyone who donated with a final word of thanks and a link to the video. We did a nice blog post to let the public know it was finished.

Since then, we’ve casually tweeted about the publicity we’ve received since then, but could probably be more vocal on that front. For instance, our project was mentioned in an article on the Huffington Post, a full article about it on Forbes, and Gabe was interviewed for an article on Fast Company. Why haven’t we mentioned this?? And, as of this writing, the video itself has had 16.7K views on vimeo. Not bad!

The last obligation of the project is the infographic, which is finally being completed and will be released the first week of January. Maybe we’ll even do it with some fanfare. 😉

reflection: The video was intended to start a conversation, provoke thought, be inspiriational, and even unapologetically idealistic. Even though it’s “done,” it’s really very open-ended. I think a lot of people from fields and circles that don’t usually mingle were brought together for a brief moment, and if it served as a catalyst for change and new ideas to be generated, then we have succeeded.

Gabe: For me the most closure I’ve had so far for this project was in the Dossier Journal interview. By finally being on the other side of the proverbial camera I was able to reflect more deeply about the creative process and also the value of the outcome. I am also looking forward to how some of the themes we addressed in the Future of Money project will cross over into the next projects planned by all of us.

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  1. NINA
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    thanks fot sharing :) really interesting to read this. good luck and big hug. nin

    • Posted December 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Sure thing Nina! Glad you found this useful :)

  2. Posted June 6, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Your idea of funding this yourself outside of Kickstarter and just simply borrowing a few ideas from them is brilliant. You’ve given me much to consider for my own documentary project. I look forward to the future of your project. Perhaps even one day having a copy on DVD for my collection.

    BTW, in case you might be interested about my project. You can find much information here.

    Cheers to you and may this project for you continue for many years and have many discussions on the future of art.

    • Posted June 6, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Thanks Jeffrey, and good luck with your documentary! Have you seen the great interview series about adult artists and their reflections on their childhood art experiences over at Studio Neptune’s blog? It might be interesting for your research!

      • Posted June 7, 2011 at 3:53 am | Permalink

        I’m glad you told me about that Gabriel. I appreciate it. I’ll be checking it all out tonight. Looks like there’s lots to check out over there. Definitely sounds like some interesting interviews going on.


4 Trackbacks

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