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Seven secrets for crowdfunding success

By on July 9, 2012

Post written by editorial assistant Zoya Street

Of all the great sessions at the Children’s Media Conference, the crowdfunding panel with Naomi Alderman of Six to Start, writer of Roger Nix Nick Daze, Jason DaPontee of Firebrace and Kevin Mclean of Tinkatolli was a particular favourite of mine, particularly as I’m running a crowdfunding campaign myself. Here’s seven useful pieces of advice that came out of it:

1: Understand your audience

While Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide data on site-wide average and median contribution size ($70-100 average, $25-35 median) your own audience may spend differently. For example, if your target market is under the age of 18, this could make your conversion rate and average contribution size much lower.

2: Educate your audience

Crowdfunding is still little known outside of the tech clique, particularly in Europe where it hasn’t yet reached the same level of penetration as in the US. Your audience might not immediately understand that it’s partway between commerce and patronage, especially if word-of-mouth recommendations call on people to ‘donate’ to your campaign. To be blunt about it, nobody wants to donate to a video game when there are children starving in Africa. Do everything you can to make clear that you are selling pre-orders in addition to accepting more generous donations.

3: Motivate your audience

Fundraising is likely to have a spike at the point of launch, a huge upswell of momentum in the final days before the deadline, and a long slump in the middle where progress is very slow. This long slump can be discouraging not only for you, but for your backers as well, particularly if this is their first experience with crowdfunding. Again, it’s up to you to educate them – let them know that the lack of visible progress isn’t an indication that the campaign is going to fail, and that all their efforts spreading the word will pay off in the end.

4: Make time for the campaign

Running a successful campaign requires a big time commitment – spreading the word, writing updates, filming videos and packaging up rewards are all serious work. Plan ahead, try to get some of the work done before you launch, and get assistance from friends.

5: Don’t overcomplicate the rewards

When designing reward packages, bear in mind that you are going to have to buy or make and package up everything you promise to send people. Think about how many contributors you need, and how long fulfillment is going to take, and try to consider ways to simplify so that you don’t lose precious time when you want to be working on the project you were fundraising for.

6: It’s all about your network

Getting featured on the front page of Kickstarter or Indiegogo is nice, but it’s not going to happen without a remarkable response from your own extended network. While crowdfunding platforms do bring their own momentum to your campaign, fundamentally your success relies upon your own ability to market your project and get word out as wide as possible.

7: Make what you want to make, but don’t just make what you want to make

Naomi Alderman said in the campaign video for Zombies, Run! that this project was something that she really wanted to make, but wouldn’t be able to pitch to publishers. However, she also said in her talk that the Kickstarter campaigns that simply say, ‘this is a thing I really want to make’ don’t tend to succeed. The lesson I take from this is that while crowdfunding is a great opportunity to try out unique ideas that aren’t safe enough for conventional funders, it only works if you manage to reach out to people who want your product idea to exist – make it clear how it meets their needs and desires.

About Zoya Street

I’m responsible for all written content on the site. As a freelance journalist and historian, I write widely on how game design and development have changed in the past, how they will change in the future, and how that relates to society and culture as a whole. I’m working on a crowdfunded book about the Dreamcast, in which I treat three of the game-worlds it hosted as historical places. I also write at and The Borderhouse.