Tag Archives: business

Pleasing the God of Kickstarter: 5 Tips to Boost Your Campaign

First of all, this blog post has been reverse-engineered, as I deconstructed all of the things I did wrong with my own campaign for the podcast One With Farai. Although it succeeded in reaching its goal — for which I am deeply, deeply grateful — I learned a lot along the way. Friends and family were the biggest donors:

Successful campaign!!! Thank you!

Successful campaign!!! Thank you!

(If you want to know why this is titled Pleasing the God of Kickstarter, or why there’s a picture of a taco, you must listen to this hilarious Podcastle fantasy podcast on crowd-funding a god. A fairly vengeful one, too. Quite possibly the only fantasy story depicting a crowd-funding campaign.)

Happy Taco by JC Ferrgy

1. Be Clear. VERY Clear.
Some people will know what Kickstarter and crowd-funding are; some will not. Some of you will go uh-huh. Some of you will go — nooo! Who doesn’t know about crowd-funding? Well, what about your relatives who never answer their email? Or the friends who boycott social media on moral/intellectual/privacy grounds? (I have some; don’t know about you.) You have to know how to reach everyone.

And, uh (she hems and haws, admitting one of her many weaknesses) you have to be clear about your intent. What are you selling? Make no mistake, Kickstarter requires selling. My campaign included ideas about: the future, diversity, live events, and work/life synergy. That’s three too many ideas. Stick with one. (That said, we do have them all, and during the campaign got a great opportunity to do a live podcast in April at Harlem’s amazing Schomburg Center.)

2. Time Your Campaign Wisely.

I ended my campaign on the first of the month, just as some people who get paid monthly (like me) get paid. And I should have run it longer. Every email I get that says “Oh I wanted to but I missed it” drives me mad. It takes a while to hit liftoff and don’t cut your campaign too short unless you are really sure or set a really low bar.

Try not to launch a campaign after a bigger, better one; or, if you do, be sure that your pitch to compare favorably to them holds up.

Our campaign came after radio and podcast campaigns by Glenn Washington and Radiotopia. I thought about postponing it, but there was also an argument to join the wave of audio on crowdfunding. I could have surfed that wave if I had a surfboard, but…

3. Somebody’s Gotta Drive the Bus

… This has been a 2.5 book year for me (3 worked on; 2 completed). And I teach. And I wrote about Ferguson. And it’s been one of my hardest, best, biggest personal growth years. So I wasn’t driving the bus. I didn’t hire a publicist. By the time I figured out I needed to, most were booked. I’ve run other peoples’ campaigns more successfully than I ran mine. Because….

4. You have to plan, plan, plan.

When I ran another person’s campaign — for an album — Kickstarter was a juvenile. Now it’s a grown wo/man, a king or queen. You need to bring it hard to make a campaign succeed, or risk crowdfunding fatigue. When I ran my friend’s campaign, I hosted a live event on a rooftop; lined up big donors; managed invite lists. I did some of that, but not much. See point 3.

5. But also be flexible. Not TOO flexible though.

I made a fundamental mistake in running both a tax-deductible and non-tax-deductible campaign simultaneously. We had very good luck with small family foundations. But the tax-deductible fundraising should, honestly, either have been structured as a match-for-donations (everyone gets a little flushed at that) or saved for later. (I wish Kickstarter had that option, hint hint.)

Hope this helps your campaign! There is much wisdom out there on the internet. Meanwhile, I helped fund the Zen Habits campaign. He is VERY CLEAR about what he offers. (And Leo, I’m a fan.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 6.21.41 PM

By the way, if you want to make a tax-deductible contribution to our podcast-in-evolution, you still can. Just send a check noting a contribution noting a donation for One with Farai to:

Aubin Pictures
C/o Jessica Ruffin, Projects Manager
138 Grand St, 5 E-F
New York, NY 10013

And if you want to summon The Holy Folded One (see: why the taco?), then I think, sadly — or gladly — that dangerous fictional Kickstarter is closed.

Make Your Own Pack

Reading Fast Company’s profile of Troy Carter, the man who until recently was Lady Gaga’s manager, is both enlightening and inspiring. Here’s a man who seems to take setbacks as incentive; is diversified in his approach to businesses (he’s a tech investor as well as a music industry ace); and who is combining having a robust family with running a business of which his wife is also the CFO (chief financial officer). Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 11.20.59 AM Carter’s life exemplifies one of the axioms of the modern career: Make Your Own Pack. No matter what industry you are in, however high or low on the food chain, you can choose to broaden your own set of contacts. It’s more critical than ever to have a networked career, in which you take the time to cultivate relationships across industries and over the years. In some cases, these relationships produce business opportunities or job leads (worth referencing: this research on “weak ties”). But whether or not that’s the case, having a diverse group of friends and acquaintances with whom you discuss work provides a framework for you to understand your own progress, challenges, and the opportunities around you. Most people I’ve met (both during my travels as a reporter and in my personal life) have multiple packs. For many of us, our family is our first pack, and our continuation or severing of family bonds throughout our lifetime shapes how we experience other groups. A job or jobs may give us an instant pack — but downturns can also shatter entire workplaces, or at least eliminate your position. By creating your own pack of honest supporters (people who champion you, but who can tell you the truth when you’ve done something wrong or are missing an opportunity), you create a flexible, evolving set of relationships that sustain you and increase the ways in which you can display your skills and creativity. As the Fast Company article puts it about Carter:

[A]s Gaga rose to fame, Carter methodically prepared to live without her. He doesn’t put it that way; he speaks of diversification, of curiosity, of building a stronger business. But that’s what it is. He’s an investor in more than 50 startups, from Uber to Dropbox, and has elevated himself to a fixture in the tech scene, now one of the best human bridges between the complicated frenemies of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. He’s ¬≠acquired heady titles like Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow and UN Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council member.

Not everyone has the business acumen of someone like Carter, but we all have choices about how we cultivate opportunity. The old saying that who you know is more important than what you know should get a new spin. Who you know is related to the art of human curation — selecting the environment of people in which you circulate. Learn how to remain respectful and consistent (i.e., not pushy) with people who intrigue you and who you respect. Some of them — perhaps more than you expect — will choose to remain in contact with you. Rejection, on the other hand, should not be taken personally. Everyone has lives; and every life has finite time constraints. Don’t rely on keeping a circle of yes-men/women around you, or just staying in contact with people who can do you favors. Curating people with whom you have shared connection and curiosity is a critical part of today’s career, as well everyday life.