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:
(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.)
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.)
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:
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.