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Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

Marketing Your Work

Kicking Ass & Taking Donations: 9 Tips on Funding Your Kickstarter Project

Have an idea that needs funding to get off the ground? We round up the collected wisdom from some of Kickstarter's most successful projects.

Kickstarter is getting pretty hard to ignore. In 2011 alone, creatives used the crowdfunding platform to raise nearly $100 million for projects that ranged from feature-length films and industrial design products to print magazines and pop-up restaurants. Over 11,000 projects successfully met their funding goals. So how can you use Kickstarter to get your creative endeavor off the ground?To create a simple reference guide, we rounded up lessons learned from some of our favorite Kickstarter projects — Scott Wilson’s TikTok+LunaTik watches, Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt’s Glif iPhone stand, Edward Boatman’s Noun Project, and more.

1. Tell your story (from the heart).

“Story is everything. Let me back up. Your story is everything. People aren’t so much getting behind the idea as they are getting behind your passion to produce it… It HAS to have heart,”says Nathaniel Hansen, an indie filmmaker who has raised over $350,000 on Kickstarter to date. People aren’t going to give you money because you think it would be cool to get paid to make a movie or design a magazine. You need to convince people with a purpose, a larger vision, or — at the very least — a lot of passion. Explain why the world needs your project now.

2. Decide on a number.

Ryan Koo of ran one of the highest grossing film campaigns in Kickstarter’s history at $125,000. He decided to set a big goal to make himself rise to the challenge, but he also made sure it was viable by calculating the number of people he had to reach at a 1% contribution rate for an average of $50. Don’t be afraid to dream big, but back it up with some math.

Story is everything. Let me back up. Your story is everything.

3. Shoot a stunning video.

If you look at the videos that do well on Kickstarter, almost all are professional, or near-professional, quality. This is no time to give a speech to your webcam. The founders of The Noun Project brought on a friend in the film industry to help them shoot their video. Designer Frank Chimero, meanwhile, stresses the importance creating a “stand-alone” video, that’s fun to watch outside of its connection to the project. Whatever your approach, don’t overlook the importance of showing yourself as someone others can relate to and support.

4. Design a simple, well-thought-out rewards system.

Kickstarter has you give out rewards to backers at different levels of funding (i.e. $5, $25, $50). Many projects make the mistake of having too many rewards or too complicated of a structure. “However simple you think your pricing tiers are, make them even simpler,” say Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost, creators of the Glif iPhone stand. Craig Mod has also done some great quantitative research on the most lucrative fundraising levels ($50 is the sweet spot.)

Many projects make the mistake of having too many rewards or too complicated of a structure.

5. Anticipate how you will carry out manufacturing and fulfillment.

Execution really is always the hard part, isn’t it? Isn’t not surprising then that manufacturing and fulfillment are frequently the biggest challenges for Kickstarter projects that get funded. Will you use a Chinese factory for mass production like Scott Wilson did to produce TikTok+LunaTik? Or would you want to use ShipWire like the Glif guys did? Make sure you budget for shipping costs, and that often means being ready to ship internationally for your supporters overseas.

6. Find blogs that will help you spread the word.

“If you are looking to promote your project, it mostly likely falls into a niche category that is covered by an influential blogger. Seek them out,”says Dan Provost of Glif. Taking a similar approach, The Noun Project created a spreadsheet of contact info for people at 40 design blogs so that they would be easy to contact upon launch. Do your homework on who you should be reaching out to, and it will likely pay off in funding.

If you are looking to promote your project, it mostly likely falls into a niche category that is covered by an influential blogger.

7. Craft a bulletproof email pitch.

Evan Luzi of the filmmaking blog The Black and Blue has never run a Kickstarter campaign. He has, however, received numerous emails from filmmakers asking to have a project featured on his blog. In this detailed report, he explains how to write a great email pitch that will get  your project featured. Here’s his guide to the perfect pitch:

  • Introduce the project and briefly describe why you’re writing
  • Add a link early on
  • Further describe why you’re writing
  • Explain how you want the blogger to help
  • Provide a little bit more info on the project
  • End strong with a final link and generous thanks

8. Fundraise like it’s a full time job.

Ryan Koo tracked the hours he spent working on his $125,000 Kickstarter campaign. Over 6 weeks, they added up to 345 hours, which averages out to 8 hours a day. That may not be necessary for a less ambitious project, but devoting time to working on your campaign each day will make it that much more likely to succeed. Spend some time designing a polished newsletter with some exciting plugs for your project and updates on the campaign. Write guest posts and offer to do interviews for blogs. Keep your campaign from hitting a slump by adding an exciting new reward part-way through.

9. Involve your backers.

In describing his relationship to the backers of his book The Shape of Design, Frank Chimero says, “When a backer gets this book in the mail, I don’t want them to come to it fresh. I want them to have a backlog of thoughts, memories, and emotions attached to it. I want there to be a personal story behind it before the spine gets cracked.”

People support projects on Kickstarter because they want to be a part of making an idea happen. In many ways, regular updates and thank yous are just as valuable as tangible rewards. Send personal emails. Create a backers-only page with special outtakes, photos, and updates just for them. Show them you care, and the goodwill will go far.

Comments (94)
  • CS

    yesterday I have payed $95
    What is your opinion?

  • James

    I just launched my Open Product Design.

    Skeleton Dock iPhone 4, 4s, 5, iPod Touch Directional Sound

  • Tricia Medina

    9 days left on my #kickstarter project if you love #marshmallows this is the pledge you want to make.

  • Tyler Ayers

    We have a high goal but very slow response in the first few days, I hope your advice helps!

  • Heather Applegate

    I’m 3 days in and already 43% funded! Granted, it’s a small project – but still!

  • Party Holster

    Hey Y’all. We are a few days into our Kickstarter campaign and could use a little boost. We hand make Leather Beverage Holsters and are ready to take Party Holster to the next level.

  • Jerome I’m attempting to do a short film in the style of Doctor Who. Its also going to double as a wedding proposal if anyone wants to check it out. Whether you pledge or even leave a comment or some feedback I’d greatly appreciate it.

  • Brian Greul
  • Flyboyrockstar

    Great info as our project needs a boost.”What’s Got Your Heart?” Campaign

  • Dwight

    These are some great tips we have been putting to use. our project can be seen here

  • Robert Breeze

    Great advice thanks. Need to get moving with mine as haven’t got my first backer yet! I’m quite literally hoping to change the world with mine –

  • Tomás Creus

    Pretty good advice. There is no magic. I wonder who are the “influential bloggers” who could help with mine? It’s a documentary about love. Oh well.

  • Jason Allard

    Do you like abandoned places? We love them. That’s why we got access to the biggest abandoned middle school in New England and made a documentary about it:

  • micah

    #1 is dead wrong.

    Your story is very important to _Kickstarter_ but your supporters are 1) shoppers whose primary concerns are the product they will receive, and 2) interested in participating in a high profile/successful project. Your story is pretty for down on the list of reasons someone puts $ on a project.

  • DudaUK

    Moola. Single piece of leather folded into a wallet. by Jose Santos via @kickstarter

  • Chesi

    Hi Todd
    Like your article, thanks
    i havinf project on kickstarter
    Unique Organic garden made ​​by children –

  • BURIK Stevan


    I am on the way to build a cruising hovercraft (river use, only; 150 km/h, 650 kg payload) I have some technical problems but mainly, to get funds to buy the pieces as a gear box, with counter rotating propellers, etc…Need from 50 to 100.000 US $.Have you the convenient advice, after I demonstrate the availability and financial efficiency of the finished project and the vehicle ..?
    Thank you.
    Regards, Stevan

  • Drayton Alan

    I just launched a book with a small project to help pay for editing. However I have a job and commitments already I just want to be able to share a story and have it presentable. I spent a half hour reading this and many comments so i habetter make this time useful by giving a link.

    I have 2 other projects that aren’t books but I really cant spend 8 hours a day promoting them either.

    I ask this question then if DaVinci was alive today he would need to be a marketing person to get any patronage?
    If that is the case our future lies in the hands of marketers? Perhaps I’m to much of an idealist to feel good about that.

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Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.
Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.