Kickstopper? When crowdfunding campaigns can’t get started

Creative types are flocking to Kickstarter, GoFundMe and other sites to fund their dreams, but what happens when no one buys into their ideas?

If you’re plugged in to the news, it’s doubtless you’ve seen some of the splashy headlines about successful Kickstarter campaigns in recent months.

In March, the creator of the popular but long-defunct TV show “Veronica Mars” used the crowdfunding website to raise an astonishing $2 million in one day to make a movie based on the series, ultimately raising more than $5.7 million for the project. And less-famous creatives can also hit the big time with the online donation tool — from unknown filmmakers who presented at Cannes to tech startups hoping to rival industry giants like Google. The site allows users to raise money for projects in any creative field, such as art, design and technology.

But what about the Kickstarter campaigns that don’t make it? Only about 44 percent of fundraisers on the website reach their goal, according to Kickstarter.

Though setting up a website to raise donations sounds simple, gathering thousands of dollars with an average donation of about $75 is no easy task, Brian Meece, CEO and co-founder of the crowdfunding website Rockethub, said.

“There’s a lot of people who think, ‘If you build it they will come’; that they create the website and wake up with $100,000,” Meece said. “That’s not the case.”


Among the Kickstarter campaigns that seemed destined to go back to the drawing board was “Burn Your Brain 2013,” a proposal to build a giant, interactive brain that would go up in flames at the annual Burning Man festival. The project was on life support as of this writing, with a total of just four donors having contributed $50 toward its $420 goal two hours before the campaign was set to close.

Others that didn’t quite make it include a bid to release a 1953 recording of a Connecticut church’s organ music, and “Sato,” a comic book about a corporate assassin. Unfortunately, “Sato” had no samurai skills when it came to collecting money, having raised a mere $13 of its $100 goal with just minutes left in its campaign.

Meanwhile, the head-scratcher short film “Necrophilia: A Love Story,” easily surpassed its goal of raising $10,000, pulling in a total of $11,361 with more than 100 backers.


According to Meece, there’s a simple formula for success when launching an online crowdfunding campaign: Having a great idea as well as a network of core supporters, and offering donors something in return for their support.

“I always tell people, ‘No one likes to be the first one dancing on the dance floor.’ If you get your core supporters involved, it helps make strangers more comfortable,” Meece said.

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Justin Kazmark, a spokesman for Kickstarter, stressed communicating the idea and donor rewards as key to a successful campaign. In the case of a film, for example, donor incentives could include a DVD of the completed movie, or the chance to write a small part of the script.

“Projects that reach their funding goal tend to have compelling videos in which creator outlines clearly the project they’re working to bring to life, and thoughtfully crafted rewards that draw backers closer to the creative process,” Kazmark said.


Unlike Rockethub and other online crowd funding websites such as, Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing fundraising approach. Fundraisers who reach their goal receive the donations (of which Kickstarter takes 5 percent), and those who don’t walk away with nothing, a lesson Kickstarter users sometimes learn the hard way.

Jessica Lowry, an Austin, Texas, resident whose project to create an urban design tool to make streets more pedestrian-friendly topped out at $2,717 of her $25,000 goal, said she would set a more realistic target if she were to use Kickstarter again. Rather than looking at what she would actually need to complete the project, it would make more sense to set a smaller goal and undertake multiple fundraisers, she said.

VIDEO: Comedian uses Kickstarter funds to write jokes in the sky

“I read in an article that when you hit 30 percent of your goal you have a 90 percent chance of reaching it. That’s the part I really didn’t understand,” Lowry, 34, said. “I think it’s baby steps in understanding how you can experience success in a manageable way.”

Despite failure, Lowry and other Kickstarter users who did not reach their goals said they took away positives from the experience. Scott Crosby of San Diego, who hopes to launch “Business & Brews,” a TV show where entrepreneurs chat over some suds, said he was not disappointed after his Kickstarter campaign only raised $3,206 of its $22,000 goal.

“Although we didn’t reach our goal, it kind of proved the concept for me because of all the support from friends, from strangers,” Crosby said. “I don’t take the lack of funding as a lack of support.”

What Crosby did not expect was how many people weren’t familiar with the concept of crowdfunding, he said.

“One thing that I didn’t anticipate was having to educate people about crowdfunding and Kickstarter,” Crosby said. “A lot of people had never heard of it, so I had to answer a lot of questions.”

If he had to do it again, Crosby would start by gathering his list of potential donors and doing the leg work on educating them about the donation process before launching the campaign, he said.

“Because really, once you launch, the clock is ticking,” he said.

RELATED: Are Hollywood millionaires ruining Kickstarter? Let’s ask the Internet …

Post fundraising flop, Crosby is now moving to “plan B” — to go ahead with shooting a pilot for the show, which he will try to pitch to local and national TV stations, he said.

The visibility of a Kickstarter campaign can also open new doors, Lowry said. During her fundraising effort, people who were willing to volunteer to help make her project a reality reached out to her, including a software engineer and someone who offered to help her design press kits. Lowry’s now taking the next “baby steps” to get her project off the ground, launching a new campaign on with a goal of just $1, and seeking out more volunteers who don’t mind working for free, she said.

“I’m not going to abandon what I intended to do because I didn’t raise the money on Kickstarter,” Lowry said.

Source: By Magdalene Perez of MSN News


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