How I Used Kickstarter to Fund My Play

Last week I began a Kickstarter campaign for a play I’m directing. Thanks to a tremendous community of supporters, I reached my goal with some time to spare.

As a way of saying thanks, I wanted to share my strategy and some of the lessons I learned in the hopes that they may prove useful to others in their fundraising efforts.

Research

It’s important to understand not only the basic mechanics of Kickstarter but also the anatomy of a successful campaign. To that end, two books in particular proved invaluable:

Kickstarter for the Independent Creator: A Practical and Informative Guide to Crowdfunding

The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Success Stories of Artists, Inventors, and Entrepreneurs

Many of the ideas in this essay originate from these books.

Setting Your Goal

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing game. Have a goal of ten grand and raise only nine, you get nothing.

I set my goal conservatively. Seventy-five hundred dollars was honestly a bit less than I needed, but I decided it was a more obtainable goal. I thought it better to kick in a few bucks on my own than set the target higher and fail.

Unless you have thousands of friends, I suspect it becomes exponentially more difficult to hit your mark once your goal begins to exceed $10,000.

Use a Mailing List

In the months prior to starting my campaign, I created a mailing list using mailchimp.com. I exported a list from my address book to the service than extensively parsed it to make sure there were no duplicates. My guess is that nothing turns off potential backers like spam.

Using mailchimp’s newsletter tools I created a brief email describing the campaign and the rewards. I made sure that both the ask and the rewards were clear, that there was a benefit to supporting.

I also included pictures of the cast. Pictures are always helpful.

The mass email was sent as soon as the Kickstarter campaign went live.

Social Media

Most of my interaction with supporters happened through Facebook. I announced the campaign there and gave updates on the site too.

My general strategy was simple: announce a fundraising goal for the day at 10 a.m. each morning and promise a video once that number was reached.

Fortunately–depending on how you look at it–I was a magician and juggler in my youth. So if the day’s goal was reached, I shared an embrassing video from my childhood.

It worked surprisingly well and I think, in hindsight, it became like a game. Fundraising does not have to be a dreary affair, I learned, and humor can go a long way.

Also, I was careful not to post to Facebook more than twice a day. I know that some like to thank people with a tag as they donate but for me, that felt like too much. I didn’t want to dilute my posts by oversaturating people’s feeds.

Big Donors

If you have family or friends who plan to give you large sums, I’d suggest scattering their contributions throughout your campaign.

It’s helpful to receive a signifigant donation as soon as you begin. That does two things: one, it shows others that you have momentum, and two, it improves your chance of being highlighted on Kickstarter’s “What’s Popular” page.

In truth, I received only a handful of donations this way but when you’re raising money, every dollar is important.

The Personal Ask

I’m not by nature a big cheerleader of my own work. But running a Kickstarter campaign turned me into one. There’s really no other option. If you want to be successful, you really need to personally ask people to contribute.

Before work each morning, I sent out a plethora of email and Facebook messages. I made sure that these notes were not boilerplate but rather tailored to the individual.

I learned that there’s no real way to predict who will give. Friends, of course, were naturally supportive. But sometimes colleagues I had not spoken with in years also contributed, sometimes generously so.

The lesson, I think, is that without knowing who will give, you simply have to ask as many people as possible. The worst they can do is say no. And when someone did decline, I tried not to take it personally.

You can only ask, not expect.

Thank You

Your supporters are everything. You live and die by their generosity. I made sure to follow up with a personal “thank you” after they gave. Appreciation goes a long way and it’s just the right thing to do.

And on that note, to everyone who contributed to my play, thank you again. It means the world.

Finally, if you found this article useful and would like to help out, there’s still time. You can find the campaign at the link below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/845257590/reprise-the-play-in-new-york-city-by-eric-maierson