I started funding projects on Kickstarter back in September of 2010. In those days, it was immensely exciting to see so many people spread the word and toss their dollars into the virtual hat — all to make a reality of someone’s dream. I remember leaving the project page up at work, so I could refresh and watch the money and backer count tick up. It felt like we, the collective ‘we’ of the Internet, could get almost anything done, and that included getting our hands on those niche products that big companies couldn’t or wouldn’t back. Those were heady days!
Five years later, not so much. The problem isn’t that some projects don’t fulfill their rewards, and if you’ve seen the report that Kickstarter co-published with the University of Pennsylvania, then you already know that the “failure to fulfill” rate is around 9%. [My own list of backed projects has done better than the average with only a few failures.] No, the problem I’m experiencing, the fly in my crowdfunding ointment, is something else. It’s the (seemingly) endless number of updates and partial rewards and calls for more feedback.
Here’s my personal, breakdown (as of today):
89 — Total projects backed
79 — Successfully funded
9 — Either cancelled or unsuccessful
1 — Currently running project
[I’ll also note that I have backed a few projects on IndieGoGo, but less than ten, and they don’t produce anywhere near as many email updates.]
Some of these projects have been going on for years. One of them is five years old and still sending the occasional updates, though I have no faith it will ever be complete. Nearly all of the projects I back are some sort of book, either fiction or a table-top roleplaying game, and so the updates are often in the form of “here’s a beta version for you to review!” or “here’s the raw text with no artwork.” Which means that not only am I getting updates every few weeks, but I’m also expected to manage multiple version of the rewards provided by the various projects over a time span from months to years.
That sounds a lot like work.
There’s a real, cumulative cost for every Kickstarter project, beyond the dollars I pledge.
Now, I get that backing a Kickstarter project isn’t just a simple purchase. The project creators like to say that they’re “building a community!” But to me, it feels like entering a long term, ongoing relationship, over and over, month on month. Each one needs to be monitored and tended. Each one has a different set of expectations, including those rough draft’s and first versions and submitted for comment PDF’s. Each one is a commitment of time and attention, more than money. And each one is blithely unaware of all of the others, also vying for my time and attention.
So, now when I see a cool Kickstarter that my Facebook friends or Twitter associates are all backing, I add the attentional burden to the cost before I hit the “Pledge” button. Do I really want to spend the next two or three years thinking about this? Will I even want this in three years? If I’m signing up for 50+ email updates, will it still be worth it? How many draft copies and downloadable art pieces will I end up saving in a Dropbox folder before this project is officially done? More and more, my answer is: “No! Not worth it.”