The 30% rule of crowdfunding

Or… how to make friends and influence people

Bobbie Johnson
Jun 2, 2013 · 4 min read

At one level, crowdfunding is about who you know. People with a lot of deep relationships have a good chance of raising the support they need; those without many connections face an uphill struggle.

Campaigning is all about numbers, but trying to put a value on who you know is difficult. There’s one rule of thumb that I’ve heard, however, and I’ve repeated regularly because the data I’ve seen seems to back it up. The rule is this:

If you can reach 30% of your Kickstarter total, you’re pretty likely to make it to 100%.

Why? Because that 30% is somehow representative of your personal network, and crossing that threshhold is proof that you’ve broken out. Obviously you need to have enough time to make up the remaining 70%, but breaking out is a vote of confidence that drags more people in, and pushes you towards — and hopefully over — the finish line.

Obviously there are ways to bend or manipulate that rule. You can pick a very low number, say. Or you can have a network so large or so generous that a handful of pledges takes you over that limit. But in general, it just about holds together.

So how do make the 30% rule work for you? Well, you can do what we did, which is try to use your secondary network to push you over that line. We specifically approached friends of ours with significant networks or credentials in their own right to give MATTER their imprimatur. We’ve been lucky enough to make friends with some great people over the years, and we begged as many of them as possible to speak on our behalf: in the end, our video included testimonials from Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian, BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow, Metafilter’s Matt Haughey and Flipboard’s Evan Doll (we also had videos of support from a bunch of other chums too, but edited ruthlessly to focus on telling the best story we could). Our belief was that support from smart, connected people would help drive pledges from outside our own networks faster than we could manage ourselves. I think that worked.

There’s another way to get your secondary contacts into action, and it’s even more simple. Do Great Work.

There’s nothing better than a track record to encourage people to back you, and share your story with their own friends and contacts. I’ll leave others to say whether that worked in our favour, but I can say that it certainly worked for the third choice in my Year of Giving Dangerously project.

When I came across BRCK on Kickstarter, I was interested in the idea. It’s a “backup generator for the internet” — a piece of kit that you can use in difficult circumstances to piggyback on any signal it can to help you connect to the net.

As they say:

Anyone who has worked in the field — or anyplace far from the world’s most wired urban areas — knows how hard it can be to get connected and stay online. And yet the equipment used to connect in Kenya, or India, or the rest of the developing world is the same as that used in New York and London, even though the conditions are completely different.

At Ushahidi, we face this problem all the time. We realized that what we really needed was a smart, rugged device that could connect to the internet any way it could, hop from one network to another, create a hotspot for multiple devices, while plugged in or running on battery power.

It seemed robust and clever. It was suitably nerdy and clearly described. It had the feelgood factor. OK, it’s not something I’d really use myself, but I definitely wanted it to exist in the world.

However, the most important factor was that I already felt inclined to support it because it came from people who had Done Great Work.

I had first encountered Ushahidi and Erik Hersman at the PopTech! conference in Maine a few years back. Based largely in Kenya, they are building a set of tools for collecting, tracking and reporting data — largely from humanitarian crises that break unexpectedly.

Ever since being introduced to them, I’ve been blown away by their dedication, intelligence and focus. And that track record is really what meant they got my money ($105 dollars) straight away.

As I write, there are fewer than 48 hours to go in their campaign, and they’ve beaten their $125,000 target by an extra $25,000. I wish them luck.

The Year of Giving Dangerously

What could you learn if you supported a new crowdfunding project every week for a year?

    Bobbie Johnson

    Written by

    Causing trouble since 1978. Former lives at Medium, Matter, the Guardian.

    The Year of Giving Dangerously

    What could you learn if you supported a new crowdfunding project every week for a year?

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