Kickstarter.com, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, may hold the key to helping you turn your dream idea into a viable reality.
Charlene Gorzela, a single entrepreneur and film producer, had an idea for a documentary TV series, but didn’t have the $25,000 to make the half-hour pilot. She was familiar with something called Kickstarter, a fundraising website that provides those with bright ideas an opportunity to pitch their project in hopes of convincing people to pledge funding. She’d donated money to a few Kickstarter.com projects herself and they had been successfully funded. Maybe hers would be too.
“But it’s not as easy as it sounds,” she warns. “You have to think it through, come up with your plan and figure out how much money you need. And if you don’t raise the money you listed as your goal, you don’t get any of it,” she says. “You have to be really smart about how much you ask for, what kind of incentives you’re going to offer, and you have to make a really convincing web video with your pitch. It’s very time consuming.”
Was it worth it? Gorzela responds with a resounding yes. Her documentary project, which explores various “why” questions, like “why single, why married,” reached its goal of raising $25,000 from 118 backers in just 6 weeks.
She says that waiting and watching for money to come on her “Why? That is the Question” Kickstarter webpage became an obsession. “When I didn’t get any contributions I felt down and when I got a contribution, even if it was for as little as $5, I felt this incredible high,” she said. “It was like being a drug addict.”
Her advice to hopeful Kickstarter.com project creators is to be resolved to get the funding. “Be willing to ask for help, know that there will be ups and downs and don’t back down,” she says. “It’s definitely not for the meek!”
How it started
This revolution in crowd source fundraising is the brainchild of Perry Chen. Frustrated when he failed to raise the money he needed to produce a concert, he came up with the idea of a website that would give people like him the means to get their projects off the ground. With the help of his two co-founding partners, Kickstarter.com was launched in April 2009.
No doubt, the idea of people stepping up to fund your dream project, without getting equity in exchange, is a tremendous attractor for those who are long on ideas but short on funding, especially when they hear how Kickstarter followers raised $2 million in just 11 hours for a Veronica Mars movie.
The result was beyond what the movie’s creator, Rob Thomas, could imagine. “I’m pretty damned happy,” he said, despite estimating that 30 percent of the money raised will be spent for perks for those who pledged money — from T-shirts, to private screenings, to speaking roles in the movie.
How it works
The Kickstarter website states that: “Funding is for projects only, and projects have to have a clear goal. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced by it. A project is not open-ended. Starting a business, for example, does not qualify as a project.”
Nor can the website be used to raise money for charities, causes or “fund my life projects.”
Projects must fall into one of 13 categories: art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology and theater. If a project succeeds in reaching its goal by your chosen deadline, credit cards are charged and Kickstarter takes a 5 percent fee. If the project fails to raise 100 percent of its goal, nothing happens — no cards are charged and the project’s creators receive nothing. It’s an all-or-nothing venture.
Since launching, Kickstarter.com has raised over $5 hundred million pledged by 3.6 million people. Of the projects posted on Kickstarter, 44 percent have reached their goal.
But as Gorzela noted, each project requires weeks of building pages, shooting video, choosing funding goals/deadlines, and brainstorming on rewards for those who pledge funding. Plus, Kickstarter will screen the project before it goes live to make sure its guidelines have been met. Once it’s posted, it’s up to the project’s creators to spread the word — to do everything possible to get pledges so they’ll meet their goal.
Debbie Kasper, one of the creators of the stage production, BoomerMania! The Musical about Baby Boomers, has a different story to tell. Her Kickstarter project didn’t reach its goal of $99,000; instead it raised a little over $14,000. But her failed venture on Kickstarter didn’t dampen her spirit or her tenacity to raise the money she needs. She already has an opportunity to open her show Off-Broadway with an investor providing half the money.
“It was mostly a positive experience” Kasper says about her Kickstarter.com experience, but adds that she thinks it also has a lot of flaws.
“It’s a parking lot, but you bring the cars,” Kasper says. “You need to have a lot of friends and relatives with money [to reach your goal].” She also says that theater projects have a disadvantage because she felt there were fewer options for rewards for funders. A third of the way in, she says she stopped pushing so hard.
Kasper offers her own tips to ensure better results. “Give great incentives, promote your project for several hours every day,” she says, “and be willing to shamelessly ask everyone for money.” She says you can’t assume you’ll get any help from Kickstarter, and whether you’re successful or not, depends on who you know and the size of your social network.
Still, if you’ve got a great idea and are willing to do the footwork, Kickstarter.com can be the key to getting the money you need to move forward. Getting started is as easy as clicking the green button “Start Your Project.” And remember to have fun and to give it all you’ve got, after all you are kick-starting your dream.
Copyright © Nadia Dulyn/2013 Singular Communications, LLC.