Whether you are a business or non-profit, asking for money can be awkward. Non-profit organizations are used to relying on donors but for a long time, this world was not open to businesses.

Since websites like Kickstarter have been in existence, businesses and individuals (in addition to non-profits) have the ability to ask for money related to a specific project. But it can still be awkward.

Here are two campaigns from Kickstarter, one that raised its goal amount (and well past it) and one that did not. Let’s see if we can spot some differences:

Successful campaign: Get Speculative Fiction Book Published
Objective: Create an anthology of stories from people typically marginalized by traditional publishing.

Things I noticed:

  • Both people on the project were in the video talking about why it was important… and had some fun with it. 
  • They had goals and ‘reach’ goals. In other words, in terms of what would happen if they raised more than expected, it was pretty clear at each step what else would happen.
  • The incentives were pretty cool and included different formats of the publication. In other words, I could be near or far and support the cause… and get cool stuff.
  • Progress was regularly posted to the Kickstarter site so everyone knew what was going on.
  • They let people give anywhere from $1 to $1000. The majority of gifts were in the $25 range.
  • They have given to 25 other Kickstarter causes. In other words, they were in the community.
  • They were willing to let contributors participate with their campaign.
Hey look, I can see who they are and why they want to do this!

Hey look, I can see who they are and why they want to do this!

Unsuccessful campaign: Move Colonial Pizza Back To Spring Street
Objective: “Our project is simple in concept: We are hoping to return our pizzeria to Spring Street in Williamstown, MA. This has been a dream of ours for the last 15 years and would be considered a homecoming.We were part of the heart and soul of the town for over 25 years until a fire displaced us to a location on the outskirts of town. ”

Things I noticed:

  • The two minute video had no talking in it. Really? Not one person in the whole place could have gone on camera and talked about why this was important? Since I have three devices just on this desk capable to taking video, whenever I see someone not appear in a video I always think it’s not a lack of technology. If you’re asking for $27,000 the least you can do is ask in person I think.
  • In the slideshow, there is a photo of an employee with a blurred out middle finger. Classy.
  • The incentives for giving are kind of crappy. For example, the $120 level ensures I get $180 worth of pizza later. That’s not an excellent return. It’s not even a cool or novel return.
  • This isn’t really a ‘cool’ thing. It’s not like they are trying an innovative project or serving a new population. They are just moving. Kind of yawn.
  • The idea is kind of presented in a negative way. Like they are on the ‘outskirts’ of town (wonder how nearby businesses feel about that characterization) and just want to go home. I feel sorry for them but feeling sorry for someone doesn’t make me want to help them raise close to $30,000.
  • Aren’t they going to move anyway? Moving seems to be a big enough decision that financially, they are probably ready to do it. It’s like they just want to get free money from Kickstarter.
  • They have backed one cause: their own. Not a part of the Kickstarter community.
  • One update during the campaign. Backers need more than that.
Hey look it's a slideshow already saying what it says in the narrative of the site.

Hey look it’s a slideshow already saying what it says in the narrative of the site.

So from this admittedly very random and small sample, what can we say about how to make your project successful?

  • Transparency– Show who you are and why you want what you want.
  • Timely– Keep stakeholders up to date.
  • Cool– Offer to do something cool. Like the pizza people could have launched a community program (and used the extra generated money to move location)… or they could have just given away cooler prizes to backers.
  • Involved– Like any community, being involved with Kickstarter beyond your own interest helps. It also helps letting donors get involved.

So if you are planning a Kickstarter campaign, hopefully this is helpful!