If you crowdfund, think BIGGER than the number

Holy Money Making Machine, Batman – these are impressive numbers! Through Kickstarter The Veronica Mars Movie raise over $5,000,000, and tech project Formslab’s 3D printer nearly hit $3,000,000. With success stories like these, it’s easy to understand how people may become swept up in the excitement to hit it big through crowdfunding. But, before you venture into this platform with your idea or prototype, I strongly suggest you pause a moment and think beyond the number.

Image Source: Businessweek.com

What do I mean, think beyond the number? Just the other day I was chatting with a fellow about his possible plans around a crowdfunding campaign. The conversation was along these lines,

Me: “So you’re going to Kickstarter. What are you funding for exactly?”

Him: “I want to make at least fifty thousand dollars.”

Me: “And what’s that amount for?”

Him: “The device.”

Me: “Yeah, but what about the device exactly? What will you do with the fifty thousand dollars?”

Him: “All the really successful tech campaigns on Kickstarter raise at least that amount.”

Looking back, I could have approached the language differently – we were both stuck-in in what each of us felt to be obvious. He felt that his product needs sales. I felt that crowdfunding needs a clear purpose behind the ask.

But it’s not product vs. purpose. Loads of companies and individuals come to crowdfunding with a prototype already developed, or even a product in the manufacturing stage. However, crowdfunding platforms are not strictly shopping carts. They have two additional elements:

One, there should be an aspect of development. Even if it’s just “we’re going to make this prototype a reality, or, we’re going to take this mostly finished idea and put the cherry on the top, etc.”)

and

Two, your number should be realistic.  

Do not play “who has the bigger number?” Having a successful $50,000 campaign is amazing. Having a successful $1,000 campaign is also amazing. The amazing part is accomplishing your goal and bringing your idea further forward. The extra awesome part is building a fan base that wants to champion your idea and while also getting important exposure. It’s all gold.

This idea that your success is only worthwhile if your amount reaches massively large digits is ego getting in the way of practicality. Certain projects on Kickstarter rocket past their goals into the jaw-dropping numbers. Key word being “certain.” Around 60% of projects launched on Kickstarter don’t meet their goal. The majority of projects raise under $10,000, and while a growing number of projects are hitting six and seven figures, I think you’ll find them to be projects that treat the crowdfunding platform as much more than a click & buy shopping cart.  (Of course there are exceptions, but they’re not the rule.)

Good campaigns approach their funding goal as part of the story. Backers of a project can get a sense of what they are building toward. Maybe a game designer wants to take their platform to the next level, maybe a device wants to design a more user-friendly experience, maybe an author wants to self-publish a novel?

Make a realistic goal that your audience can understand. Let them know why you need the money. This gives your project a story and a cause, which in turn encourages your funders to champion your product beyond the pledge with tweets, shares, comments, etc. Having set a realistic number and told your story, dive into that campaign to reach/exceed your amount.  

Remember: You are launching a product that might attract investors, licensers, or publishers. Raising a tiny fraction of your goal isn’t going to be impressive when companies search your name or brand – and don’t forget, crowdfunding vehicles like Kickstarter keep your campaign on the internet after it ends.  

Four Important Takeaways for Setting Your Crowdfunding Goal

1) Pick a realistic number. Don’t let ego stop you from getting the amount you actually, practically need.

2) It’s about the product and the purpose. Make it clear why you need to crowdfund and what awesome next step in your product/idea development will be accomplished by everyone pitching in.

3) Keep it brief, but break it down. Take a few sentences or seconds in a video to explain the costs toward your project goals. This isn’t about getting sympathy, this is about letting your supporters understand your goals and motivation. You are asking for help when you crowdfund, so make it clear why you need that help.  

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