Have you ever thought about doing a kickstarter or indiegogo campaign for your nonprofit?

Recently I was approached by a board member of a nonprofit to give them feedback on their indiegogo campaign for their nonprofit. I looked at their campaign text and it was terrible. They were trying to get operating funding for their nonprofit. Their video was 18 minutes long. It was a train wreck. Learn from this!

Before you dive into a crowdfunding campaign, there are a few things you should know.


How is Kickstarter crowdfunding like traditional fundraising?

You build relationships up with people and share your updates and stories with them so they will want to give to you. And with your deadline, people get excited to give, tell their friends, and word spreads quickly.


How is Kickstarter crowdfunding NOT like traditional fundraising?

People who back you expect to get something tangible out of the arrangement. It’s not just a “feel good” opportunity. It’s a chance to get something they want too. As far as I can tell, it’s kind of like online shopping… but with a feel good twist that you’re helping someone else’s dream come true, and if they don’t make their goal, well, you haven’t actually spent anything.

Did you know that 56% of Kickstarter projects never make their goals?

If your nonprofit is considering crowdfunding, how can YOU be successful?

Recently I went to a meetup about Crowdfunding for startups.

Each person who spoke had raised over $150,000 via Kickstarter. We heard from Andy Baio who raised $175,000 for his XOXO Festival

We also heard from Ryan Frayne who raised $149,000 for a new invention that inflates and deflates things really fast

and Zeke Kamm who raised $6,000 and $223,000 and $87,000 with 3 different kickstarters to make products for filmmakers.

Zeke and Andy both made products and, as they put it, “if you have an idea it allows you to see if the idea is worth anything.”

“Gatekeepers aren’t dead but you CAN walk around them” -Zeke Kamm

But was there anything useful there for fundraising for nonprofits?


How could your nonprofit use a crowdfunding website?

If your nonprofit wants to start a project or

If your association wants to do a new, fun conference, or maybe

You want to start an earned income stream, let’s say, getting the startup capital to make a new product for your nonprofit (let’s say you’re a homeless shelter and want to make bedbug free beds for other homeless shelters) then the following advice may be useful for you.


Tip 1: Cost it out. If you’re making a product, Zeke suggested, “Do NOT do a kickstarter for a $10 product.” That was his first mistake. People fund your project to get the prizes. That is really one of the best ways to get your kickstarter funded. He said, “Do the numbers. If you have something that needs 1,000 backers. can you get them? He also said, “Don’t make your $20 level be a T-shirt. Do you have any idea how much it costs to get a t-shirt made? Even one t-shirt, with 8 colors costs $25.”


Tip 2: Do your research. You will put the same amount of work into your kickstarter if you research or if you don’t, and you will have VASTLY superior results if you DO the research. Zeke suggested watching 150 successful project videos and 100 unsuccessful project videos, to pick out the characteristics of successful kickstarters.


Tip 3: 2 secrets to Kickstarter success according to Zeke. Marketing and Marketing. Which is, BOOM, FUNDRAISING! He suggested getting started early on this, and looking at other similar projects on kickstarter, the blogs they’re featured on, and then going and commenting on the blogs and creating a relationship with the bloggers, THEN launching your kickstarter and asking them in a quick pitch email to cover your kickstarter. Do NOT try to find the email addresses of people who have funded other kickstarters. Big no no.


Tip 4: How do you set a fundraising goal? The speakers said, well, for our XO event, we set the price at $400 per ticket because that was the cost, including our time. They suggested, set the goal at the minimum you can do to make the project worth your time. They said, “Figure out what your core reward is, and price that fairly. That is what people are primarily backing the project for.” Andy mentioned that Kickstarter frowns on stretch goals. So you might just put a modest goal, and then talk in the description text about what you will do if you exceed that goal.


Tip 5: What should you use for prizes? And how many levels? Andy suggested $5 as a level to start at, and as a prize, to be able to get backer updates. (Which is a nice way of keeping people informed about your project). He also suggested that if you’re selling high-end tickets, then you should sell them but give something more to people who maybe can’t make it to the event. He suggested offering a DIY kit, T-shirt and goodie box with coffee, etsy crafts and art (because his conference was about honoring and highlighting DIY artists and makers). Andy suggested 3-4 levels, tops. Andy said no more than 8 levels. And they said they’ve seen up to 40 levels in a kickstarter, and those usually work best with role playing games. They said, “People always think you’re charging too much for your product.” They also said, if you give people too many choices, they will run away from your project. So, remember this when you’re giving people 10 options to donate on your website. Maybe just have one to start, and make it more complex later.


Tip 6: What makes a successful kickstarter video? No more than 2 minutes and 53 seconds, says Zeke, who is a filmmaker. Why? People have short attention spans. and if you’re thinking, “Well, all I have is an iphone” it’s okay. Ryan Frayne made his kickstarter video with his iPhone and iMovie on his computer.


He said, “Look, the main thing that comes through is sincerity. If you can be sincere, and find your audience, and speak to them in the language they understand, you will create fans. People will feel connected to your story and become your fans and back you again and again.”


Ryan also mentioned that people might just see your video on there and want to mentor you or partner with you in other ways. He said for his invention he’s talking with a rubber company in Canada now about a potential partnership to market his product with theirs, which he would never have gotten if he hadn’t had the exposure of a Kickstarter project.


Tip 7: (This one will have fundraisers nodding their heads!) It’s not just about the money. It’s about creating true fans. People you can call on again and again to back your kickstarter projects. Which is like saying, Build a donor base, and keep asking them to get involved! DUH. A woman in the audience said, “oh, well, but I don’t want to ask my backers to give again!” and all 3 of the speakers said, “WHY NOT?” “It’s a free country, and they have the right to refuse you. Why deny them the choice to give to you again, if that’s what they want to do?” Which is an excellent motto for fundraising, really.


If you’d like to read more about how to have a successful kickstarter, I also helped an artist and filmmaker create a successful fundraising email for their kickstarter to help them raise $33,000. Go here to see how they succeeded.

If you’d like even more help with crowdfunding, just check out my crowdfunding course!

Nonprofit online giving, nonprofit crowdfunding

(This article originally appeared in Fundraising Success Magazine in April, 2014)