In January, I read about something called Kickstarter in the New York Times; a website that presents a way for artists, designers and musicians to scare up financial support for their work. I went to the Kickstarter website immediately and applied to submit a project. My project was accepted a day later. A week later, I had a project page up and running. Then I sat back and watched the pledges come in.
And it was easy. I posted periodically on Facebook and Twitter and sent two email blasts to my mailing list. I found a matching donor whose presence inspired a flurry of giving. And as we neared our target, the flurry increased. We’re fully funded and still getting pledges.
Why does Kickstarter work so well?
Several reasons, really. One is the reward system. Kickstarter encourages project creators to give donors something of value for each level of giving. And they’re not talking about a $25 coffee mug or a $100 tote bag. Something of real value to the donor. Octarium rewards donors with CDs at each level of giving. While this might seem like an even exchange, the fact that fully 75% of our music sales are now digital makes our physical CDs a perfect gift; it’s cheaper to order them in quantities of 1,000 so we always have extras lying around. CDs, then, are a perfect fit with the idea that donor-nonprofit exchanges should be a mix of commerce and patronage; a project backer should get something (a product, an experience, access, etc) in exchange for the pledge.
Another reason Kickstarter works is its emphasis on crowd-funding; lots of people pledging in small amounts can lift a project off the ground. As Kickstarter states in its FAQ; “Small amounts are where it’s at: 83% of successfully funded projects have a reward priced at less than $20. It’s not about hunting whales, it’s about amassing support.” I have written about this same idea several times in this blog; exponential growth in giving. Lots of people giving small amounts equals a game-changing amassing of funds.
But then there were many folks who pledged for no reward; they just pledged. These people are inspired by being in on the ground floor of something exciting. Supporting art as it is born. Being in the in-crowd of an idea that intrigues and inspires. Knowing that the project will come to fruition, in part, because of their pledge. Ownership. Pride.
And by golly if it doesn’t work; we got the game-changing funds. Huzzah! But we also got something else; support. Not monetary support. But just plain old “we’re behind you” support. The first FAQ answer on Kickstarter is this:
WHAT IS KICKSTARTER?
Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.
We believe that:
• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement
I read this before I launched the project and admit that I blew it off. But as the project became funded, the amount of money tallying in the total became less important to me than the tally of the number of backers; the “encouragement.” Sure, the money is important. Without the money, we couldn’t do what we plan to do. But the feeling that people out there are excited enough about this project, and about Octarium, to take the time to pledge became equally as important as the campaign progressed.
And all of this feeds into my previously-stated ideas about giving but adds a new angle; lots of folks giving in small amounts provides exponential financial support, absolutely. But this model also provides a tangible source of encouragement. An implicit pat on the back. A “keep on keeping on.”
And in the end, that’s as important as the money.
We have less than 60 or so hours left in our Art Local Kickstarter campaign. You can give us a “keep on keeping on” pledge by clicking on the box below. And thank you for your support. And encouragement.
posted by Krista Lang Blackwood, artistic director