5 Lessons from the Kickstarter School – harnessing the power of community
This Monday 21st the RSA had the privilege of hosting Kendel Ratley, Director of Outreach for the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, for an interactive seminar on how to create a successful Kickstarter project, and what Kickstarter is all about. As we’ve explained in previous blogs, the RSA has recently launched its own curated area on Kickstarter, giving its Fellow-led projects the chance to stand on the shoulders of the crowd and reach even greater goals. You can read Fellowship Councillor Ed Whiting’s blog post on why the RSA has chosen to get involved in crowdfunding or watch a panel event from 16th September on “Crowdfunding: where next, how far, and what are the limits?”.
At Monday’s event, Kendel gave the complete lowdown on Kickstarter campaigns. Her advice ran from what makes a successful campaign video (note: it does not have to be Hollywood-quality), to how long a campaign should be (Kickstarter recommends 30 days).
It’s not all about the money
However, listening to Kendel’s presentation, what really struck me was how well Kickstarter’s philosophy fits in with the RSA’s. As she emphasised in her presentation, Kickstarter is not just about the money. This statement might be hard for some to buy into, but that’s precisely the reason why Kickstarter even hesitate to use the word ‘crowdfunding’ in their own branding. Instead, the philosophy behind Kickstarter is about building communities, and it permeates every aspect of their organisation. In fact, one of the reasons why they make their funding model all-or-nothing (such that a project only gets the money if it reaches its target) is that it encourages people to mobilise their networks even more, creating an active community of online supporters.
With that in mind, you can now visualise a project’s success in terms of the strength of the community it has created. As Kendel emphasised, why Kickstarter is different from both charitable websites and investment-based models is that it gives the backers a chance to be a part of the project’s story. This reasoning is why she encourages projects to send updates to their backers during the campaign, keeping them involved throughout the project’s development. Moreover, the community does not disappear once the project has reached its target. The project’s creator will have access to the email addresses of all the backers to continue sending updates and news. A campaign’s community of online support can become the first group of people to participate once the project hits the real world.
The strength of a campaign’s community can also be a dividing line between successful projects and unsuccessful ones. As Kendel said, while some projects do get substantial support from people simply browsing the Internet, most successful project creators reach their targets through hard work put into mobilising their networks.
The strength of a campaign’s community can also be a dividing line between successful projects and unsuccessful ones.
As a creator you have to make sure that each aspect of your campaign emphasises involvement, whether it’s getting people to share your project on social media, or making sure backers can participate in the final product. In terms of rewards for different levels of contribution, we can’t really be sure that putting a backer’s name up on a ‘Thank You’ wall equates perfectly to £25. However with this exchange, a new relationship has been established with someone who before was just another member of the ‘crowd’. This backer is one more person who has been brought into the project’s story, another new member of the dynamic community of support, another person who wants to see the project evolve from idea into reality.
The RSA and Kickstarter—a perfect match
The RSA is all about turning ideas into action through collaboration with its 27,000 socially-minded Fellows. It has a ready-built community already receptive to the issues these Fellow-led projects are looking to address. With the RSA’s new curated area on Kickstarter, it’s becoming easier than ever for Fellows to come together from the UK, America, Nepal, and Kenya (just a few of the bases of FRSA projects) to support each other’s efforts across the world. To me, this emphasis on building communities around innovative projects is precisely the reason why Kickstarter and the RSA are a perfect match. And with four projects from the RSA curated area already having reached their target, we hope the Kickstarter community feels the same way.
Find out about all the projects on the RSA crowdfunding page – see which one inspires you and support them from as little as £1.The current FRSA projects are seeking to:
- support community mental health
- build the future of manufacturing in London
- inspire young people to love science
- support young designers in local market square
Learn how to start a crowdfunding campaign for your project with RSA Catalyst – helping to turn RSA Fellows’ ideas into action. Apply for crowdfunding support from the RSA here.