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The 3 Secrets to Crowdfunding Success

By Wayan Vota on October 7, 2015

jadedaid ictworks

Recently I launched a Kickstarter campaign for JadedAid, a card game to save humanitarians. Based on Cards Against Humanity, and other word association games, it is a critique of all that is frustrating yet funny in international development. Before I started the Kickstarter, I did my homework, and researched what others have learned from their crowdfunding experiences. I also recruited TMS Ruge and Jessica Heinzelman to help me, which was probably my best action overall.

We launched our JadedAid Kickstarter on September 21, and we reached our funding goal in 48 hours. We are now at $31,000 with two weeks left. By all accounts, we have a successful Kickstarter campaign that you should be backing right about now. So besides starting with a great team, what are the other secrets to crowdfunding success that I’ve learned with JadedAid? I would say these 3:

1. Show Up with a Tribe

In Kickstarter lore, people talk about exciting the Kickstarter community to achieve success, but for us, we’ve had exactly 2.5% of our funding from them. Almost all of our backers are our friends or their friends – people like you who work in development and appreciate a good critique of the status quo.

We’ve developed our friend networks over many years, investing countless hours in building connections and too much money in happy hours. All that investment paid off because our many, many friends trust us to deliver a good experience, and are willing to pre-order our idea as a concept.<

2. Have a Really Good Idea

No matter how big our network, we needed a product that people would love. So we spent month’s market testing every aspect of JadedAid. Now we had fun doing it, but we also were humble. JadedAid today is not the original idea we started with, and every passing day, we suppress our desire for total control to make sure the game is community-owned.

This also means breaking Kickstarter tradition when needed. We launched without a video, which is unheard of in modern Kickstarter success lore. We also have edited rewards and changed stretch goals based on backer feedback. We are even crowdsourcing the cards themselves – the ultimate act of community-control.

3. Email is King, Facebook is Queen, and the Press are Bishops

Knowing our tribe, we followed their communication patterns. We started with email, which still has the highest conversion rate, to alert our friends. They are the ones who responded fast and backed us to $12,000 in two days. Then they started sharing JadedAid on Facebook, which connected us to their friends for the next $12,000.

Finally, the press started to notice JadedAid and write stories about us. Those stories reached beyond our friends and their friends, to the wider development community. The press articles also validated our efforts; with people we’ve lost contact with years ago, circling back and supporting us once they realized we were behind the game.

What Does Not Matter

I talk here mainly about Kickstarter, but all that I’ve read says this experience translates to other crowdfunding sites like Global Giving and Indegogo. You have to start with a great tribe that loves you. Then you need to develop and deliver an idea they will like. Yes, this could be a request to donate to support a charity school, not just a card game.

Finally, know your tribe’s communication structure and adapt your efforts to its practices, and test, test, test to find the right solution for you. For us, email rules, Facebook rocks and Twitter is low-margin reward, but your mileage may vary.

At the same time, we didn’t worry over which platform to use. We didn’t care if people were on email or Facebook. We went to where people are, and connected with them in multiple ways. And that’s the secret of Kickstarter, and pretty much everything else we do in ICT4D. People matter the most, not the technology.

Now go out there and crowdfund!

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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2 Comments to “The 3 Secrets to Crowdfunding Success”

  1. Nicholas Demeter says:

    Thanks for Sharing Wayan, its the true spirit of all that is right with ICT4D…don’t get hung up on your “brilliant” ideas, holding onto them until they are stale pieces of once tasty pizza crust…let them go and work on the next one…the world doesn’t benefit if we don’t share…

    So in that vein, I would agree with the first point of “Showing up with a Tribe”…I recently did a “Gofundme” campaign for some former colleagues in Sierra Leone affected by the Ebola crisis…within just my tiny little network I was able to meet and exceed my goals…I would say a majority of those giving had previous charity campaigns that I gave to so the lesson here is, give a little money to the many HONEST fundraising efforts out there, because one day, you may need them to contribute to yours…As for Jaded Aid, get it…it funny…funny as hell…

  2. Great tips Wayan – resonated with our own experience, Tribe matters. Facebook is good for visibility but the personal touch is what matters and that requires email (and in-person communication too!)