Though this guide revolves around Kickstarter (due to its popularity and the amount of research done on the platform) its advice may be applied to other platforms. Before applying to Kickstarter, make sure you meet the platform’s conditions, as many companies do not even make it past Kickstarter’s vetting process. Should you not meet Kickstarter’s criteria, visit our overview of major crowdfunding platforms to find an alternative.
First, get a feel for what succeeds and what fails. Examples of successful funding campaigns can be found under staff pics and the popular this week section on Kickstarter. Compare those projects with projects under ending soon that have not reached their funding goals.
Setting Fundraising Goals
Use these sections to determine how much money you will seek to raise. If you set your goals too high and fail to meet them, you will receive nothing at all (on platforms like Indiegogo and RocketHub, fundraisers may access money raised even when they fail to meet their goals, but have to pay a higher fee to the website in order to do so). While it is important that you not set your sights too high, projects that fail rarely come close to their goal, only 3% of failed projects made it above the 50% funding mark.
On the other hand, do not underestimate your funding needs or assume you will raise funds well beyond your goal. Projects that are successful are typically successful by small margins. Of those that reached their fundraising goals through Kickstarter, a quarter where within 3% of their goals and half were within 10%. In fact, only one in nine projects receives over twice its funding goal. At the extreme end, (as of June 26, 2013) only 44 projects asking for over $100,000 raised 10 times that amount and all of them fell into the hardware, software, games, and product design categories (save one music project, one comic book, and one art project).
Remember when setting your funding goals to take into account the rewards you are offering to donors for different amounts of funding. Deduct the cost of the rewards from the cost of funding to find your true net funding needs (especially if the rewards are things like t-shirts that aren't directly related to your project). Keep in mind that variable rewards at different donation levels with variable true net funding percentages means that even if you reach your funding goals, the amount of true net cash you have received after rewards are doled out can be highly variable depending on the percentages of low reward backers and high reward backers.
Setting a Time Period
Kickstarter recommends setting 30 day project periods- and with good reason. A $10,000 30 day project has a 35% chance of success, whereas a 60 day project only has a 29% chance of success. Keep in mind that this could be variable for your personal project given your audience.
Making Content Alluring
Including a video within your promotional materials will do a lot to help you build funding regardless of whether or not you are actually raising money for a project unrelated to the medium of a video (such as an art display). Projects with a video have a 37% chance of success as opposed to those that don’t, which only have a 15% chance of success (for tips on creating a great Kickstarter video, watch Kickstarter's tutorial at the end of this guide.
Building an Audience
Don’t try to build an audience on Kickstarter. Establish your audience before you create a Kickstarter campaign. Your pre-Kickstater friend network on Facebook is the single largest factor determining a kickstarter campaign’s statistical odds of success. If you are raising over $10,000 and have between 10-100 friends, you have a 20% chance of raising the money, if you have between 100-1000, your odds increase to 20%, and if your network is 1000+ strong, your odds go up to 40%.
While it is technically against Kickstarter’s rules, some initially fund a portion of their projects out of their own pockets (perhaps funding themselves through a family member’s account). Though not officially sanctioned, this tactic can be used to build momentum as it does with other social media. If your campaign is considered “failed” by Kickstarter, the site will apply a meta tag to your fundraising page that prevents it from being indexed by search engines, making it exponentially more difficult to raise money.
Aim to get your project featured on Kickstarer, as featured projects have an 89% chance of success, whereas unfeatured projects have a 30% chance. Bear in mind that getting featured is very difficult; the tactic should not be a linchpin of your media strategy. Instead, plan on reaching out to bloggers and media sources that have covered similar stories in the past. One strategy proposed on Tim Ferris’s blog is to find said bloggers by running reverse image searches of pictures from similar kickstarter projects. For projects with obscure names or long titles, simply searching for them will give you functionally identical results. Once you have found bloggers who have covered fundraising projects similar to your own, review their work and respectively reach out to them, specifically pitching your project in a way that jives with each blogger’s past work and style.
Finally, Kickstarter has a very solid and thorough guide to creating a crowdfunding campaign that I suggest you explore. They also have some good, relatively up-to-date, stats, which can be used in creating your own deductions about trends in crowdfunding.