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Crowdfunding Guide

Part 4 Crowdfunding Tips from The Tucson Sentinel and Charlottesville Tomorrow

Originally presented at the Local Independent Online Publishers Association conference in Philadelphia in June 2015. Reprinted with permission.


  1. Back other people’s Kickstarter projects via the same account you will use for your organization’s campaign. You will get new ideas, and your account will look more credible to potential donors.
  2. A video is essential. It should be short and sweet (2–3 minutes). It doesn’t have to have great production values. It is nice if it looks great, but don’t let that be an obstacle to doing the campaign. Audio should be good quality. Try online resources like or to create smart-looking animations.
  3. Allow up to five days for your project to be approved. The financial back end has been streamlined to allow a business bank account to be the recipient of the funds raised instead of Amazon Payments.
  4. Don’t put someone’s job on the line for a campaign. In other words, if you are raising money for a new employee or staff position, don’t have that person identified and stressing out about the campaign. It’s better to have a project you can afford not to do if your campaign is unsuccessful.
  5. Pick items that are not very expensive or complicated to fulfill. Many of your backers (43–47 percent in our experience) will not want a reward so don’t buy a million t-shirts you don’t need (yes, that happened)!
  6. Get a short punchy URL. Submit your project with a compelling title. After it’s approved by Kickstarter, change the title to something even shorter and punchier. This is the title Kickstarter will use to create your campaign hyperlink, and you cannot change it after launch. Then after launching, switch the title back to the longer text you had in mind.
  7. You need an audience to recruit to your campaign. Having a robust social media following and email list are very helpful to recruiting supporters.
  8. Gifts outside the campaign. Some people just can’t handle Kickstarter; they’d rather hand you a check. Take it and treat them like every other valued campaign contributor. Send them updates, a thank you note and rewards. Don’t sweat the details that their amount isn’t reflected in the Kickstarter system.
  9. Have some “friends and family” on standby to make larger gifts as the end of campaign nears. Board members of a nonprofit can be particularly helpful here. You don’t want to take a chance your project won’t get funded.
  10. Multiple gifts. Some people will give a little at first, then increase their pledge as the deadline approaches, and they worry you will fail. This is good.
  11. Most of your money will come in the last few days. That’s just the way it works. Prepare for the anxiety.
  12. Charitable gifts. If you are a nonprofit, treat these contributions just like any other donation. If a donor gets something of value as a reward, subtract that from the value of the gift in the acknowledgement letter.
  13. New supporters and subscribers. You will recruit brand new donors via Kickstarter. Subscribe them to your email list. Add them to your contact database. Track these as a cohort to see if they become repeat donors (e.g., to your annual fund drive campaign).
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