October 1, 2013

Making Sure You Get Your Kickstarter Rewards

Remember when Kickstarter was in its infancy? It was a novelty, a way to shake up the distribution system – it put power in the hands of creators. You no longer had to wait on publishers or middlemen, you could create a project, get funding from your fans, and press start. It's grown by leaps and bounds and has been used to fund everything from albums to technology to comic books. But how often do rewards go unfulfilled because we forget about them?

When you're not getting a product until months or even over a year down the road, it's easy to lose track of what's supposed to arrive in your mailbox or your email inbox. I checked the number of successfully funded projects I've backed. There are 26 of them and of those, I've received 17 rewards. That's not so bad. However, one of those rewards is over a year overdue. I recently saw someone tweet that they'd received one reward of 43 backed projects. Yikes.

I've discovered an easy way to make sure I receive the rewards I've paid for, and it's such a simple system I feel silly posting about it but it might help someone else. The trick is to use calendar reminders and to make sure you have elected to receive project updates and notification when the project is successfully funded. The step by step:

  • I back a project. I forget about it and file the emails from Kickstarter until I receive notification that it was successful and that my credit card will be charged.
  • Once I receive that notification, I go to the Kickstarter project to verify which reward I chose and look at the estimated delivery date.
  • I take that information and go immediately to my calendar (I use Yahoo's calendar since I have Yahoo email but you can use Outlook, Google, paper, whatever - if you use paper, I recommend putting the reminder on a Post-it note so you can move it) and go to the last day of the month/year when the reward is supposed to be delivered. I create an event titled “Did I get Kickstarter reward X from X project?”
  • I forget about it again until that reminder pops up a month later or several months later or until I get the reward – whichever comes first.
    • If I get the reward first, I delete the reminder from my calendar.
  • Once the reminder pops up stating my reward is due and I haven't got it, I go to the Kickstarter project page and check the latest updates. If there is an update about a delay, I update my calendar reminder to the new date.
  • If the updates don't mention any reason why the shipment would be late, I contact the creator of the project. I recommend sending a direct message via Kickstarter's system rather than commenting or emailing them. I follow up politely until I receive a response (don't nag the people to death unless you have to).
  • I leave the email reminder open in my inbox until I get a response or the reward.
  • If you don't receive any response after several attempts, you can ask for a refund. Kickstarter does not provide refunds or take responsibility because when creators create projects they agree to terms which make them legally responsible for following through on owed rewards.
Tada! It's not difficult but setting that reminder as soon as you get notification that funding was successful makes a huge difference.

A few other random Kickstarter notes:
If you're going to participate in crowd-funding, you should learn one thing before you begin: manage your expectations. Even though those reward options have estimated fulfillment dates, they are almost always late. In fact, I've never received a Kickstarter reward on time. It's been close but never exact. I wouldn't recommend planning on rewards being presents unless the recipient won't remind receiving a voucher instead of an actual product.

Now, in most of those cases the creators of the Kickstarter project have posted constant updates about progress. Usually it's because of unforeseen factors like product quality, shipping delays from the manufacturer, or personal problems. Pro tip: it's not professional to use personal life (barring extreme emergencies) as an excuse when people have given you their money.

However, I've had to prod for information on more than a couple of occasions and it's frustrating when people are unresponsive. I have two examples. One project was supposed to ship out their graphic novels in July; I still hadn't received it by August. I sent them a message, they apologized, and I received it promptly.

On another project, I didn't receive the comic I was supposed to get. When it was two months overdue, I checked their last update to make sure I hadn't missed anything and no, they stated everything without a sketch was shipped. I saw several comments from people who also hadn't received their copies. I wrote the creators of the project, and they didn't know why I hadn't received mine. They said they'd send another. Three weeks later, I didn't have it. I wrote again and they said they put it in the mail. Uh-huh. Meanwhile others are still commenting about not getting their comics. I did receive it eventually, but if I wouldn't have had reminders set I would have forgotten about both projects.

I fully advocate crowd-funding and getting creator owned projects out to the world, but just remember to get what you paid for and don't be afraid to ask for updates!

What are your tips for making sure you get your Kickstarter reward?

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