March 2, 2015

Kickstarter Campaign Tips from a Frequent Backer

Kickstarter, for the most part, is a fantastic idea. Creators can use the crowdfunding service to launch campaigns for products, films, books, tech - almost everything. Interested parties can support those campaigns at various dollar amounts and get rewards. Sometimes the reward is a simple "Thank you" from the creator, sometimes it's a product (Kickstarter is often used as a pre-order system), and sometimes it's a packed combination of products, meetings, and in-person events. Pretty straightforward, right? It sure seems like it from both creator and backer perspectives. However, there are often many moving parts and some of them are out of the creator's hands. But as the person responsible for a Kickstarter campaign, there are steps you can and should take to keep the people supporting you with their hard earned cash informed and happy.

I've backed 56 projects on Kickstarter. Of those, 49 were successful. Of those 49, I've received rewards in the timeframe promised about ten percent of the time. I've frequently had to send messages to check on my rewards after all rewards were supposedly shipped. I'm currently trying to figure out what happened to a reward from a project I backed in 2012. And there are a few projects that never went through and never offered refunds.

Backing Kickstarters is a risk. I get it. Over the years I've become more selective about which projects I support. I research the creators. I do back projects because I want to offer support, but if I pay for a product of some kind, I expect to get it. These days I'm more likely to just give money and select no reward because I don't want to set reminders and remember to follow up to make sure I receive what I'm supposed to. It's just as rewarding, gives the creator funds with no work attached, and it's off my radar. Done and done.

Not everyone wants to do that though and not even I always want to do that. As a person running a Kickstarter campaign, you should think and overthink about every step of the campaign and every reward before you launch. Some tips for Kickstarter creators from someone who wants to give you money:

- Talk to other creators who have successfully managed a Kickstarter campaign and delivered rewards on time or in a timely manner.

- About those rewards: Pad the estimated delivery date for each reward like crazy. Account for errors in production and shipping and then build in time for a natural disaster. I won't start worrying about where my reward is until the estimated delivery date. If date is upfront - even if it's way in the future - when I back the project, I'm in the know and cool until that date. And then if I get it early? I am much more likely to back your projects in the future because getting a Kickstarter reward early is amazing. Heck, it's nice to get one on time.

- If you miss your estimated delivery date on any reward, post an update as soon as you can. Don't wait until you have time to sit down and write a novella about the problem. Get to the point. Be honest about what the hold up is whether it's that you've been too busy with other work or you've experienced a production delay. The more you communicate, the less people you will tick off and the less messages/comments/emails/tweets you will get from people wondering where their rewards are. Be proactive. If this means you have to post several updates, do it. I'd rather be informed (even with bad news) than feel like you've dropped off the face of the earth with the money I gave you.

- Prepare a team before the campaign launches. Depending on what's involved with your Kickstarter, you're probably going to need more than a single person behind the scenes. If you are creating something, you can't be creating and answering backer emails and questions at the same time. Recruit a friend or a few friends and assign roles before you launch the Kickstarter. Overkill? Maybe, but hey, being overprepared is neat.

- In that overprepared vein, really consider the rewards and how many vendors, etc. you'll have to rely on to complete them. If you're offering tangible products, have a vendor and a back-up vendor in place. Think about what kind of rewards you're combining and if they'll ship at the same time or separately and what sort of costs that will add. Are they cool enough to be worth the cost and to ask for more money?

- Offer rewards at at least a few different price points.

- Don't ask for shipping addresses until it's almost time to ship. If you ask for them super early and end up shipping your rewards later than you expected, give people the chance to change the address before you start getting packages in the mail.

- Before you press that launch button, think about what system you will use to ensure you deliver every item to all of your backers. I'm surprised by how often campaigns seemingly do not have systems. If you start getting more money than you ever anticipated, look into third party fulfillment options. It seems like many Kickstarter campaigns run into trouble once they exceed their goal and add stretch rewards.

- Did I mention that overcommunication part? I would rank that as one of the most important parts of running a Kickstarter campaign.

Do you back Kickstarter projects? What advice would you offer to those who want to launch Kickstarter campaigns as a backer?


  1. This was incredibly thorough and helpful. Excellent post!

    Do you have a favorite aspect of Kickstarter?

    The Nerdy Redhead

    1. Being able to support creators - particularly those making comics!

  2. I agree that receiving stuff on time is important when running any business and that's especially true of Kickstarter, where your business is likely just starting out.

    One thing that stops me from backing many campaigns is that I live in Canada and find the extra fees I need to pay are so high that it makes it not worth it for me. So I am more likely to support local projects or ones with digital rewards.

    1. Ahh, you make a great point about digital rewards. Definitely a good option to have if neither you or your backers want to mess with international shipping.

  3. I'm much more inclined to back Kickstarters endorsed by bloggers, artists, or authors I already find to be trustworthy sources.

    And I'm with Megan R - I've never seen a Kickstarter I've wanted to back badly enough to pay $10 to $20 extra just for shipping! :P

    I also like lots of reward levels and extra stretch goal rewards - I do like getting *something* for my contribution, even if it's just access to a backers-only blog, or a wallpaper or whatever.

  4. I just ran across this article and as usual, it's thoughtful and well written! I wish it had been written before we launched our Kickstarter last July - ha! And I'm proud to say that we sent every single one of our rewards out in time so we fall in that 10% and it makes me proud.

    All of the points you made were spot on. Updates, several and creative reward levels and direct responses were key. That campaign was 30 of the most challenging days of my life from a work perspective. Half way through the campaign, my mother said to me (and I quote) "oh honey, it doesn't look like you're going to make it." But then we did.

    I do want to add though, that as a company starting out, we only have one vendor. Finding a manufacturer who is willing to take a risk with a start up and do low quantities and work with us was one of our biggest challenges. I also should have thought of asking more people to help us manage the campaign and communication, but this was our baby and we lived and breathed it. I felt like I wanted to be the one to communicate with every single backer.

    Thank you for supporting us, Kickstarter and entrepreneurs Amy! We would not be here today without the support of our Kickstarter backers!

  5. Kickstarter is getting pretty hard to ignore. Over 11,000 projects successfully met their funding goals. So how can you use Kickstarter to get your creative endeavor off the ground?

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