Kickstarter

As a web media consultant, I have a responsibility to not only know about new tech and tools, but understand their implications. I also must be able to communicate their value and their risk to my clients in plain language. I share the blog post below as a demonstration of this skill. Please read beyond the introduction intended for a general audience, for more interesting insight.

A few weeks ago, I became obsessed with a new website, a tool called Kickstarter.com. Have you heard of it?

I became obsessed and couldn’t figure out why. A friend had invited me to support her art project. It was great! By the end of the week, however, I had donated to a few other project by people I didn’t even know. I would have unloaded my checking account without an intervention.

I was confused. I started talking with everyone about Kickstarter. Why did I become so obsessed?

Kickstarter is a fundraising platform. You or anyone, even organizations, can use Kickstarter to raise money for a project. It gives you little features to share your project on facebook, and lets you receive donations by credit card.

I was eager to make more donations. They were small donations, but if I didn’t cut myself off, it could have become a very expensive habit.

Two Questions

I had 2 questions:

  • Why am I eager to talk about Kickstarter?
  • Why does it make me such an easy donor?

I found an answer. Before I share it, you have to understand a little context: I’m a talented finder of new web tools and gadgets. I’m not a huge twitter fan, but my username @mw is just two letters long, created long before many people had signed up. I’ve upgraded to Firefox 3.6, but started using it on version zero-point-four. This doesn’t make me special, but it does give me some perspective on what makes web tools click.

Kickstarter is 5 or so years late in the game. There have been countless wonderful platforms that do similar things, including kiva, prosper.com, pledgebank, chipin, fundable, firstgiving, and dropcash. They have different features and tools, but are all variations on a similar peer-to-peer fundraising theme. I tried each of these platforms, and most are great tools, but none of them became an obsession. None of them became a risk to my personal financial future.

The FAQ and frequent answer to life’s mysteries

To answer my questions, I turned to the FAQ on Kickstarter. I thought, maybe other people wondered Why am I so eager to talk about Kickstarter? Or Why am I am compelled to donate to these project? And well, much to my surprise, I found my answer.

At the top, the 3rd FAQ under “basics” says:

  • Why do people support projects?

And the answer in one word:

  • STORIES! Kickstarter projects are efforts by real people to do something they love, something fun, or at least something of note. These stories unfold through blog posts, pics, and videos as people bring their ideas to life. Take a peek around the site and see what we’re talking about. Stories abound.

Kickstarter is not an innovation in technology. It’s a platform built around stories. All of us who have taken a fundraising 101 course knows the importance of good stories. But we forget this, especially when we get excited about new tech and new tools.

Kickstarter succeeds, because (pay attention to this part) by design, it requires people who might know nothing about fundraising to build their campaign around a story, a growing narrative that engages donors and then invites them to become part of the story.

In particular, Kickstarter:

  • has people lead their campaign with a video, a narrative about the project
  • builds suspense, like other tools, by counting down to a deadline and counting up to a goal
  • prominently features a space for blog updates about a project’s progress, sent to donors by email, giving meaning to that timer and goal
  • not only reveals donors with names and picutres, but it gives them a chance to add their voice … to add their story to what becomes a dynamic narrative of fundraising success.

Now that I understand Kickstarter and its influence on me, I’m ready again. Send me your projects and ask me to donate. Tell me stories I will never forget.

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