Crowdfunding: The Psychology of Choosing

There is a perception, both online and on the street that, really, if you want to begin a crowdfunding campaign Kickstarter is the *only* way to go.

If that’s true then why are 400+ crowdfunding platforms active worldwide, with new ones launching regularly? Why would anyone bother?

Some people even use the words Kickstarter and crowdfunding interchangeably. As in “pass the Kleenex,” even when it’s any old off-brand tissue.  Just recently on a crowdfunding discussion group someone requested help with his campaign that began this way: “I just posted a Kickstarter…” Yes, the creator used Kickstarter to launch his campaign but still.

Why the cult of Kickstarter? People are beginning to create cottage industries around it. A statistics genius creates an analytics tool to track only Kickstarter projects. That’s a big universe to exclude, considering just this week Indiegogo launched 1,556 new campaigns.

Someone else runs a Kickstarter campaign specifically so he can raise funds to teach other people how to run their successful Kickstarter campaigns and then document their stories. Very evangelical, but what for?

Ebooks have been written on the topic of exactly what steps one must take to achieve Kickstarter Nirvana. I thought crowdfunding was supposed to be all about connecting to the masses, not getting into a clique.

So why are we limiting our knowledge base to Kickstarter’s model? They’d be the first to say that many projects are simply not suited to the their platform. In fact, their guidelines to qualify are stringent. Sometimes their decisions appear downright subjective. Lots of ink has been spilled parsing the ins and outs of those decisions.

Sure, some Kickstarter campaigns have done crazy-well. But so have those on other sites. Recent data reports that only 44% of Kickstarter projects reach their funding goal, which has much to do with their “fixed” all-or-nothing funding model, while most other platforms offer a  flexible option of keeping your take by paying them a higher percentage, even if you don’t reach your goal.

I have a lot of respect Kickstarter. They really seem to have a vision for their site. They’re not shape-shifting in order to be loved. But that just makes people want them more! And the Kickstarter yaysayers continue to raise bars and expectations falsely.

So I’m going to say it for all those people who feel shunned from the crowdfunding space:  Kickstarter is not for everyone! Back in 2009 it may have been true but social technology advances faster than dog years, so continuing to perpetuate that myth is simply outmoded thinking.  It also does a disservice to all the other worthy platforms and to future creators who are diligently hanging on to every pro-Kickstarter word blogged, and dreaming of joining the ranks of other Kickstarter “star” creators. Many are later devastated when they’re turned down because of Kickstarter’s approval process. Others do launch but if they fail they feel betrayed, as if Kickstarter possessed magical powers that guaranteed success.

What should creators keep in mind before launching a campaign?

1. First, people do not browse platforms with the intention of finding a project to support. That’s already been proven. Any crowdfunding sites simply hosts your project. It is you, creator, who must lead your friends and associates who believe in you there.

2. So look for platforms that are aligned with your project goals.  Niche sites, like the new Gambitious, are useful because they draw from the existing community you are trying to reach. Just make sure they are legit, provide good customer service and data collection and there’s no reason you can’t succeed.

3. Next, do your part! There are no magical forces at work on any platform. If you’re considering running a campaign, begin building your social network now. And you know drill: do it thoughtfully, by participating and caring about the people you’re following, friending and connecting to.

4. Realize that like social media itself crowdfunding, and how to use effectively, is changing every day. It’s exciting but it requires careful monitoring and attention to achieve success. And if you can’t keep up, get some help.