Some projects make their goal in the first few days. More often, though, we see the ones that inch toward their goals slowly and steadily. And on occasion, it comes down to a photo finish as the project crosses its funding threshold in the last few hours (or even minutes!). Those are the projects that we, at the Kickstarter office, are watching, refreshing, and obsessing about.
We thought it would be interesting to talk about this final-day phenomenon, so we picked out three creators with projects of varying goal amount, and asked them to talk about the last day. What was it like, with its anxieties, triumphs, and emotional moments? Those three creators were Remy Karns from Classroom Aquatic, Tina Essmaker from The Great Discontent, and Anna Wilson from Delta Mouth Literary Festival.
The graphs for Delta Mouth and Classroom Aquatic show a pretty gradual climb. How did that feel?
Anna: We have some dyed-in-the-wool supporters, but we have to work pretty hard to remind a lot of busy folks that our fundraising efforts come with expiration dates and that we really truly cannot make the festival happen without grassroots funding. Overall the response was positive and people admired the effort we had to put into the project to maintain activity. Some folks questioned the validity of this type of fundraising, with comments like, "Why doesn't the school just pay for the festival?" This was an opportunity to share information and stories speaking to the need for crowdsourced arts funding, both practically, as states slash arts and education budgets (hello, Louisiana?), and ideologically, as state-funded event will inevitably support a different group of artists than an independent event.
Remy: The gradual climb was something we were very pragmatic about. Despite this being our first Kickstarter, we were all aware of the "bathtub" nature of how projects received funding. Everyone was very excited about the working on the game itself, so we never let a middle-period day with very low funding get us down.
Conversely, The Great Discontent had a strong start and then plateaued. How would you describe the response?
Tina: Our community is extremely enthusiastic about The Great Discontent. Our readers are very loyal, and many of them have sent us messages about how the stories of the people we’ve interviewed have had an effect on them, from providing general encouragement to helping them make major career decisions. We’ve always encouraged our community to take risks, and this was a really cool experience because the tables were turned—we were the ones taking the risk, and our readers were the ones encouraging us!
How would you describe your communities in general?
Remy: Wonderfully supportive! It was great to see all the community feedback about the game, whether it was private messages sent to us or people making videos of themselves trying out the demo.
Anna: The LSU literary community is pleased that student organizers have been moonlighting to bring this event together and we have received support from both the English Department and the English Graduate Student Association. A lot of our organizational efforts strive to make the festival truly a community event, and we dedicate significant resources to bringing innovative literary artists out into the larger Baton Rouge community--readings/performances take place at venues around town. We're still building awareness in Baton Rouge but we have received significant support from Baton Rouge Gallery and from businessman Dave Remmetter, an owner at Chelsea's Cafe and Radio Bar.
Tina: In general, people are very supportive. Our readers are amazing, and so are the people we interview—many of them have become friends.
How did you keep people engaged with the project throughout its life?
Anna: We used a combination of social media and in-person hounding.
Tina: We did a few things; some were planned, and some were spontaneous. We posted the campaign link in the about section on all of our social accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and on our site. We posted daily updates on Twitter and Facebook to remind people that the campaign was happening. We added new rewards halfway through our campaign to keep things exciting. And a little over halfway through, we added two print-first features to the magazine, one which we chose and the other which we asked our backers to choose.
Remy: We kept the community engaged by listening to their comments and criticisms about our Kickstarter, always letting our backers know that we would answer any and all questions they had, and tailoring our updates and edits based on what they wanted to know more about and what they responded most enthusiastically to. The community around the game was indispensable in helping direct the idea of the game and how we pitched it.
A lot of your support came from the very last day. What did that day feel like, and how did you get through it?
Anna: I sort of pretended that I didn't have room to consider that our project might fail. Yes, it was nerve-wracking, a bit, but I believed in Kickstarter stats that indicated that if we funded substantially we were very likely to make our goal. I deeply believe in the festival's mission and I think this helped a lot. I I just focused on my faith that people would come together to support art and community!
Remy: It was an incredibly emotional experience. On the final day, we were quite a ways away from our goal, and by that time we had come to accept that we weren't going to make it—we were even in the process of mapping out our eventual relaunch! We were all being very pragmatic and objective about it— "Oh, well, you know, it was our first try, we learned so much and can do it better, it was a valuable learning experience and we'll get them next time," but despite all that, I remember feeling a wave of sentimentality towards everyone who had contributed to our project. After I began posting my updates thanking everyone who had supported us, people began taking to social media en mass to bring about support for the game: friends, family, designers I consider my heroes, people who had covered the game or interviewed us, all these wonderful people began working to help us reach our goal. I'll admit, I was bawling. I couldn't suppress how grateful I was to everyone who had help make this a reality.
Tina: When we woke up on the last day of the campaign, we still needed over $35k to meet our goal. We weren’t sure if it was possible. We had raised $30k in the first 24 hours of our campaign, but we had less time than that to raise even more money! In the morning, people were already buzzing about it online; some said it looked like we wouldn’t meet our goal and others were showing support and urging friends to donate. We had already accepted that we might not meet our goal, but we decided to give it one last shot and really promote it.
We spent the day hunkered down at our computers. It was hard to focus on anything; the excitement was palpable, and we were running on sheer adrenaline. We felt like underdogs, but our community carried us over the finish line. It was a true testament to the people who believe in The Great Discontent and us. By the time we reached our goal, we were exhausted, but in honor of the campaign, we met up with Frank at The Meatball Shop for celebratory drinks and ice cream sandwiches. That night, we went to sleep feeling extremely grateful.