Meet a Backer: Hope Leman, Most Helpful

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To celebrate hitting $1 billion in pledges on Kickstarter, we’re putting the spotlight on the people who made that happen. We’ll be posting excerpts from chats with some notable backers, talking about projects they love and the joys of supporting someone's idea.

Hope Leman of Corvallis, Ore., is known in the Kickstarter community for the great feedback she gives creators — everything from a pat on the back to a “Hey! You should really send an update!” nudge. She has backed 224 wildly diverse projects and is one of 1,627 people who’ve "completed the pie" by backing a project in every category. When she isn't on Kickstarter, Hope is a research information technologist at a hospital. 

Why back projects?

I’m interested in technology and open data and academia, so Kickstarter blends into several of my interests. Also literature and film and… all over the map! I just like to encourage young people who are doing something worthwhile. Not necessarily young — just people. I back a lot of things just for a dollar, just to show support and enable them to get that first crucial 10 backers.

The first thing I backed was GoldieBlox. It was a woman entrepreneur and it was science education for young girls, which appealed to me. And also she responded immediately — I wrote her and said, "I don't really like the pink ribbon," and she wrote back and said, "It doesn't have to be pink! It can be any color!" So I loved that, because she responded and she listened. And that's what I tell all the people: You have to respond as quickly as you can because the attention span — I'll wander away if i don't get a response.

What appeals to you in a project?

My criteria are if the project meets a need, or if it's just simply cool. It doesn't have to be saving the world, but it has to be something that's not dumb. If it's innovative, if it's worthwhile, and if the person seems to be a good person who makes a convincing case.

And also if they're badly proofread I tend not to back them, because that's really important.

What are your favorite projects?

I liked Sewing Arteries in the Snows of Korea because it was a young medical student who was researching medical history. I thought that was cool and worthwhile. And I also liked Teaching the Body which was about an exhibition on anatomical illustration. She did a very good job of updating. People that update a lot and seem engaged and excited about what they're doing, I really like.

What kind of feedback do you give to creators, and how do they respond?

I often tell them you can’t just assume that once you launch the project, people are going to give you money just at the blink of an eye. You have to woo them and you have to engage them and you have to appreciate them! When I've backed something, oftentimes they'll write a thank-you note, and that's wonderful. That engages me and also it’s flattering. Because they notice — and that shows that they're actually interested in their own project.

Oftentimes they'll send me the thing even though I have not pledged the amount that merits it. But they'll say, well, you were so helpful with our corkscrew that here’s a corkscrew just for you! And that's kind of sweet.

What's the best thing about backing?

It makes you feel like you are somehow contributing to technological innovation. Like the Memoto — I’m interested in the whole idea of participatory innovation. People really were commenting on that and saying, this is how you can tweak it and this is what we think. And then Memoto was responding very quickly and appreciating what was being said. I think that's fascinating.

Some projects are like, who would back that? And yet they do! Sometimes I'll think, well, that’s just not going to make it — but it does, and sometimes it makes it by fivefold what it was asking for. It's very humbling in that way. It tells me, well, you don’t know as much as you thought you did, which is a good lesson.

Kickstarter is wonderful for technology, it’s wonderful for the backers, it's exciting and interesting, it makes us feel worthwhile. It's very much a public service to invention, to innovation, to art and literature. It's just a wonderful mix of things.

    1. Lisa Vollrath on

      Hope, thanks for mentioning the thank you note. I received one from a creator recently, and I thought it was very nice of him to take a moment, and thank each of us individually. I believe I'll now spend my afternoon thanking the folks who have signed on to the project I recently launched!

    2. Hope Leman on

      Hi, Lisa. I am so glad you took the time to comment. Somehow I had overlooked your project and am so glad you took the time to stop by here. I really like your project--I have only recently learned about the whole culture of zines from interviewing the scholar Kate Eichhorn (my interview with her is here From her, I learned about the librarian/archivist Jenna Freedman (who does a lot of tweeting here

      I really liked your video. Loved your frankness about how expensive it is to publish a zine and why you are employing Kickstarter as the the venue in which to raise the funds you need. Yours is exactly the kind of project that shows the value of Kickstarter. It enables writers and artists to keep alive media like zines and thereby enrich the culture and also enables people like me who are not employed by big media groups to do what we can to contribute to literary endeavors. Win-win!

      Good for you for writing thank-you notes. That is so important. You also looked professionally attired in the video. That is important too. And I liked the fact that you discussed how this second project differed from your first one and what you have learned along the way. That helps everyone learn from your experiences. And you also lay out clearly what a zine is and how the funds will be used. A real model of how to conduct a Kickstarter campaign, seems to me.

      Keep up the good work on zining!

    3. Matt Marcy on

      Hey Hope -- Thanks for your insights. I'm currently funding my project, but it's not a technological innovation, it's a web series. This means, of course, that the end product will be free, so I'd imagine that people will choose to back, most likely, simply because they want to see the project happen (although we ARE offering some fun rewards). I wonder if this requires a different approach than a project where backers are essentially "pre-buying" a product (or even a movie) that's cool or useful.
      We're very proud of the video we put together, and I definitely take time to thank everyone who backs at any level. As we continue to try to find ways to encourage people to support the project, I really appreciate your thoughts!

    4. David Gaipa


      Glad to see someone that appreciates all Kickstarter has to offer. I too enjoy getting that (sometimes immediate) thank you note. My favorite note came from the creator that said that I backed the project before their own family did.

      I enjoy steering creators in a good direction if I notice something that may hurt the project's chances.

      I enjoy all of the cool things I find on here and I am proud to stand alongside someone like you who has "completed the pie", helped creators, shared the cool new things and believes in the creativity found here!

    5. Lulu Lin on


      Thanks for the advice about the Thank You card and for sharing your insight on what makes other Kickstarter projects great! We're definitely going to send out cards for our project!

    6. Hope Leman on

      Hi all. Sorry to so slow getting to your thoughtful notes. I was a reading biography of the painter James Whistler…, that I hope to review. He probably would have loved Kickstarter because not only was he a great artist, he was also very enterprising about marketing his work and reaching out to new audiences and cultivating patrons.

      I'd like to respond to Matt's questions. I have never backed a Web series, so I am not expert on that genre. But I would like to make a few suggestions.

      First of all, it is great that there is a Twitter account for the project I am a great believer in Twitter for getting the word about projects. But I noticed you have not tweeted the fact that you have updated twice since you launched the project. You should definitely do that and also use hashtags. You might tweet, for example, "Just posted an update to out Kickstarter project, Disillusioned. #webseries #magician #comedy" or something like that. Hashtags help get the word out to those interested in certain subjects even if you don't yourself have many followers. I am hoping Kickstarter will add "Tweet this" buttons to update pages so that we don't all have to copy and paste the links to the pages of updates into our tweets.

      It may be hard for Matt to meet his goal because not everyone who is into magic is into comedy and not everyone who likes Web series is necessarily into magic and so on. That is why it important to be sure to reply to any comments you get pretty promptly. For example, a lady left an encouraging comment here: but there has been no reply. I would have said something on that page like, "Hey, Louise. Thanks so much for the support! We are excited and glad you are, too. You're a peach!" I would have sent her an email, to thank her privately (maybe you have done so).

      I would also think about updating slightly more frequently--and, again, tweeting that you have updated. Good luck!

      About David's comment here, "My favorite note came from the creator that said that I backed the project before their own family did. " I too like a personal note--like "Hey, Hope--you are our very first backer. Much appreciated!" Something a little personal in the thank-you note is always good. And it never hurts to note what the backer has already backed and say something, "You have backed some neat projects--so glad you like mine!"

      Good for David, too, for saying, "I enjoy steering creators in a good direction if I notice something that may hurt the project's chances. " One pet peeve I have is people who don't dress up a bit for their videos. Remember: you are asking for backers' money. Looking like a slob is not going to get you much--you have to show some respect for the audience. It's okay to dress casually, but don't look too slovenly. And try to avoid what I think of as "the dreaded talking head." I like videos that show me a glimpse of the project or product and only then switch to the project lead talking. Others may differ, of course. Just saying what I go for --and videos longer than three minutes tend to lose me.

      I am incredibly impressed by the portfolio of what David has backed--quite a legacy you are creating for yourself as a tech and cultural impresario and patron, guy. Good for you!

      And good for you, Lulu for writing thank-you notes. Again, I would be sure when people leave comments on you page: to respond to them. Many backers like the participatory aspect of Kickstarter and if a backers takes the trouble to post a comment is is wise to respond. That also shows potential backers that you are engaged with existing backers and could nudge those that are looking over your project to join in as backers.

      I liked the title of your project, "Fluid Dynamics: Pop Surrealist Painting Series by Lulu Lin." Punchy and clear.

      Thanks for your comments, everybody!

    7. Missing avatar

      Brett Noonan on

      Hi hope I got a question can you use kickstarter to start a restaurant business such as a coffee shop

    8. Hope Leman on

      Hi, Brett, That is a good question. I am not really an expert on whether you can use Kickstarter to start a restaurant business. I suggest reading this page…

      Certainly Food is a large category on Kickstarter and many people do seem to employ Kickstarter to help raise funds for food-related enterprises (like this ongoing project…). You might look over the Kickstarter category of Food… and see what kinds of projects are currently seeking funding. You do need to keep in mind that Kickstarter is designed to raise money for specific projects and not so much as a funding source for small businesses capital needs in general. That is, it would probably help if you had an up and running business and needed funds for a specific goal (i.e., purchasing a particular item of equipment). I would assume potential backers would go for something more specific as well rather than just funds in general. I suggest looking over the pages I have mentioned and addressing any additional questions to Kickstarter staff members. It is not really my place to speak for them on what projects are acceptable and the area of restaurant businesses does seem a little gray given that some of the projects on the Food page do seem to be designed to related to the opening of brand new businesses--like this campaign….

      Also, I noticed you have not backed any projects. You might want to do that so as to gain experience in how Kickstarter works and to show that you are engaged with it as a community. Backers tend to like it if someone asking for funds as backed projects him or herself.

      Hope that helps. I know it sounds a little wishy-washy!

    9. Missing avatar

      Brett Noonan on

      thanks hope I would love to back other people but I'm what you would call a bum meaning I'm flat broke and having a hard time finding work. was just trying to figure out a way to get my life up and running and maybe make something of myself.

    10. François Racine on

      Il serait apprécié que le site es un version en français pour le canada français province de Québec
      François Racine

    11. Hope Leman on

      Hi, Brett. I am so sorry you are going through a rough patch. Good for you for being so resilient and hanging in there. i hope things turn around for you. As the saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn.

      Francois's message led to to try Google Translate for the first time. This is Google's version of his message, "It should be appreciated that the site are a French version for the French province of Quebec canada
      thank you
      François Racine"

      I wonder if Kickstarter is looking into that. It would be neat if we could all back projects in every language there is! Here is how Google Translate rendered my thoughts on that into French:

      Quelle idée merveilleuse idée, François. Je parie qu'il ya des milliers de gens talentueux et brillants au Québec que non seulement les gens là-bas ne llike à dos, mais d'autres ailleurs serait aussi. Espérons Kickstarter a des plans pour créer des sites dans toutes les langues, il est!

      That is, "What a wonderful idea idea, François. I bet there are thousands of talented, brilliant people in Québec that not only people there would llike to back but others elsewhere would, too. Let's hope Kickstarter has plans to create sites in every language there is!"

      I wonder what native speakers of French think of the Google version. I hope they are not laughing at my Google-enabled French--"Je me demande ce que les locuteurs natifs de Français pensent de la version Google. J'espère qu'ils ne rient pas à mon Google permis français."

      Telle est la vie--such is life!

    12. Shoonyo Vishal Avchar on

      It is such a pleasure to be on this page. Hope, you indeed are a hope for so many aspiring creative minds.

      I am fairly new on Kickstarter and your responses inspire much confidence. Thank you for your contributions. I will be launching a new project next month and am researching ways in which to market most effectively. I would highly appreciate any support or guidance in this area for the new novel that I am authoring…

    13. Missing avatar

      Namaku Keren on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    14. Missing avatar

      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

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