The Power of $1

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Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra thank their backers
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra thank their backers

What does $1 get you these days? Not a lot. Maybe a newspaper, a candy bar, or a bottle of water. But when it comes to Kickstarter, $1 can go a lot farther than you might think.

For creators, a standout $1 reward can make a great first impression. It's a way to snag backer's attention, and bring them into the world of your project. In return, a $1 pledge is a backer's gesture of support — Kickstarter's version of "liking" something — since creators get an email notifying them of the action. 

Sometimes $1 can add up to much more than a gesture. Earlier this year Amanda Palmer set a Kickstarter record by having 4,743 people pledge to her $1 reward. The offering? A digital download of her new album. Nice deal!

What are some other $1 rewards that stand out? There are three types in particular:

The One Buck Chuckle

A sense of humor can go a long way. Putting a twist on the traditional "thank you" can elicit a chuckle and spark a prospective backer's interest. For instance, Penny Arcade’s project to remove ads from their comics site offered:

Others use $1 to show a sense of humor and reaffirm their project’s intent, like Atheist Shoes:

Or, like crime novel comic artist Roman Muradov, a dollar can be a chance to (fittingly) arouse intrigue: 

The Dollar Invite

Some of the great dollar rewards have been participatory. Literary magazine InDigest offered $1 backers a chance to be a part of the story:

Design & Thinking, a documentary project, offered two different $1 reward options. The first was fairly typical — a thank-you, along with access to project updates. But the second was special, limited to 20 backers:

(Not surprisingly, this tier sold out.)

Cartoonum, a large scale painting that depicted over 2,000 comic and video game characters, used the $1 reward as an opportunity for backers to weigh in: 

(According to his final project update, he ended up adding them all.)

Going Digital

A single dollar is barely enough to cover postage these days, so it makes sense that even the most inventive $1 rewards are usually digital or experiential in nature — but it can be even better when they're both. Take Molly Crabapple, for example.

For one week in 2011, the artist locked herself in a hotel room and drew pictures on butcher paper all over the walls. She called it “Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell.” Of her 745 backers, 131 pledged at the $1 tier, which gave them “access to a private live stream of the week-long drawing session.” It was a perfect exchange — fans were welcomed into the creative process, a priceless experience for many, and, in turn, Molly found a hyper-engaged audience for her work.

One-on-one digital experiences can be effective, too. The creator of the Funklet project offered a zany, interconnected reward at $1:

Besides being hilarious, this reward also created a sense of comedic urgency — ”get these quick before picture quality degrades” — and gave backers a sense for the creator’s personality.

Every Kickstarter project is about the relationship between a creator and their backers. The $1 reward tier presents an opportunity not only to cement that relationship, but to draw new backers into the fold. With creativity and a little personality, anything is possible. 

On that note, we'll end with DIY space photography project Bespin, who offered to send backer's names into space for a buck: 

Simple, inspirational, and totally in step with the spirit of the project. Perfect!

    1. Timothy Bristol on

      those are pretty cool, Wish I had thought of something like these

    2. Alex Hoekstra on

      Hey, I'm a big believer in the power of $1

    3. emmanuel on

      dollar makes a difference!!

    4. Deva Mirel on

      Love these dollar ideas!

    5. Aurora on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    6. Simon Kwan on

      Every dollar counts, and I'm counting on them to help my own project, the PodKit Watch + ClipClok, reach my funding goal! Please have a look-see:

      Cheers Everyone :-)

    7. Missing avatar

      Greg V on

      Penny Arcade project is against the guidelines! It doesn't have "a clear goal, like making an album, a book, or a work of art", it pays bills.

    8. Lori Kishlar & Sarah Marks on

      We went with a dollar reward and we will use it to unload old items we no longer sell at the festivals. maybe a keychain, a print with the color a teeny bit off, something with a bent corner. not crap, just things that arent relevant to our current stock.

    9. Christopher Alden on

      @Greg V: The "clear goal" is making and hosting a year of Penny Arcade.

    10. Missing avatar

      joshua borin on

      I built an excel tool that will allow people test out different reward structures. It's free of course!

    11. Michael Klosowsky on

      Dolla make me holla!

    12. Mohsen & Sepideh on

      very cool ideas :)

    13. Kellam R. Clark on

      Hey Joshua, Thanks for the excel tool. Jut what the doctore ordered.


    14. Tim Moon on

      Creative ideas. I think the $1 pledge is too underutilized.

    15. Lucas Alcalde on

      I agree with Tim, the $1 dollar pledge is underutilized, but hey; these guys did a great job!

    16. Greg Allum & Quirky Joe on

      I should have put one in for my project, is it too late?

    17. Kristian Fosh on

      Haha - didn't see this before, my £1 pledge was the one I put the most thought into:

    18. Missing avatar

      Namaku Keren on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    19. Missing avatar

      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.