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!

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