A couple of days ago, we got a customer service email from someone curious about how their money as a backer flowed to project creators. During the course of our exchange, the customer, named Eliot Sykes (above), casually mentioned that he has started a ritual wherein everyday he picks a different Kickstarter project to which he pledges $1.
Obviously we were struck by this idea. We spend so much time discussing what makes people donate that it almost felt like we had conjured Eliot out of thin air. Needless to say our curiosity was piqued, and upon further prodding, what Eliot told us about what he backs and why is something that every project creator needs to hear.
Personally, I was most struck by his enthusiasm for the actual people behind the projects he backs. ”It is important the creator is passionate and working on a project that excites me,” Eliot says. “A real person promoting a project they genuinely care about.” In other words, if you believe in what you’re doing, then others will, too.
Also, check out what he has to say about setting a minimum pledge amount that’s greater than $1:
“I don’t expect a reward at $1 but I would like a broader choice in how much to pledge to your project. How much I pledge is more of a factor of how big my wallet is, and less of a factor of how much I believe in your project. Plus it isn’t just the money the backers donate, there is unquantifiable promotion too.”
Please take the time to read our Q&A with Eliot below. And creators, let’s hope your project manages to earn Eliot’s $1 and enthusiasm.
How did you first come upon Kickstarter?
I can’t remember where I first heard about it — Twitter maybe? Or a blog post? Anyway I remember browsing Kickstarter when it first launched and there were just a handful of projects. I thought, “what a cool idea I hope it works out.” So a few months pass by, I’m going through my bookmarks tagged “Fun” to take a break from work and clicked through to Kickstarter to see it had become rampant with projects. It was as if those early projects had gone casual-unprotected-sex-mad and produced a ton of offspring.
What do you look for in a project? What makes you want to donate?
I don’t think there’s a particular category of project. So far I’ve pledged to writing, comic, painting, acts of kindness ,and documentary projects, and music shortly I hope, as I haven’t looked at any music projects yet. It is important the creator is passionate and working on a project that excites me.
It helps if the creator makes it personal somehow, like how these two creators talk to the camera in their videos: Kel McDonald for her Sorcery 101 graphic novel project and Emily Grenader for her Giant Crowd Painting. I hope they don’t mind me saying, and I think this is a good thing, the way they talk to the camera isn’t polished, it is just right, a real person promoting a project they genuinely care about. That’s what struck me about those two projects, I would love to be able to pledge more.
What would you LIKE to see in projects that you maybe don’t? What do you think project creators could do to really make people want to donate?
- Creators being on twitter and links to their twitter profiles, it’ll help their promotional efforts and it is fun to be able to communicate with the creator directly and publicly. @nickdpi is good at that for his Cadence & Slang book project.
- Coordinated efforts to get the projects promoted. For example, with only a little organization some projects could get more exposure on Digg and Stumbleupon if all the backers voted it up, or if they all wrote a letter to a targeted newspaper, magazine or blog requesting they feature the project. Maybe there are some tools and advice Kickstarter could provide to encourage this targeted promotion more.
- Allow donations from a $1 up. There’s been two projects I’ve wanted to donate to but their lowest donation is $5. I’ve commented to ask for them to consider reducing it (no response yet :( ), I’m not sure why they do it. Perhaps they think backers who’ve donated $5 would have only pledged $1 instead, and I expect there’s some truth in that, however I don’t think it’s quite in the open spirit of Kickstarter, I don’t expect a reward at $1 but I would like a broader choice in how much to pledge to your project. How much I pledge is more of a factor of how big my wallet is, and less of a factor of how much I believe in your project. Plus it isn’t just the money the backers donate, there is unquantifiable promotion too.
- More jokey rewards that don’t cost the creator anything other than a few seconds like “For $1 I’ll dedicate my first cup of coffee tomorrow to you” or “I’ll post a clip to YouTube of me shouting any word you like”
- It helps if creators are themselves, personal, accessible, fun, and show how much they care about a project.
Any other thoughts?
I’d love to see some Kickstarter projects on Missed Connections. I’m also thinking a project involving gratitude journals would be fun, as one of my other daily web vices along with Kickstarter is thankfulfor.com — if you’re looking for a happiness boost a daily gratitude journal (online or off) is a good start.
I think there are a lot of projects out there that don’t need a funding kick-start but could do with a promotional kick-start, I wonder if this is something Kickstarter could offer? Perhaps a Digg-style site that is edited for creative projects (the creative projects don’t need to have been started on Kickstarter — Digg is great but can be a bit too coarse grained, there’s only broad relevent topics for creative projects like “Movies” and “Design”). A couple of projects I like that could benefit from this are Paul Shortt’s missed connection interventions and Sophie Blackall’s missed connections illustrations (the reason I like missed connections so much is thanks to my pet project, http://www.missedconnections.com/).