A couple of weeks ago a journalist contacted me with a few questions about our take on Kickstarter. I was happy to answer her questions, and in the process had the opportunity to reflect more on our experience with the crowdfunding model of fundraising. You can see the article in the European webpage "The Beginner" here: http://www.thebeginner.eu/economy/all-in-finance/712-internet-capital-sourcing-model-gives-hope-to-small-businesses
The article is great and we're quoted twice! I decided to post the full answers to the questions here for any of you who might be interested.
How did you hear about crowdfunding and why did you decide to give it a go? What has been your experience? What in your view are the drawbacks to such a system? Would you use it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I first heard about crowdfunding because of my interest in social enterprise, which led me to the person-to-person microlending platform Kiva.org. This site allows individual "investors" to back small loans to entrepreneurs around the world. What Kiva does for development, poverty alleviation, and entrepreneurs, Kickstarter does for creative projects and artists. And I think it's fair to say that artists always struggle more than they should to be able to do their work free from financial constraints.
Our project, an effort to digitize and promote more than 100,000 hours of incredible East African music from the Radio Tanzania archives, is extremely urgent because the reel-to-reels containing the music are in an advanced state of deterioration. I decided to give Kickstarter a try because it gave us an incredible platform to spread awareness about our project and raise funds immediately. I also love the way that crowdfunding via Kickstarter gives us the direct, individual connection to our backers. One of the best parts of running a Kickstarter campaign is interacting, through messages, comments, and updates, with our supporters. The rewards, once they come out, are a way to show our gratitude to each and every person who chipped in along the way. The relationship is ongoing, and hopefully the people who back us now will remain a part of this endeavor in the future.
Our experience so far has been exciting, rewarding, and yes, at times anxiety-ridden. It's such a rush to see backers coming to the project, and also very stressful when there are lulls in backing. Before I had recruited a few people to help me run the Kickstarter and social media campaign, I was working on this project solo and just keeping up and recruiting backers became a full-time job. Luckily, I had some time on my hands between my last Kiva Fellowship with Kiva in New Orleans and my preliminary trip to Tanzania (where I am currently). Once I got here, however, it was vital to have extra support.
Some people have suggested to me that just working a paying job would allow me to make as much money as we've raised on Kickstarter in the same amount of time. I think this approach misses the point, though. Yes, it takes a lot of time and energy to run a successful Kickstarter. In fact, we're only at $9,000 with a $13,000 goal and we have just two weeks to go, so the work is not finished yet. But Kickstarter is about much more than just the money-- it's about involving people in a project you care about and want to share with the world. For me, it really is about the community effort to see positive change and bring beautiful art into the world, or in our case, to revive a cultural treasure that has been forgotten. In Tanzania, people speak of "Ubuntu"-- which means, "I am because we are." Kickstarter illustrates that principle. It brings us together and takes us on a journey together. One of our backers, Nila U. posted about us on her Facebook to encourage other people to support our Kickstarter. She said, "What's more essential to the human experience than art?" She's right. And I'm thankful to her, and all of our backers, for being a part of this important work of preserving and celebrating art.
As I said before, the drawback to the Kickstarter system is the amount of time that goes into promoting the site and the chance that if you don't reach your goal, you won't receive any funding at all. It requires a great amount of effort and sustained commitment, so if you're not ready for that sort of investment, in time and emotion, I wouldn't do it. But for people who want to make their supporters and fans an intimate part of the process of creation, I whole-heartedly suggest using the Kickstarter platform. For us, the amount we are raising on Kickstarter is only enough to give us a start. Our fundraising will continue, and we will likely target larger, institutional donors, but I am really glad we were able to use Kickstarter for our start-up costs. I would certainly use Kickstarter again in the future-- and I'd benefit from the knowledge I've gained in this first effort.
Like I said in the short piece above, I'm so grateful for the existence of Kickstarter. Before crowdfunding-made-easy like this, it would have been impossible to raise this amount in the timeframe that we did. It has been one exciting and crazy ride, and I thank you all for being a part of it. But the biggest point, and the one I want you all to take away from this, is that we still have a few days left and it would be really amazing for us and for our project to raise a few thousand more dollars. We set the $13,000 goal because we didn't want to set a goal to high and not reach it. It's clear we underestimated you guys! So please, in these last few days, keep spreading the word, consider upping your pledge (which you can do if you go to 'manage my pledge'), and encourage your friends to chip in, too.
Rebecca and the Radio Tanzania Team