Crowd Funding – Where the Hell is my Gift? – Part 10

I feel like a three year old: I want my gift and I want it now.  Now, now, now!  

So, I did a bit of research and after I’m feeling more like a ten year old. Intellectually I understand the fact that instant gratification is not always possible and that a reward waits in the future, but I still want my gift now, darn it.

I have invested in three projects on Kickstarter, a book, a cultural center and a film. Of course I have not invested in either, I have invested in PARTS of either:  small parts.  And herein lays the problem.  We (the Kickstarter community) invest in our friends’ and colleagues’ projects, or causes we are passionate about and more than not they are asking for donations to cover parts but not all of their funding needs. 

If I fund-raise 10K for research of a documentary film I would be foolish to promise the finished film. First off, the delivery would be a few years from now and secondly I would not be able to guarantee delivery to begin with, because too many things can happen from research to finished film.  This seems too basic to have to mention, but I guess I do: make your pledges such, that you can deliver and do so on time. And in the interim: communicate!

There needs to be as much thought given to the fundraising part as to the delivery.  The goal is not only achieving our monetary goal by a certain date, but also – and equally important if not more important – the goal has to be to deliver on your pledge promises.  The dates for delivery have to be realistic and the goods or services to be delivered have to be realistic. And in the interim: communicate! (No, not a mistake – I just want to make that point again).  Shit happens, if it does: communicate.  Things get delayed:  communicate.  The creative process is a slippery one:  if it takes a lovely detour: communicate. 

I give you the three examples of the projects I have supported.  I did re-read and watch each of their pitches and here’s what works and what doesn’t.

Although I have waited the longest for Clouse’s Houses, the author Carol Clouse did a fine job managing expectations, explaining plan B upfront and keeping her backers up to date throughout the year she said it would take to finish her book.  Her fundraising goal was $5,000 which she reached June 22, 2011 with $5,055.  I pledged $25 to receive the book and an art card and to support (most importantly) the editor of the book for whose professional services the fundraiser took place. Needless to say, the editor, Barbara Fischkin is a friend of mine.  It’s a bit over a year, but the last communication to backers was six days ago and I’m apparently getting a 2nd edition (after mistakes where discovered in the first) and it will be shipped to me by August 1st.  

Good job: A. Why: Communication throughout the process.

The feature film Mulliganset out to raise $10,000, which it did by December 31, 2011 with $11,528. I pledged $50 to receive a golf ball and tee, both branded with the Mulligan logo, which I received promptly, but I am waiting on the digital download of the film and the score (both promised for May 2012).  

I just mailed with David Mandel who wrote on this blog about the behind the scenes launch a Kickstarter campaign and he says “they’re on it”.  Last Kickstarter communication: April 9, 2012. 

This would seem to be a quick and easy fix. You’re finishing a feature film, you don’t have a professional staff and you’re probably juggling a few new projects to keep paying the rent.  Make sure you make one person responsible of posting updates on a regular basis and everybody is going to be happy.  But you NEED to update.  And: if you think you’ll be done by May 2012 – add three months to be safe.  

Fair job: B+. Why: they did a partial delivery early on, but then got sloppy on their communication and delivery.

Now, on to the outfit that will make a Kickstarter success harder for the rest of us who come after.  Last summer I supported the cultural center Park51 (NYChildren Exhibit: Let’s open Park 51’s doors to the world!) for many reasons, one being that I was going to show my film there in conjunction with the exhibit NYChildren which ties in nicely with my film Abraham’s Children and the cultural center itself.  Park51 reached their fundraising goal of $70,000 on August 10th, 2011.  

I pledged $25 to receive the book of the NYChildren exhibit, which was available for purchase at Park51.  This was September 2011. The last communication to backers on Kickstarter was posted on October 4th, 2011. No book, no explanation and this organization has professional staff.  

Failure: F. Why: no delivery, no communication AND the book exists. Double boo!

This is the moral of the story: if it weren’t for the fact that I was supporting FRIENDS I’d not go back on Kickstarter to support a project.  I think the Kickstarter model is awesome and I hope one day to be one of the successful fundraisers to be added to a list of great creative projects at exceeded fundraising goals, but without delivery of pledges it doesn’t work and will increasingly work less, if potential backers, other than your parents, siblings and spouses, shy away after being ‘burned’.  Set realistic delivery goals and keep on communicating – it takes so little to do so, so do it!

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