Thursday, December 16, 2010

Will the Crowd Fund Our Project? A Kickstarter Story

Crowdsourcing--that's outsourcing your tasks to a large, unknown group of people presents a range of opportunities for museums--citizen science, mapping, identifying photo collections. But in a way, crowdsourcing of fundraising is one thing that I think small museums in particular may find very useful.  My colleague Sarah Crow and I have begun a project on Kickstarter and I'll use a series of entries on this blog to reflect on what we're learning in the hopes that it may be useful to others.

What's Kickstarter? 
It is "a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors."  And it's framed around two core beliefs:  
• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.
What's Our Project?
We're the Pickle Project and you can find us here on Kickstarter and the Pickle Project blog here.   It's a project that sprang from our separate experiences in Ukraine as Fulbright Scholars.  We both love food and bring complementary interests in food--mine around food as cultural expression;  Sarah around issues of sustainability, and both of us in terms of how it shapes communities.   Our long term goal is to create innovative traveling exhibitions in Ukraine and here in the US that encourage community conversations about food, culture and sustainability. 

Why Kickstarter?
The great thing about Kickstarter is that you don't need to be a non-profit to seek funding.  For us, that's perfect.  We're in the earlyish stages of the project and although we will seek a non-profit partner, at this phase, it made great sense to venture out on our own.
How Do You Get People to Pledge?
Kickstarter is all or nothing so we need to raise our goal by February 1 in order to receive any of the money.  Kickstarter is all about your ability to get the word out.  Kickstarter doesn't do that for you, you need to.  How are we getting the word out?  We blog, we tweet, we email friends and encourage them to share it, we have a Facebook fan page, we use our groups on LinkedIn,  we're pursuing traditional media coverage--anything and everything we can think of.

How Could This Work for Small Museums?
There's only been a few museum projects on Kickstarter.  One of the most successful was the Neversink Valley Museum in Narrowsburg, NY and Seth Goldman, their director, was incredibly generous in sharing his lessons learned during the process of successfully raising funds for architectural drawings and other work for a new building.  The World of Witches Museum in Salem raised almost $5000 for exhibits and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art also raised exhibit funds.  Unsuccessful?  A Teachers Museum and the Museum of Hawaiian Shirts. 

Local history museums already have networks--your members and others in your community.  You also have those people who grew up in your community and moved away and those enthusiastic genealogist who email you seeking information.   And don't say that older people don't use the Internet:  an updated Pew Charitable Trust study shows that email is almost ubiquitous, even with those over age 74.   So your audience or network is out there!
What Have We Learned So Far?
Some simple lessons for us and we're only four days into our project.
  • Research:  look at other similar and different Kickstarter projects;  find someone who's done Kickstarter before to talk to and share their perspectives;  read Kickstarter's materials and other blogs about what works and what doesn't.
  • Ask Before Leaping:  We sent our initial narrative off to about a dozen or so friends and colleagues to read, long before we posted.  (You know who you are--thanks!).  Their thoughtful feedback told us one thing--that we needed to more clearly connect the story of food in Ukraine with people here, today, in the United States.  So we did.
  • Make That Video Work:  Neither of us were video experts (even though I have one in the house) but we knew we needed a video to draw visitors into the story.  Thanks to our work and the generosity of friends who have also spent time in Ukraine, we put together a simple slide show with great photos using iMovie.  Looks simple, but took far more time than I expected.  We didn't need it to be perfect--but we did need it to be compelling--take a look and see what you think.
  • Cool Premiums:  We also looked at what other successsful projects has offered for premiums and tried to balance the cost and effort of the premium with the amount pledged.  And so, if you, generous reader, pledge $1000 Sarah or I will bring a Ukrainian dinner to your house!
  • All or Nothing Means no Messing Around:  Kickstarter is all or nothing.  You set the amount, you set the time frame (up to 90 days) and then, boom!  you launch the project.  You only get the money if you raise the full amount.  We know how much money we have to raise every single day between now and February 1 and that means no coasting, that every single day we'll be out there tweeting, facebooking or otherwise connecting with our networks.  So far, we're on target.
And finally, Don't be Shy!
As any fundraising professional knows, you don't get support if you don't ask.  So here's my ask.
Head on over to Kickstarter and support the Pickle Project because:
  • You love food
  • You're interested in cross-cultural understanding
  • You want to see how it works
  • You wish we understood more in this country about how to grow, cook and eat sustainably
  • You're interested in Ukraine
  • You've had a great time reading this blog this year
  • You want to support a passionate project in its emerging state
  • and of course, if you love pickles!
Thanks to all those who have already stepped up to the plate (the dinner plate perhaps) and supported us.  I'll continue to post our lessons learned--if you have specific questions, please comment away.  You can track our progress on the widget to the right and of course, we look forward to seeing you as a supporter!

Photos, top to bottom:
Market vendor, Opishne
At a Crimean Tatar feast.  photo by Barb Weiser
Milking in the Carpathian Mountains, photo by Christie Nold
Strawberry picking,  photo by Grace Eickmeyer
Women at the pottery festival, Opishne
Riding home from school in Crimea, photo by Grace Eickmeyer


Anonymous said...

Linda - This is a very good tutorial on Kickstarter. The video is very important. Also check out what projects related to yours have been funded and what have not - see what you can learn. Be careful when you set your goal - too high may not work - too low may also be bad. And finally, work your connections.


Linda said...

Hi Susan--Thanks for your comment. I'll continue to post what I learn, and look forward to learning from others as well. Appreciate your good suggestions and we're hard at work working our connections! Hope you'll consider supporting the Pickle Project!