Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kickstarter Lessons, Part 2

Several weeks ago, as the Pickle Project's Kickstarter effort launched, I wrote about what we had learned as we did the planning and began.  And now, with just two weeks left, I wanted to update about what I learned about raising money in this way--and how it connects to so much else we do.

Some background:  the Pickle Project is an effort by fellow Fulbrighter Sarah Crow and I to document and share Ukrainian foodways with American audiences because we think we all have much to learn from a culture where many people grow, eat, forage, cook and preserve in sustainable, seasonal, local ways.  About a year ago we began a blog, which has been enriched greatly by guest posts by friends and colleagues who are, or who have, lived and worked in Ukraine.  But we're just two people with an idea--we're not a non-profit--hence, Kickstarter, a way for creative people of all types to crowdsource funding for projects.

So what else have we learned?

Your own network is the best network.  This type of funding really relies on networks and we've discovered that our own networks are the best way.  My network of museum colleagues, both those I really know, and those who know me virtually--as well as both our networks of friends (thanks Book Club members!) have been incredible supporters.  Neither Sarah or I have Ukrainian roots, so it's been a bit harder to break into the Ukrainian diaspora, but with some assistance,  including Sarah appearing on a Canadian Ukrainian radio show, Nash Holos,  over the weekend and a listing in a weekly Ukrainian email update,  we're beginning to see more support there.  The lesson is that it's hard to jump cold into a network. And of course, networks are built one by one by one.  If you're contemplating any project, consider who your organization knows and who knows you.
It takes time.  Every day, as anyone who follows me or the Pickle Project on Twitter knows,  we tweet,  update the Pickle Project Facebook page, and encourage people to support us.  We've appeared on radio shows,  emailed to our lists of contacts and friends' contacts, and done press releases and flyers. We knew this already, but it's really hammered home that the big wide world of the Internet is only as big as you make it.  And that takes time.

But global is global.  We've had supporters from Hawaii to Sweden to Ukraine and everywhere in between.  Amazing!

Givers are givers.  I would say that the biggest groups of supporters to date are museum colleagues,  students or recent students, and Peace Corps volunteers. I suspect none of those groups are distinguished by having fancy cars,  big houses, or even in some cases, jobs.  As a result, Sarah and I have been incredibly touched by their support.  And of course, there's plenty of statistics that demonstrate that people with lower incomes donate a higher percentage of their incomes to charity than those with larger incomes. 

Pictures, stories--and passion--count.  A bit into the effort, I started posting a food picture a day, either historic or contemporary,  on Twitter and on Facebook.   We've heard from several people that they love seeing those little pictures arrive every day.  Just words aren't enough.   On Kickstarter and on the blog,  we try make the topic fun, interesting, and even moving.  Our Kickstarter video is a little homemade effort which took a great deal of time but hopefully reaches out to those who know Ukraine--and those who don't.   I think giving is connected with passion.  I was reminded of this as I looked at  year-end fundraising letters in my mailbox.  One from a local organization moaned about money and proposed nothing new.  But another was full of optimism and plans.  One felt full of passion, one did not.   I suppose what this means is that whining is not a fundraising strategy!

Take the jump!  As we've begun some conversations with possible funders, the fact that we already have a presence via social media is proving to be of interest to them.  I often hear from people who say they don't have time to do a blog, or a website, or a Facebook page at their organization.  It takes time, but isn't that what museums and history organizations do?  involve people in our work?  If you're one of those museums who say they don't have time,  try keeping track of all staff and volunteers do over the course of a week or month.  If you're a staff member, could you let that fundraising committee plan without you?  perhaps.  If you're a volunteer or potential volunteer, do you want to learn something new?  probably.  In particular, I think small museum leaders can really take a jump here and begin to involve people in new ways.   The web is an equalizer for small organizations.

So how are we doing?  With just two weeks left to go,  we've reached more than 50% of our goal.   For the next two weeks, we'll be tweeting,  updating our status,  and doing even more to get there.  We hope you'll join us!  If you're contemplating a Kickstarter project and want to know more--please get in touch and we're happy to share more of what we've learned, as Kickstarter veterans did with us.

And our biggest takeaway?  It's a big, wide, generous world out there.
Thanks to Grace Eickmayer for the top and bottom photos.


Sarah Hamilton said...

I've posted a call to pledge on the HAM-ED blog. HAM-ED is a group of Hamilton, Ontario and area museum educators. Many of us work with food at our sites, and I thought others would be interested in this project. I've pledged already! This is an awesome project, and I hope you meet your goal.

Linda said...

Thank you so much Sarah! You must be the Sarah that we don't know as a pledge. The support from museum colleagues, both old friends and new to me has been incredible--and passing it along is even better! We'll keep you posted!