Wednesday, February 16, 2011

YES! the crowd WILL fund our project: Kickstarter Lessons #3

On February 1 at 5:00 PM,  Sarah Crow and I closed the book on our effort to fund the Pickle Project on Kickstarter.  We were amazed, humbled and thrilled to exceed our goal of $5000.  119 fabulous backers pledged a total of $5775 to make further research and documentation a reality.

I've written before here and there about some of the lessons we learned along the way but wanted to share some additional thoughts with my readers here.

Slow and steady wins the race
Our Kickstarter period was 50 days and our goal was $5000.  In most Kickstarter efforts there's a jump in pledges at the beginning, they level off, for a long middle period, and then, if successful, jump up again at the end.  We seemed to be a bit of an exception in that we plugged along the entire time, slow and steady.

Figure the Math
We had figured that we needed $100 per day to reach our goal and we kept a pretty close eye on that number.  Good days, we exceeded it, and a few not-so-good days went by with no backers at all.  But what we didn't do, and I think would be useful for anyone embarking on Kickstarter to do, is that math about how many backers at what levels we needed to be successful.  Here's how it played out for us--see the pie chart above.

Fully fifty percent of our donors were at the $25 level and another twenty-five percent at the $50 level, with smaller amounts both above and below those numbers.   I suspect most Kickstarter project developers dream of those big anonymous backers coming through.  We didn't receive any backers at our highest level,  but our two largest pledges were from people we don't know.

And what about people you know and don't know?
Our backers fell into several different categories.
  • Friends and family
  • Museum colleagues (and this including friends I know in person and colleagues who know me through this blog, Twitter or some other means)
  • Peace Corps Volunteers who have been or are stationed in Ukraine
  • Former Fulbright Scholars and Students
  • The Ukrainian community in North America
  • People interested in food and sustainability
  • People who are regular backers of Kickstarter projects
  • And people we don't know at all!
What this list tells me is that we did a pretty good job at putting all of our networks to work.  One single network or only one avenue of approach would not, for us at least, have gotten the word out to enough people.

And how did we get the word out?
One great thing about Kickstarter is that it made it easy for others to help.  If you became a backer, it was easy to share the link on your Facebook feed and/or email it to others.  So great backers were also great boosters, encouraging others to join them, even going so far as to offer home-made pickles to backers in one city!

The layout of the Kickstarter site also provides a very professional, welcoming and accessible aesthetic (see above) that lends additional credibility to the effort.  The Pickle Project already has a well-developed social media presence but the Kickstarter site might be particularly useful for efforts that do not have good information online. (and it always made me smile to see Treadwell, population 250, listed up there with cities like New York and San Francisco in the Cities bar for project locations)

You can follow the Pickle Project on Twitter (@PickleProject) and midway through the project we began tweeting (using twitpic) a Pickle Pic of the Day, which we also posted on Facebook.  We heard from a number of people who really enjoyed seeing that picture, of food, of people, of a place, every day and it's something we'll try to keep up.

I came to appreciate the value of Twitter as numerous backers and other tweeters  took up our cause.  Everyone from PoPinDC and ArchivesInfo (museum colleagues both) to Ms. Marmite Lover, from London, who shared our work with her almost 7000 followers.

We of course, continued to blog and to share updates on Kickstarter.  This kept our backers engaged and made it easier for them to share our work with their circles as new information came in.  The support of other blogs was also great.  Melissa Mannon offered me a guest spot on her Archives Info blog,  and blogs such as Brooklyn Baba, Brooklyn Brine and the blog of the Agricultural and Food Law Program at the University of Arkansas each gave the project short features, raising the project's profile.   Sarah did an interview on Nash Holos, a Ukrainian focused radio show from Vancouver and I appeared on Simona David's show on WIOX here in the Catskills.  The Watershed Post did a great feature where we talked about the similarities between the Catskills and rural areas in Ukraine.

In short, every single day of those 50 days, except for Christmas, we did something--and usually more than one something.   And we used old media, new media, and everything in between.  An unexpected bonus is that this concentrated effort expanded our audience in the long run.

Why did people back us?
The answers to that are as varied as our backers--and backers, if you're blog readers here, we'd love to have you weigh in with your thoughts.  Some cared about Ukraine, some cared about food, some cared about us (thanks Moms!) but we think most importantly,  people were excited to back a passionate idea,  an idea about something new, that we managed to convey that in all of our efforts.  A project like this is a risk, and we're honored by the trust and confidence all our backers have placed in us.

Is Kickstarter Right for Your Project?
That's something only you can answer.  About 50% of the thousands of Kickstarter projects have been funded (remember, it's all or nothing).  We can guarantee that the money just won't come pouring in--but I think, with my museum hat back on,  that it could be a tremendous platform for some types of museum projects:  exhibits,  efforts to engage new audiences,  mobile apps--but only if the museum/history organization is willing to push hard for backers--that's no different than any other kind of fundraising!   I also think it's potentially a great vehicle for history-related projects that don't have an institutional base, but rather, represent more individual passions and interests.

Was It Right for the Pickle Project?
Absolutely.  Just in case you missed it,  here's our Kickstarter video to see what we hope to do.  And our thanks go out to all our tremendous backers from around the world--we appreciate you all!


archivesinfo said...

Hi Linda and Sarah!
I backed and tried to help promote your project because I thought it was a unique idea that tied perfectly to my own work. I write and consult extensively in areas related to documenting diverse heritage, preserving intangible heritage, and collaboration among diverse people (from professionals to non-professionals) to accomplish these tasks. Your project is a fine example of all that I advocate and represents some of the wonderful work that our professions can accomplish. Thanks for the opportunity to take a little part in it. Thanks for the mention. And, most of all, keep up the good work!

Caroline said...

Your project hit a sweet spot for me : I adore museums, what they do, and the awesome people who work for them; I am big on sustainable communities and preserving unique cultures; my husband grew up with Ukrainian cooking and loooooves it so much so that you can find me making borscht and perogies from time to time, especially on Christmas Eve. : )

Good luck with everything — I'm very happy to be on this journey with you!