How to Start a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

The security guard of my building recently approached me and politely asked if I was interested in making a donation to her son's rugby team, who are trying to raise money for a trip. My response was to instinctively ask for their Kickstarter page, which really illustrates how commonplace the funding website has become.

From zombie RPGs and iPad stands to films, novels and artisan food, Kickstarter is an essential site for anyone interested in funding a project.

In the span of about three years, Kickstarter has managed to help 24,000 projects find over $250 million worth of funding from two million people. If you've got an enterprising idea that could use an infusion of funds, whether it be home crafted jewelry or your book on design, Kickstarter is an ideal way to get connected to backers. However, not every Kickstarter campaign is a victory, and it's important to note that Kickstarter is a crowd-sourced model, which means if you don't meet your goal, your project doesn't get the funds. There are things you can do to increase your chances of success, such as:

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MAKE A VIDEO: This is one of the most vital aspects of any Kickstarter campaign; projects with a video succeed 50% of the time (vs projects that don't, which succeed 30% of the time). Videos should be as professional and creative as possible and should include as much information as possible about your project. Things like who you are, the story behind your project, what stage it is in now, and how you're feeling about it can all help appeal to backers. Come out and ask for support and explain why you need it and what you'll do with with the money. List your awesome rewards (see below) and explain that if you don't reach your goal, your project receives no funding. Consider including a prototype, design element or trailer, and be sure to THANK everyone.

HAVE A RANGE OF CREATIVE AND AWESOME REWARDS: Rewards are what you provide your backers with for their support: for example, one filmmaker sent out a celluloid still shot of each minute of the film he was shooting — one minute for each dollar donated. These are things that should ideally be made by the project itself or at least closely associated. If you're producing a book or CD, you can offer a pre-order for a certain donation amount, or tickets to a show or a band t-shirt. Get creative, and offer a nice range of rewards across donation amounts; projects with a reward for a donation of less then $25 succeed 54% of the time.

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HAVE A SPECIFIC GOAL:
This is probably the other most vital part of your campaign, not only because projects with specific actionable titles do better, but also because "be transparent at all times" is a tenet of Kickstarters' guidelines. It means, clearly define the scope of your project and how you plan to achieve your goal. To start with, the title of your project should be a call to action; "The Santa Maria Annual Film Festival" becomes "We Need a Venue for the Santa Maria Annual Film Festival." Make sure you clearly outline exactly how the funds will be used, i.e. "We need money to reserve a venue for the film festival, rent chairs, rent a projector, pay food vendors and hire security and ticket takers."

SET A REALISTIC AMOUNT: Again, if you don't reach your proposed goal, your project doesn't get funded, so it doesn't necessarily pay off to ask for a few thousand more than you've budgeted. That being said, budget out how much you anticipate needing for every part of the project, including account production, manufacturing, labor, packaging and shipping costs. Don't forget to factor in the price of the rewards you're offering your backers. If you're lucky enough to meet your goal, don't stop! Offer to up the ante on the rewards if you meet a new, revised goal and detail what will happen with the extra funds.

HAVE A TIMELINE:
It's good to have a timeline in place; not only do projects lasting 30 days or less have the highest success rates, but a timeline is essential for staying on track to do things like send updates, record new videos on your progress, email thank you's, or set mailing dates for sending out your backer's rewards.

SPREAD THE WORD:
When you get a new backer, send a personal thank you and ask them to share your page with any of their friends and contacts who may also be interested in your project. Gently remind your friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Keep everyone updated by posting videos and photos of your progress to your Kickstarter and social media pages, and sending out emails to backers. Also, reach out to your local community if possible: bands can put up posters about their campaigns at local venues and record stores, film projects can leave fliers at theaters and video rental stores.

(Images: Kickstarter)