Start Something: How to Successfully Fund Your Passion Project on Kickstarter

Start Something: How to Successfully Fund Your Passion Project on Kickstarter

This is a guest post from Brett Henley of I Am Convicted.

Brett has a very important message that I hope you’ll pay close attention to. It’s a story about the reality of the American prison system, and what we can do to begin changing it.

It’s hardly a popular topic. But it’s a message that desperately needs to be heard. Brett has launched a Kickstarter project to fund the book he’s currently writing. If you feel impacted by this work, take a look at the Kickstarter page and see how you can help.

Enter Brett Henley:

As a writer, permission from gatekeepers is no longer a decisive factor in publishing. There are few traditional maps, if any, that blueprint a path to success.

With a diverse and rapidly shifting idea market comes a new set of challenges. Attention and influence are more competitive than ever, which means passion and talent aren’t always enough to push through the wall of noise.

So how do you break through and gain influence without selling your soul?

The age of movement

Today, socially-conscious creatives are given the tools to draw our own maps with nearly limitless possibilities for sharing our work with the world.

The key is to just create, to ship our work, and ship often.

With this in mind, my journey started with a simple core conviction: Share a story that needed to be told, by whatever means necessary.

Combining a transparent, work-in-progress format with an online platform (in this case a blog), we set out to build a community who were emotionally invested in the success of our story.

By tackling both creation and sharing simultaneously, we opened ourselves to a wide spectrum of resource challenges.

Enter Kickstarter

I spent 6 months researching case studies from the top funded Kickstarter projects.

I dove head first into data from successfully funded projects – from the most active pledge tiers ($25) to more finite data on the optimal time frame for a Kickstarter project (30 days) and much more.

I shelved the process for a time to refocus on the story, but I kept circling back to the importance of shipping. In order to get our story out into the world, I had to be more proactive.

So on a Sunday evening in mid-February, I sat down at the computer and started building a Kickstarter project.

I trusted my instincts, ignoring the voices of dissension that screamed you have no idea what the hell you’re stepping into.

The process was equally unpredictable as it was serendipitous.

Two scripts for the video were scrapped days before launch. We settled on a direction 72 hours to launch, shooting and cutting the final project video with 48 hours to go.

I shifted puzzle pieces a hundred times over a 4-week period.

On March 8, 2012, with a few fingertips vice gripping the reigns, I held my breath and pressed launch.

Embracing a necessary alignment

I learned early on how important it is to define expectations before taking the leap.

Successful Kickstarter projects have clearly-defined goals, which adds a necessary level of transparency between project creator and his/her backers. People are more likely to support a project with goals that they are confident the creator can complete.

Using this as a benchmark, our project goals focused on four key areas:

  • Build a community of advocates while building funding support
  • Support for finishing research process
  • Support for writing first manuscript
  • Publish first version of i am convicted as an e-book

It’s also important to be clear about what a backer’s pledge will support, so I attributed approximate funding percentages to each project goal – including costs for reward fulfillment.

Defining these core expectations will go a long way in building trust with potential backers.

What you’ll need to launch your own socially-focused Kickstarter

Kickstarter is very clear about their guidelines for acceptable projects.

You can reinforce what’s at stake if your project doesn’t succeed – i.e. why potential supporters NEED your story to be told – as long as you are clear that your primary goal for Kickstarter is to create something finite and tangible.

In creating and successfully launching a socially-focused Kickstarter project, I focused on the following:

  1. Align your core message with your core audience. Think concise, simple and impact. What’s in it for them if your project is funded? What happens if it doesn’t?
  2. Research successful social projects in your market and beyond. You can narrow down by project type, location and other benchmarks, but study a wide range of data to gain a bigger picture.
  3. Read the Kickstarter guidelines to avoid launch delays. For example, projects cannot support a charitable cause, a non-profit mission or support a lifestyle quest.
  4. Create a compelling, concise video that captures the essence of your story, your project goals and a clear call to action on how to support. Let the rest unfold in the page copy.
  5. Build an agile framework for promotion. I used a spreadsheet to map out weekly milestones and combined personal outreach to friends and family with guest posting, PR, blogging, and more, but left space for adjustments if needed.
  6. Delegate weaknesses where/when you can. Be willing to invest cash if necessary.
  7. Be proactive with Kickstarter updates. Tell a story with images, audio, video or whatever means at your disposal.
  8. Empower your supporters to advocate for your project by giving clear instructions on how to share the good word – even if they don’t pledge.

Kickstarter is a means, not an end

Whether a success or failure, the Kickstarter process has been an invaluable tool in helping me become more comfortable with the uncomfortable – a key component of success, IMO.

But it is only as powerful as what you put in.

Remember this, if nothing else – failure is always an option, standing still is not.


About the Author – Brett Henley is the author of i am convicted, a story of reinvention and the American prison system. Combining a work-in-progress format with a transparent online platform (in this case a blog), Brett is experimenting with what defines success for independent storytelling. Brett recently launched a Kickstarter project to help finish and publish i am convicted.
 photo courtesy of LifeSuperCharger

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