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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Comment & Add Your Voice

tiffanylynnyoung March 22, 2012 at 5:54 am

Thanks for sharing this useful info on Kickstarter. I have a Kickstarter going on as well at to get a children’s book published about a cupcake and his journey through the kitchen to find his place in his adopted family, the O’Nillas. You can download a song and slice of the book at
 I know how hard it is just to get a project going, so good luck!


bretthenley March 22, 2012 at 6:11 am

 @tiffanylynnyoung Thanks Tiffany, best of luck to you too!
The book sounds awesome BTW.

tayloramurphy1 March 22, 2012 at 6:38 am

Great article Brett. I hope this level of exposure helps the project!


bretthenley March 22, 2012 at 8:56 am

 @tayloramurphy1 Thanks Taylor, appreciate it!

Loran Hills March 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Well done article, Brett.  Good luck getting all the funding you need.  Off to make a donation for a great project!


bretthenley March 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm

 @Loran Hills Thanks Loran, you are a rock star.

JonathanMead March 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Brilliant stuff here Brett. Thanks again for contributing this valuable knowledge, and sharing the tons of research you did on Kickstarter with the community here.
I encourage everyone that can spare a few dollars (who can’t spare something?) to give to Brett’s important project. Even a few dollars helps.


bretthenley March 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm

 @JonathanMead Thanks man, really appreciate you loaning me the keys :)
I’m grateful for any and all support. Even sharing with someone who you think will resonate is a big help for us pushing forward. 
Thanks peeps!

Clay_Collins March 24, 2012 at 8:01 am

I’m curious . . . did you successfully fund your passion on Kickstarter?


bretthenley April 3, 2012 at 7:32 am

 @Clay_Collins Not yet, still have a few days left. Honestly, it’s okay either way. I took a big risk doing this leading into SXSW and a whole lot of transition in my life/this project. In my mind, we’ve already won just by increasing the dialogue and spreading the message.

Justin Mazza March 24, 2012 at 11:59 am

Hey Brett,
Thanks for sharing more info about KickStarter. I have read some about it but I can totally see the value in such a service. Thanks for giving me more information about it. Good vibes to you on your KickStarter project!


bretthenley April 3, 2012 at 7:31 am

 @Justin Mazza Absolutely, thanks for stopping by.

candicemajor March 25, 2012 at 10:25 am

What you are doing is really inspiring. I have always dreamed of doing something that could make a difference on a wide scale, and this might just be the little nudge that I need. 


bretthenley April 3, 2012 at 7:30 am

 @candicemajor Thank you, glad I could provide a nudge. It’s closer than most of us realize.

justinmiller06 March 30, 2012 at 7:58 am

This was phenomenal. I first caught it over at life without pants. Glad you have it up to Johnathan. Keep up the solid work Brett!


bretthenley April 3, 2012 at 7:30 am

 @justinmiller06 Hey Justin, sorry I missed your comment, but thanks.
Hopefully it shakes some things loose for ya.

justinmiller06 April 3, 2012 at 8:56 am

 @bretthenley No worries my man! It definitely has. I ended up seeing it at a good point in my life. Also reading the “War of Art.” The combination of the two is definitely shaking up my world for the better. #doingmoreofwhatyoulove!


tiffanylynnyoung April 3, 2012 at 9:12 am

 @justinmiller06  @bretthenley I love “War of Art!” It’s really inspiring. Got any other book suggestions?

lpolkie April 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm

“failure is always an option, standing still is not.” – I love that! People get so caught up in their “all-or-non-thinking” that they allow themselves to forget how wonderful they are and how many times in their past their lives have improved when they were blocked from going down their intended path. You are a breath of fresh air.


LaurenceBraun April 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for this info!
I just launched a Kickstarter campaign for a feature film…
Very helpful information – we’re off to a good start and are looking to spread the word!


slim pills May 2, 2013 at 11:13 pm

You guys are the most reliable fellas


D'Andrea Martin July 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Thank you for the clear and concise information!
I’m about to launch a Kickstarter project very soon for an illustrated children’s book project –, and I’ll keep these tips in mind.
This site is amazing – very inspiring.


tiffanylynnyoung March 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

 @bretthenley Thanks! Vastly different projects, but I’m glad we can appreciate each other’s projects! Are you a journalist? Curious because my day job is at a newspaper. 


bretthenley April 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm

 @tiffanylynnyoung I am not, but have a deep respect for the craft and process. I came out of college with an offer to intern at a newspaper but turned it down (for multiple reasons).
I’ve worked primarily as a writer on the Web for the last 6+ years, but definitely prefer/love long-form and editorial. Just took a different path.


justinmiller06 April 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

 @tiffanylynnyoung  @bretthenley Oh man, there are so many…
Og Mandino “The greatest miracle in the world.”
Seth Godin “Poke the box.”
Emeson “Self-Reliance.”
Dan/Chip Heath “Switch”
Daniel Pink “Drive”
Donald Miller “A Million miles in a thousand years.”
I may have just got carries away… I’m definitely a book nerd. Let me know if you take any of these up. I’d love to get your thoughts


tiffanylynnyoung April 3, 2012 at 11:05 am

 @justinmiller06  @bretthenley A Million Miles is good! OK… I will add these to my list. Thanks so much!


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