Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crowdfunding Advice From Xerocraft

Incentives from Xerocraft's Indigogo campaign
By Jeremy Briddle

The folks at Xerocraft Hackerspace completed a successful Kickstarter campaign in August of 2013, as well as an earlier campaign in May of 2013 with Indigogo, and Jeremy Briddle agreed to share what they learned with us here at the Café.

Give yourself lots of time to send rewards
Kickstarter funders are pretty used to waiting for their rewards. Estimate the amount of time you think you can deliver your rewards quickly but comfortably - and double it.

Don't expect anyone to help you fulfill rewards
The whole process from setting up your Kickstarter to running the fundraiser to sending out the rewards is a months-long endeavor. Make sure you surround yourself with a team of dedicated people you know will stick with you and help out until the fundraiser is complete and the last reward is shipped. If you don't think you have those people, rethink your campaign and consider making it less ambitious (e.g. smaller funding goal, fewer reward tiers, etc.).

Offer rewards you know YOU can make or acquire easily. Basically, plan for the worst and hope for the best. The worst that I plan for is that in the end the entire campaign will fall squarely on my shoulders to maintain and complete.

Make reward tiers as sparse as possible. It will make fulfilling and packing them easier. Don't worry if rewards don't quite equal the reward price in your mind. The funders don't care as much. They're more interested in funding a campaign they feel compassionate about than receiving a t-shirt.

Get the packaging and S&H costs nailed down
Underestimating the size and weight of packages can cost you a lot of money that was supposed to go toward your project. The price you think it will cost to ship what you think the package will look like and weigh and what you'll actually ship months later can vary widely.

Do your best to make a “test package”. A test package is a box that is just the size you need packed the way it should be to survive shipping (packing peanuts are the best) with the rewards inside. When you have the box set and ready for shipping, weigh it, measure the dimensions and write it all down somewhere safe.

Investigate your shipping options (e.g. USPS, FedEx, UPS) and figure out early who you will go with. USPS is typically cheapest. Take the test package to the post office teller and ask them for the price to ship it to the other end of the country (supply them with a zip code from that area; Google is your friend for that). This will give you a good idea of how much the shipping will dig into your funds.

Also keep in mind that you will need a lot of boxes this size so make sure you have a source. USPS has many boxes available for free. They also have more boxes of other dimensions than what's available at the local post office that they will ship to you for free or nearly free.

Keep in mind that USPS offers several different shipping services with their own boxes. If you pack all of your rewards into Express boxes but you're shipping via Priority, they will not ship them and you will have to repack everything or go with the other service.

BUT if the box is small enough, you can put it into one of USPS's large envelopes (also free) that does have the proper service labeled on the outside. This will save you the trouble of repacking.

Cutting USPS boxes to the size you need tends to freak out the post office employees, though it (apparently) isn't illegal or a barrier to them shipping the package (in my experience). However, using a USPS box to ship a package via another service (UPS, FedEx, etc.) is a federal crime.

Think hard about whether or not you will allow international shipping. Shipping internationally involves additional paperwork for customs, etc. And the cost is easily 3 times the cost of shipping nationally.

Host a wrapping party to get the rewards ready for shipping. Make it a fun party with movies, games, refreshments, etc.

Make a great fundraising video
For Xerocraft's video we really lucked out in getting it to look good. I was a film major in college, I have high-end video editing software on a decent computer, access to a digital camera that records 720p HD video, and access to a broadcast quality sound booth at my job to record the voiceover. Not everyone will be this lucky but do what you can. Talk to friends, look on Craigslist. Talk to IFASA ( or Independent Film Arizona ( about getting local filmmakers and freelance film crew to help you.

Write lots of updates. Record video updates on your smartphone!
Keep funders up to date on your campaign with blog-style updates. Do them as often as you can to remind people you're serious about your project.

Videos recorded on your phone are easy to upload. Don't worry about making it flashy and high quality like the fundraiser launch video. Videos get noticed. People will fund a campaign they fell passionate about. Generate that passion in your video updates.

Look at other, past campaigns
Old campaigns are still available to view on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Look at ones that were similar to what you want to do and take the good ideas. Look at ones that were unsuccessful and try to avoid their mistakes.

Indiegogo offers “flex funding”
Flex funding means that if you don't hit your goal, you can still take most of the money you did raise. If you're worried about hitting your goal or this is your first time fundraising online, Indiegogo may be the right place to do a practice run. 

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