What charities can learn from good Kickstarter campaigns

Looking to your competitors for inspiration is a big mistake. To innovate in digital you need to look outside your sector.

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One of the mistakes organisations make when setting their digital direction is to only look at their competition. There is much to be learnt from looking at what is happening in other sectors.

I believe that the charity sector is a good example of this approach. There is a lot they could learn from looking at good Kickstarter campaigns.

If you think about it charities and Kickstarter have a lot in common. Both are asking people to support a cause with no guarantees of a return. Both need people to show a degree of trust in the organisation to deliver. And in both cases there is often a significant delay between somebody handing over their money and seeing a result.

There is much to be learnt from other sectors. For example charities could learn from Kickstarter.
There is much to be learnt from other sectors. For example charities could learn from Kickstarter.

There are differences as well. But these differences do not prevent charities from learning something from the Kickstarter community. Don’t allow differences to be an excuse to not consider alternative ways of doing things.

For example, I can think of five ways charities could learn from Kickstarter campaigns.

Paint a compelling picture

The best Kickstarter campaigns paint a compelling picture of what they’re going to create and the benefits it will provide.

Too often charities are not specific enough about how your money will help. In a Kickstarter campaign you know exactly what you will get at the end of the day and what benefits it will provide you.

A good KIckstarter campaign is specific about what it will deliver.
A good KIckstarter campaign is specific about what it will deliver.

Charities should be the same. What will the money I give provide and what benefit will that have?

Set a target 

Kickstarter campaigns have a specific target they are trying to reach. This unifies the fans of a product behind a specific goal and creates a sense of clear intent. You know exactly what needs to happen to make this product a reality.

Kickstarter asks people to contribute to an achievable goal.
Kickstarter asks people to contribute to an achievable goal.

Charities need this kind of focus. Often the challenges charities tell us about are so ill-defined that they appear impossible to solve. We end up feeling we can have no impact. Having some form of target with a specific outcome at the end provides a goal that its donors can work towards.

Update on progress 

The best Kickstarter campaigns recognise that people want to know how their money is spent. That is why they provide regular updates about progress towards the final delivery of their product.

They recognise the trust people have put in them by giving them money and ensure that funders are confident it is being well spent.

A good kickstarter campaign keeps its backers informed.
A good kickstarter campaign keeps its backers informed.

Although many charities make some effort in this regard, it often requires the donor to seek out this information. Kickstarter campaigns send regular updates on their progress. They share both their successes and failures with the same transparency. This makes backers feel engaged with the process.

Offer incentives 

Another key component of any successful Kickstarter campaign is the use of incentives. The more a person is willing to give towards the campaign the better the incentives are. In essence a good Kickstarter campaign rewards its early adopters and big spenders.

One of the big mistakes many charities make is to think that people give altruistically. In truth the reason people give is complex and does involve a significant element of reward. Giving makes people feel good about themselves or provide some form of status.

Kickstarter incentives people to take action.
Kickstarter incentives people to take action.

This being the case charities should explore offering incentives that reinforce these emotional rewards. They should reward those who are especially committed with higher status or give some other kind of incentive.

Make people feel apart of something 

One of the reasons people give is to feel a part of something. A good Kickstarter campaign realises this. It endeavours to build a sense of community around its product or service.

The most successful Kickstarter campaigns of those that turn funders from consumers into advocates. It is these Kickstarter campaigns that gets shared like wildfire on social networks. They often meet their targets in mere minutes.

A successful kickstarter campaign builds a community around its product.
A successful kickstarter campaign builds a community around its product.

Charities need to stop seeing their givers as cash cows and instead nurture communities of advocates. Unfortunately in many of the charities I encounter the trend seems to be in the opposite direction.

But many charities do this stuff

You may be reading the list above thinking that many charities already do these things. You are of course correct. In fact the best Kickstarter campaigns have learnt a lot from the charity sector.

That is exactly my point. Just as the charity sector can learn from Kickstarter, so Kickstarter learns from the charity sector. We need to look beyond the walls of our own sector for inspiration. Only then will we start to innovate.

  • Chris Butterworth

    Completely agree with this, time and time again clients will be comparing their own website against their competitors and only their competitors rather than those show a different and potentially better approach. Each client is unique and they need to see themselves that way and not compare themselves to competitors too much otherwise they’ll simply follow them instead of trying to lead.
    Nice use of green screen btw :)

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