What is Kickstarter?

Posted 2013-10-11 by Ken J. Marks

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Our first day of fundraising has been gratifying and indicative of just what we were hoping for... a grassroots showing with small pledges coming from many people -- some not even requesting a reward! We are also receiving favorable comments that indicate our project backers are giving from the heart.

Here is just one early public comment taken from the great write-up we got in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter:
Ellen said...
Regarding the Lively Family Massacre presentation, apparently only that particular film was made; unfortunate, as it is very well done, in my view. (It's more in depth, presented to show how research progressed, and way less frantic and fragmented than "Genealogy Roadshow.")
You can view the HD video of this presentation on our homepage (register for free to unlock the full length version of The Lively Family Massacre.

So what is a Kickstarter?
(following is reprinted with permission from blog.eogn.com)

I posted an article yesterday about a proposed new genealogy documentary film project called Kicking Up the Past. In the article, I mentioned that is was being funded via Kickstarter. A couple newsletter readers asked, "What is Kickstarter?" I thought I would post my answer here.


Kickstarter first appeared a year or two ago and quickly has become a method for funding many new projects. It is described as a "crowd funding process." In the past, most newly-invented products, new films, new television programs, books, and much more were typically funded by obtaining a loan from a financial institution or by loans or grants from corporations or non-profit organizations. In many cases, certain "strings" were attached. For instance, if a television program is funded by a corporation, that company usually expects to receive advertising or other forms of publicity in return.

Indeed, this funding process has worked well for centuries for major projects. However, many smaller, worthwhile projects have never been able to obtain funding from any of the traditional sources. Kickstarter was seen as a method of obtaining funding from the general public, usually with no strings attached. If you or I or anyone else would like to see a particular project succeed, we can contribute $1 or $10 or more to the project.

All Kickstarter projects have a stated goal that is the amount of money the producers think they need to launch the project. If that funding amount is not reached within a stated time period, all funding is canceled and the money is returned to the contributors. If the minimum funding amount is reached or even exceeded, money is released to the project and it goes forward. In many cases, those who contribute a significant amount of money also receive a reward when the project is completed. The reward might be a discount on the product to be manufactured, a special early shipment of the product, a certificate, free tickets to the finished movie, a t-shirt, or something similar.

Procedures vary but the producers also usually provide an end-of-project financial report to the people who made the project possible by contributing to its success.

According to the Kickstarter web site at http://www.kickstarter.com/hello:
1. Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.

We’re a home for everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people like you. Since our launch in 2009, 5 million people have pledged $822 million, funding 49,000 creative projects. Thousands of creative projects are raising funds on Kickstarter right now.

2. Each project is independently created.

The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control over and responsibility for their projects. Kickstarter is a platform and a resource; we’re not involved in the development of the projects themselves. Anyone can launch a project on Kickstarter as long as it meets our guidelines.

3. Together, creators and backers make projects happen.

Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. All-or-nothing funding might seem scary, but it’s amazingly effective in creating momentum and rallying people around an idea. To date, an impressive 44% of projects have reached their funding goals.
Amanda Palmer Kickstarter

“ There’s just something magical about Kickstarter... You immediately feel like you’re part of a larger club of art-supporting fanatics.”

— Amanda Palmer, who rallied 25,000 backers to support her album, book, and tour.

4. Creators keep 100% ownership of their work.

Backers are supporting projects to help them come to life, not to profit financially. Instead, project creators offer rewards to thank backers for their support. Backers of an effort to make a book or film, for example, often get a copy of the finished work. A bigger pledge to a film project might get you into the premiere — or a private screening for you and your friends. One artist raised funds to create a wall installation, then gave pieces of it to her backers when the exhibit ended.

5. Creative works were funded this way for centuries.

Mozart, Beethoven, Whitman, Twain, and other artists funded works in similar ways — not just with help from large patrons, but by soliciting money from smaller patrons, often called subscribers. In return for their support, these subscribers might have received an early copy or special edition of the work. Kickstarter is an extension of this model, turbocharged by the web.
Stephen Heleker Kickstarter

“ The most democratic way art has ever been made.”

— Stephen Heleker, who raised $21,000 for his short film “Smoke”

6. Backing a project is more than just giving someone money.

It’s supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world. People rally around their friends’ projects, fans support people they admire, and others simply come to Kickstarter to be inspired by new ideas. Some projects take longer than anticipated, but creators who are transparent about issues and delays usually find their backers to be understanding.

7. Our mission is to help bring creative projects to life.

We’re a for-profit company based in New York City’s Lower East Side. We spend our time making Kickstarter a little bit better every day, answering questions from backers and creators, and finding new projects to share. If a project is successfully funded, we apply a 5% fee to the funds collected.

We believe that creative projects make for a better world, and we’re thrilled to help support new ones. Building a community of backers around an idea is an amazing way to make something new.
You can learn more at http://www.kickstarter.com.

To learn more about the current project to fund a genealogy documentary, look at my earlier article at http://goo.gl/TeJ1ng.