Digital Life: How to cure crowdfunding fatigue

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USA Today by Steven Petrow | January 31, 2015

Photo: screenshot from Kickstarter's iPad app.

Photo: screenshot from Kickstarter's iPad app.

USA TODAY columnist Steven Petrow offers advice about digital etiquette.

Q: More and more of my friends are launching Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, which can be great ways for them to raise money for their projects. Now I'm finding that I'm being hit up a couple of times a month to contribute — to a new documentary, a creamery, even a "next gen washing device." I can't possibly contribute to them all but I feel bad if I just ignore a request. I'm also finding myself irritated with the volume of requests. Can I just say "no"?

– Name withheld

A: I'm going to start by giving my 2 cents (sorry it can't be more) to all those using "crowdfunding" to raise dollars and cents for their new projects: "Kickstarter fatigue" is setting in, and if you aren't more judicious in your "asks," fewer of the really cool, deserving projects will get funded. And your friends will get vexed — with you.

Related: Secrets of a Crowdfunding Master (from Ben Webster of Mass Fidelity, Canada's most successful crowdfunding campaign to date)

I certainly like to help friends follow their passion or create a new project. But people have their limits (not to mention cash limits, too). That being said, here are my crowdfunding etiquette rules:

  • Make your appeal personal, and keep it to people you actually know: Don't solicit from strangers — or friends of friends you can tag on Facebook. Just because you can deploy your entire email list with a few keystrokes, resist.
  • Don't go back to your friends to remind them to make a donation: One time is OK, but if they haven't donated by then, bad news, they passed.
  • If you promise me something for my donation be sure to deliver it: I contributed $100 to a friend who was creating a healthy catering business with the promise of an apron and cookbook. Never got them, even though he raised all the money. Now I worry that others will also make false promises.
  • Believe in your own project: Some folks decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign because they think it's easy money, even when they have no idea how to execute their plan. A project with no plan is a no-go.

Related: The A to Z guide to media relations for crowdfunding

Don't get me wrong: well-thought-out crowdfunding campaigns have supported some amazing projects, like LeVar Burton's push to bring back Reading Rainbow ("opening books, opening minds") and get it online. The $5 million he raised allows free access to kids around the planet.

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