Kickstarter – They’re Doing It Better Than We Are

Suddenly I have received a slew of emails asking me to support projects listed on, the self-proclaimed “largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.”  I’m usually on the other side of solicitations, crafting programs to generate support, and with one click I was transported to a social media fundraising tool, placed in the funder’s seat, and all with out the non-profit allure.


Kickstarter uses all our best Development tricks, and they do it with more style, better design, utilizing social media in way we can as of yet only aspire to.  The platform urges you to articulate a clear attainable and worthy goal, dress it up with easily sharable video, provide a gathering place for potential supporters, update these supporters on your progress, provide incentives, and most importantly they promise to only charge your credit card if the project can deliver on its goal.


I received solicitations via email from people I know well leading me to the site.  They included a personal plea to support a project close to my friends’ hearts akin to our peer to peer Annual Fund solicitations. And when I finally submitted a pledge it felt just like a donation, even though I was investing in a for-profit project from which I would receive no practical return – unless I selected a “reward”.  The strategies Kickstarter employs to spur investment are the same ones we use to encourage donors:  Personal appeals from direct contacts, engaging stories and media, community to foster further support and connection, incentives, acknowledgement.  I’m competitive by nature, so naturally, seeing a perfectly executed development plan in the for-profit social media world makes my blood boil with envy, compelling me to ask, “what can we learn from”


Be direct – What projects can we highlight in our schools that will allow our constituents to follow our progress on an annual basis and feel invested each step of the way?


Make it easy – Do we do enough to make interacting with our school and program simple? Do we pay enough attention to design?


Connect – Can we use Facebook, Twitter and even dare I say it, email, to create a community environment where delivering updates is easy and natural?


Make a Promise – Are we willing to say we will only count a donor’s gift if we actually meet our goal? Will that promise result in a stronger connection and larger investment?


Deliver – Are we as good at delivering a return to our investors?  Do we really differentiate the ways we say thank you and bring donors closer to our schools based on their level of support?


Who’s to say if Kickstarter will “blow up”?  But if a fraction of our constituents become familiar with it, we as development professionals need to realize the bar has been raised.  Spending time on the site inspired me to work harder. We will create more defined appeals and focus on concrete and attainable projects to inspire our donors.  We will try harder to make our giving levels tied to incentives that our donors might actually value and appreciate, and we will continue to stick to our promises.  I don’t think we are ready to forgo a gift if we don’t hit a stated financial goal – but it’s definitely something to think about.


For the record, I’m not affiliated with, nor do I endorse its use.  But I do give credit when it’s due, and Kickstarter provides an inspirational review of the work we do in development.


Photo credit:

Mandy Wynn

Director of Development at Rodeph Sholom School

Mandy Wynn is the Director of Development at Rodeph Sholom School, a pioneering Reform Jewish Day School located in New York educating children from Nursery through Eighth Grade. She is a graduate of The Thacher School and Columbia College. With a background in public relations and communications, Mandy is dedicated to both community and financial development. She believes that social media is a crucial tool to develop connectivity, the most important tool in strengthening independent schools.