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How to Estimate Potential Kickstarter Donations

When determining your overall project budget, what amount you ask for in your Kickstarter campaign, you must also estimate the amount you can conceivably receive in backer pledges.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing model, so if you don't get to your project goal, you get none of the pledges.

You can't estimate your pledges as accurately as you can estimate your project costs. But you can make a well-informed guess by following this overall process:

  1. Make a very basic list of people you could consider, off the top of your head, as potential backers.

  2. Use your project's cost estimate to evaluate how many backers you'd need at different levels. Evaluate whether these levels suit the people on your list of potential backers.

  3. Consider what rewards might interest your potential backers and the donation amount you could connect to each reward.

Consider potential Kickstarter donors to ask

Figuring out who your potential backers are is a key step to Kickstarter success. In addition to helping you estimate your potential donations: Your contact list may spark creative ideas for rewards or changes to your project overview.

The first step in building your potential backer list is looking at all the elements of your life:

  • Your family: It's true that blood is thicker than water. Top of your potential solicitation list should be every member of your family, including parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, second cousins, aunts, uncles, godparents . . . you get the idea!

  • Your second family: We often spend more of our days with our co-workers than with actual family members. If you have good social relationships with your co-workers, consider them as a source for your first list of potential backers.

  • Your community: Are you active in a religious organization, volunteer group, or other club? You might not think of this group as potential backers, but dozens of potential individuals in these groups would likely want to see your project succeed. You may also have a large online community — separate from a Facebook or Twitter account, such as message boards or on Pinterest.

  • Your industry: An important group to consider is the industry in which your project falls. For example, if you want to make a film, your backer list might include film societies, clubs, professional groups, festival organizers, and more.

Think outside the proverbial box when it comes to ideas to locate potential backers. Look at everyone you come in contact with over the course of the week and think about whether they might be interested in your project. Who knows? Your hairstylist might be a secret comic book enthusiast who would love to back your project that creates a new comic superhero who cuts hair in a flash!

How to evaluate your potential Kickstarter reward levels

In this step, you experiment with reward levels until you find a comfortable spot for reward levels that your backers might actually fund. Here's how this works:

  1. Divide your estimated project cost by several numbers. Start with 5, 10, 25, 50, 100.

    Doing this will help you guesstimate the potential number of backers you would need at each level to reach your goal.

    If All Your Backers Gave You'd Need This Many Backers
    $5 557
    $10 279
    $25 112
    $50 56
    $100 28

    You might also want to consider some backer levels that may be significant to your project. If you are working on a film in 2013 and hope to premiere it at a 2014 film festival, a $14 pledge might be a natural fit.

  2. Return to your backer list and consider who might back you at these different amounts.

    If it becomes obvious that you'll need thousands of backers at a $5 or $10 level — or even a hundred backers at a $50 pledge or more — and if this seems unreasonable to ask of the folks on your target list, consider lowering your overall project goal by 10 to 25 percent and re-calculating before you move on to Step 3.

    To lower your overall project goal without dramatically changing the scope of your project, consider how your Kickstarter campaign might just "kick-start" your project rather than fund it completely. You might want to lower the number of finished copies of your project, limit the scope of what you're producing, or realize that this campaign will only fund the first half of a film or project. Here are some specific ideas:

    • Use the Kickstarter campaign to create a trailer or teaser for a feature film instead of the entire finished production.

    • Produce the first in a series of comic books, instead of an entire run.

    • Produce a single prototype for your design element, realizing that you'll then have to get a loan, attract an investor, or launch another Kickstarter campaign to fund production once you've built a buzz for the product.

  3. If you seem to have enough potential backers to meet your project cost estimate, try working out specific goals for each backer level.

    For example, if you have a list of 300 potential backers, the $5 donation level is probably too low (because you'd need 557 of them to reach your goal, or 279 — pretty much your whole backer list — to reach even half of your goal).

    You have a better chance of funding your project if you have a handful of $100 or $50 backers and a larger pool of $25 and $10 backers.

    No. of $100 Backers No. of $50 Backers No. of $25 Backers No. of $10 Backers Total Backers Total Raised
    2 15 75 90 179 $3,725
    2 15 60 80 152 $3,000
    1 10 50 100 161 $2,850
    1 5 50 100 156 $2,600

    Using an example like this, you can see the impact even a few larger backers have at reaching your goal and also the combined impact of a few more backers at the lower levels.

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