By Nina Berman on September 10th, 2020
What Makes a Good Crowdfunding Campaign Perk?
Crowdfunding campaigns are time-limited, goal-oriented fundraisers where you seek donations from your personal network. They are great ways to get financial support for your work using small, individual donations that can add up to something much bigger. Crowdfunding campaign donations tend to come from within your expanded network–your friends, family, and community–rather than strangers.
Crowdfunding can be a great proof of concept or demonstration that people are interested in the project that you’re working on. It can be a strategy to build a network of people who are excited about your work. And, of course, it can get you the financial support to create your work!
One feature of crowdfunding that differentiates it from other kinds of fundraising is that crowdfunding campaigns often offer perks to its donors. These perks can incentivize donations and get people more excited about supporting a project. But remember, people donate to crowdfunding campaigns because they believe in the projects, not to go shopping! Perks are just a nice way to say thank you.
Artists who are running a crowdfunding campaign through Fractured Atlas are able to offer perks to your donors in order to make your campaign even more successful.
But what makes a good crowdfunding campaign perk? We’ll cover the basics here so that you can create the most compelling campaign for your project.
What Are Examples of Crowdfunding Perks?
Crowdfunding perks are really only limited by your creativity (and, of course, by the rules and restrictions of the platform you’re using!)
Here are some general ideas about what you can offer as a perk for donating to your crowdfunding campaign, plus some examples from successful Fractured Atlas fundraisers.
Many crowdfunding perks are free to give and just involve naming your donors in a public way to thank them. You might make a social media shoutout, list donors' names on your website, in a program, or in the credits of your final project. Team Awesome Robot offered both social media shoutouts and personalized haikus.
You could also send a postcard or a handwritten thank-you letter signed by your whole creative team. Or offer some exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at your project or an invitation to the wrap party or an afterparty. Sinking Ship Productions offered donors invitations to the afterparty as well as a bound script copy, costume designs, and more.
If you decide to offer swag to your donors, tote bags, buttons, posters, and T-shirts are ever-popular choices. Directors Gathering offered donors magnets and notebooks for supporting their Directors JAM for Philly Directors of Color.
Don’t forget to include access to the completed project as a perk! Depending on what your project is, you might offer a ticket to your performance, a print of your art, or a copy of your poetry book. If people want to support your work, give them access to that work as a thank-you for supporting it.
For larger donations, you might consider offering an experience based on your particular expertise. To help fund Confessions of a Personal Trainer, Katherine Kopajtic offered personal training sessions for donations of $500 or more for her project. Theater in Asylum offered a private concert.
What Makes a Good Crowdfunding Perk?
Here are a few features of successful and appropriate perks for your crowdfunding campaign.
You’ll want the perk to be related to your work. This might mean that the perk is directly linked to the work that you’re funding (a ticket to the final show, a copy of the book you’re writing, a backstage pass). It could also be more loosely related. For example, if you’re fundraising for a comic zine, you might offer custom portraits of donors. Whichever perks you pick, you want your donors to be able to see the link between what you’re offering them and the work that you’re asking them to support.
When picking the perfect perks for your crowdfunding campaign, keep money in mind. Cost includes creation, production, and delivery. And don’t forget the shipping costs! It would defeat the purpose of your campaign if the cost of the perks ended up being higher than the value of the donation (plus, that would make the donation into a purchase).
Pick perks that won’t just end up forgotten in the back of a junk drawer. If you’re going to offer perks to your donors, think carefully about what someone who is supporting your work might actually want, not just a little tchotchke that will end up adding to their clutter. A sincere thank you, a social media shoutout, or a handwritten note can be more personal and more meaningful than a hastily designed and poorly produced piece of swag.
If you’re running a campaign to create something, bring that creativity to your perk offerings. Don’t be afraid to stretch your imagination, especially if you don’t have much of a budget to work with. What can you offer as a token of thanks that’s unique to you and your skills?
It might seem obvious, but make sure that you can actually deliver on your perks! It’s a common frustration that crowdfunding donors contribute to a crowdfunding campaign, pick a little perk, and then never see or hear about it ever again from the project. The point isn’t that people are falling over themselves for whatever token of appreciation you’re offering, or that you should think of yourself as a store for them. Instead, by ensuring that you can really deliver on what you’re promising to your donors, you demonstrate that you are accountable to them as a community and as an audience.
What Can’t Be Offered as a Crowdfunding Perk?
While we certainly encourage you to be creative with the perks that you pick, there are some limits to keep in mind if you’re crowdfunding. Each crowdfunding platform will have slightly different rules, so we encourage you to take a look at what is acceptable for different sites. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid if you’re fundraising through Fractured Atlas’s crowdfunding platform.
You'll have to avoid any perks that will result in legal complications, or that have different legality state by state. For example, because raffles are considered a form of gambling, you can’t distribute raffle tickets as part of your crowdfunding campaign.
You also aren’t able to offer advertising as a perk in your Fractured Atlas crowdfunding campaign. Selling ad space (on your website or in a program) is considered earned revenue instead of a donation. This doesn’t mean that you can’t thank donors in your program or on your website, it just means that they can’t use that space to advertise their service.
Your perks can’t be more expensive than the donation. If you’re offering a ticket to your performance for a $30 donation, but the tickets sell for $50, then that $30 is really more of a purchase than a donation.
We have more complete guidelines about perks for Fractured Atlas crowdfunding campaigns here.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Picking Crowdfunding Perks
How Will I Get Them?
Will you need to design, order, make, or buy the perks that you’re considering offering? What will go into that process? Do you know who you’d want to work with if you need outside help? How much time will they require to play their part? Consider every step of the creation and production process, even if the perk feels small. Say you are offering thank-you postcards. Will you be designing them yourself? Who will print them? How long is that turnaround time?
What Do They Cost?
In part, you’ll need to figure out the retail value of your perks in order to make sure that the donation is still significantly greater than the cost of the perk in order to ensure that people are really making donations and not purchases. But you’ll also need to figure out how much they cost in order to build an accurate budget or crowdfunding goal. Keep in mind the cost of supplies and the cost of labor if you are hiring outside help (for example, a graphic designer or printmaker). But also, remember that your time is valuable! If a perk has a low cost of supplies but requires hours of your time, that’s costly in its own right.
If you need any tips about how to create a budget or tools we recommend for tracking expenses, we’ve got you covered.
How Will I Distribute Them?
Once you have accumulated donations, you’ll need to get the perks out to your donor community. Before you set up your perks, think through how you are going to get your perks to their rightful home. Will you be mailing them? If so, consider packing and shipping time and costs and figure out how you will collect addresses. Will you offer pickup? Consider what the scheduling communication might look like and how you can make it as seamless for yourself and your donors as possible. All in all, you’ll want the distribution process to be as smooth as it can be, so that you can spend the bulk of your time actually creating the work that your donors are funding, not just getting them their thank-you perks.
How Many Will I Offer?
There are a lot of perks that you might want to make available only in limited supply. For example, if you’re offering a private dance lesson or a custom drawing, you don’t want to overburden yourself with offering an unlimited number of these intensive rewards. Think about what you can reasonably offer without detracting too much time, energy, and funds from your real creative work. Plus, a limited number of perks can offer a bit of excitement for your campaign. For example, if there are only a few slots left for a piece of swag or some kind of personalized experience, you can use that to drive interest in donating to your campaign.
Crowdfunding Perks Are About Building a Donor Relationship
At the end of the day, crowdfunding perks are just a little extra oomph for your fundraising campaign. Your donors are supporting your work because they believe in it and they believe in you. Perks are nice, but they’re really just a garnish. Crowdfunding perks are a way to say thank you to your community of donors and supporters. In the end, building a strong relationship with your donors is going to serve you well as you continue making work (no matter what kinds of campaigns you use to fund it).
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.