Zack “Danger” Brown ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10 so he could make potato salad. Thirty days later, the campaign was funded at $55,492.
With so many worthy causes seeking money, it seems like a hoax that almost 7,000 people put theirs toward potato salad. But was it?
Brown had a well-thought-out strategy in place before launching his campaign, and the fact that he succeeded in raising that much money means there are several lessons to take from this “fluke.” Luckily, they’re easy to replicate and can work for anyone willing to put in the time and effort.
1. Choose your platform wisely.
Kickstarter blogged about the potato salad campaign and supported the project, though it was outside the norm. It’s important to pick a crowdfunding platform that’s geared toward your audience and supportive of you.
Your campaign site should enable you to draw a crowd and brand yourself and your project. Whether you’re developing a video game, a virtual sandbox, a book or potato salad, utilize this space to show your idea off. I compare it to your home: You want to make it a fun, welcoming place where people want to hang out.
2. Shake things up.
For most, routines get old. When something comes along that’s random, bizarre or just different, we jump at the chance to experience it. This offbeat factor is the appeal behind flash mobs, Dollar Shave Club’s viral videos and -- you guessed it -- crowdfunded potato salad.
3. Don’t just ask for money.
Brown engaged his audience with compelling videos that kept supporters up to date. He communicated new ingredients and T-shirt creations in a whimsical way that made people want more.
These videos went beyond getting people to visit his site -- they gave them a reason to stay. Crowdfunding isn’t just asking for money, it’s giving supporters a sense of accomplishment and gratification. When they experience the final product, they know they’re receiving something they helped create.
4. Get supporters before reporters.
Three days after his campaign went live, Brown appeared on the local news to spread his story. He had 200 backers at that point and ended with nearly 7,000. What people often forget is that those first 200 supporters have to come from somewhere.
The most successful campaigns have supporters before they launch. The Veronica Mars Movie Project met its goal within the first 10 hours and raised more than $5 million because the cult TV series had a loyal fan base hungry for more.
You don’t need support on that scale, but you do need 20 to 50 people to build momentum before you launch. Identify and nurture your audience, share your story and get people excited so when you launch, you already have a following with organically grown relationships.
5. Offer simple, cheap and creative rewards.
Brown’s reward levels gave everyone the opportunity to participate. He included ridiculous things such as “I will say your name out loud while making the potato salad,” and 5,664 backers out of the total 6,911 supported Brown at $10 or less.
Do you think that many people are passionate about potato salad? Probably not, but the rewards made this hilarious concept one that people wanted to be a part of.
Follow this creative example when designing your campaign, and offer experiences that are available in limited quantities or are exclusive. Writing a book? Make one reward level “dinner with the author.” Building an app? Create user avatars after your top backers.
Don’t forget to create a sense of urgency. Once the campaign ended, backers knew they’d never get another chance to hang out with Brown while he made potato salad.
6. Say "thank you."
Brown kept people engaged throughout his campaign and followed up with videos thanking his supporters. Backers want attention and acknowledgment for contributing.
We can’t know Brown’s motives, but his tactics worked. If you’ve struggled to raise funds for something meaningful, it may be infuriating that this guy raised so much money for potato salad.
But don’t let it upset you. It’s a success story you can learn from. While there’s nothing serious about potato salad, the $55,000 it raised should certainly be taken seriously.