Whenever I back a project that ends up failing to meet its goal, I always ask “what went wrong?” Sometimes it’s obvious; unrealistic timelines, obscenely high pledge goals, or just someone not really knowing what they’ve got themselves into (and to be honest, in most of those cases I’m relieved it didn’t get funded. I’m human; my impulses get the better of me). There are other campaigns, though, that have a killer idea with a smart, realistic business plan that come nowhere near their goal. What gives?

When you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you’re selling more than your idea; you’re selling your story. This is what makes the most wildly successful campaigns break funding records.


The “DoubleFine Adventure Game” Kickstarter was one of the first big crowdfunding success stories. But if you go back and look at their original pitch, they weren’t selling you on a specific game. In fact, they didn’t share any game details, because they hadn’t started! What they sold was Tim Schafer’s story. He helped create some of the most beloved point-and-click adventure games of all time, and he wanted to make another. Sold. Shut up and take my money.

“Like they always say, a good pitch is a good story.”
-Tim Schafer

I call it the “So What?” factor. It’s what keeps me from backing some otherwise interesting projects; I’m intrigued by a game or piece of apparel, but get to the end of the page and go “so what?” There is no shortage of great ideas out there, and even a groundbreaking new product, game or app has a hard time breaking through the noise and the clutter. If I’m going to plunk down $50 on something, I’m supporting you as much as I’m supporting your idea. So you have the unenviable task of not just selling your product, but selling yourself. To do that, here are three things to stress in your crowdfunding pitch.

1. Your Expertise

So what makes you uniquely qualified to represent this project?

Show your backers what you bring to the table that others can’t. Do you have a degree in a field related to your idea? Did some frustration at your day job spark this product? Or did you even work on another campaign that had a fatal flaw that you’ve since addressed? Show us why your background makes you the person to make this project a reality.

2. Your Passion

You don’t have to be a world-renowned creator, or at the top of your field, or have a half-dozen degrees for me to want you to succeed, though. Maybe you’re a history major who wants to tell the story of the Han Dynasty through a massively-multiplayer board game. Maybe you have a relative struggling with some accessibility feature on their phone, which inspired you to create an app to help them interact with technology easier.

Whatever your passion is, it's not something you can fake. If you’re having a hard time getting across your excitement, how are you going to get others excited on your behalf?

3. Your Grit

Similarly, show me how your product or idea has already affected others, if possible. Show people having fun playing your game, or talk about early failed iterations of your product. Prove to backers that you’ve tested your idea with real people, and you’ve iterated on their feedback. This is all in an effort to show everyone you’re committed to making the best possible product and not resting on your laurels.

This can help address any doubts about your ability to follow through, a concern that is particularly tough to address if it is your first campaign. If we can see you’re the type to sweat the small stuff and work hard to fulfill your promises, we’re more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

You may be a product designer, or an app developer, or a designer, but when it comes to your crowdfunding campaign, you’re first and foremost a storyteller. Always remember that.