Barnard College's Monthly Magazine
by Olivia Alymer
As the world’s largest online platform for creative projects, from small films to full-scale productions, Kikstarter encourages creators to dream big. Of course, “dreaming big” often comes at an even bigger price tag.
With a few clicks of a mouse, project creators set realistic fundraising goals which they must meet before time runs out—until then, no mon- ey changes hands. Kickstarter does not invest in or lend money to the projects themselves; rath- er, it serves as a cyber-sized megaphone, spread- ing the word to friends, family, and followers of the site who then donate to the projects.
Of course, communication with donors plays a lead role. Project creators come up with cre- ative, tangible, and fairly priced rewards should their visions come to fruition. Dinner with the cast, thanks in the credits, collaborations with the artists themselves—the more interactive, the more effective, When it comes to inspir- ing others to stand behind an idea, Kickstarter promotes creativity in every step of the process.
One does not need to search far to find a group of resourceful individuals who rec- ognized the benefit of such a site. On both sides of Broadway, Kickstarter has helped to fund students’ ideas; most recently, the newly launched undergraduate photogra- phy magazine at Columbia, HALCYON.
“I first heard about Kickstarter over the summer, when I was making the initial plans to launch HALCYON. I spent a lot of time perus- ing the websites of other undergraduate publi- cations at Columbia in order to see how they represented themselves online, and to learn more about their fundraising processes,” Edi- tor-in-Chief Rebekah Lowin, CC’14, says. “Af- ter researching the site a bit more, I decided that it was a reliable, convenient, and relevant tool of which we definitely had to take advantage.”
However, getting started with Kickstarter takes more than a few minutes at one’s laptop. An array of rules and regulations regarding the formation of a business account, specifically for Kickstarter purposes, involves creating a bank account and verifying it through the Amazon payments system. Not only does the process take time, but the program itself takes 5% of the final contributions if the goal is met. If a project does not ultimately reach its goal, there’s zero risk of monetary loss. Still, the system works because it motivates people to spread the word far and wide as they watch their project come to life. As HALCYON soon learned, grassroots efforts need to factor into the plan not only for financial cushioning, but to make the most effective use of the Kickstarter philosophy.
“In addition to our fundraising on the site, we plan on running a few other pub-
licity campaigns, among them a vigorous weekly bake-sale program—yes, yes, vigorous is the correct descriptor. We’re quite serious about our brownie-baking, which we implemented at the beginning of September,” Lowin says. “We’ve already raised upwards of $3,000 with Kickstarter, and our goal was set to $1,000.”
Logging on to Kickstarter and clicking on Discover Projects encourages users to “Start exploring.” As they do, they find a diverse as- sortment of projects, with the percent funded, amount pledged, and days left to reach their fundraising goals illustrated by a green bar at the bottom. Similar to a Facebook profile, each project’s Kickstarter “page” can be modi- fied to fit the groups’ wants and needs, while still maintaining the reliably clean interface for which the site is known. Many choose to liven up their pages with blog posts, video updates, and pictures, keeping supporters in the loop throughout the process. Projects that are regu- larly updated gain more attention, and more support, by projecting a sense of real people behind the screen with a genuine passion for their vision. Lowin appreciated the personal- ized feel when creating HALCYON’S page “We were able to write up a little backstory on our project and even offer rewards to our donors, she says. “Without a printed final prod- uct until April, we really need as big of an In- ternet presence as we can get, and Kickstarter has been invaluable in adding to that presence.”
In making the decision to use Kickstarter, Lowin credits Hoot, Columbia’s fashion magazine, which advertised their own Kikstarter campaign on their Facebook page. While Hoot attained $500 grant from the CUarts Gatsby Charitable Foundation to fund the printing of the premiere issue, it also called on Kick- starter’s services and continues to do so—they launched another campaign this month to help pay for the printing of their glossy publication.
Hoot’s current editor-in-chief, Anna Cooperberg, also recognized that without Kickstarter, their second issue would not have come to fruition. At the time, they were not including ads in the magazine. With the money raised (a little over $2,000) the program allowed them to print 1,000 cop- ies of the issue featuring cover star and CU alum Tinsley Mortimer last fall—a far cry from the 100 copies printed for their debut issue.
“Being able to print so many issues was a great opportunity, especially for a new magazine like us. Funding based on grants and donations alone is difficult, especially if no funds are giv- en by Columbia or Barnard.” Cooperberg says.
Outside of the publication realm, many students also call on Kickstarter to help them turn the seeds of a documentary idea into a full-fledged film. Last May, a film titled “White Coats, or What Happened to Charles Drew?” about the members, alumnae, and history of the Charles Drew Premedical So- ciety, a student group at Columbia commit- ted to helping and encouraging minorities to become doctors, reached its $2,000 goal.
Summer spelled success for more than one project, as Columbia graduate film school stu- dent and MFA candidate Jeff Moneo successfully surpassed his $5,000 goal to create “Big Muddy,” a short, live-action dramatic film, in July 2010.
Clearly, Kickstarter attracts users from the under- graduate to the graduate and post-graduate levels who think outside the box, while also acknowledg- ing the cost of creativity. The site does not falsely lead its users into financial pitfalls. Rather, it allows them to test concepts without risk, and if successful, spreads the word throughout campus and beyond.
With its clean layout, professional online at- mosphere, and encouragement of creative proj- ects, from the traditional to the whimsical,what more could a budding innovator ask for? Sim- ply put, a good dose of community support.
As Lowin says, “A large part of our suc- cess came from the fact that we, the staff, ral- lied our friends and family to donate. The site, after all, is just a site. It cannot work on its own.”