DIY Comics: Conversion rates of crowdfunding

Independent comic creators turning to crowdfunding to get projects off the ground has become common. Results tend to be mixed with some striking their goal and flat-lining, some barely getting out the gate and failing, and the rare few that go viral and raise mountains of cash above and beyond the goal.  As a regular contributor to crowdfunded projects I’ve developed a fairly good sense for what will fail and what will be successful. Knowing the trends is important, because even if a project does receive all of the requested funding that doesn’t mean it’ll be successful.

In addition to supporting projects I’ve been on the other side by successfully launching a project using a lesser known crowdfunding platform called StartSomeGood. Making the decision to choose SSG wasn’t easy. At the time it was very new to the crowdfunding game, so it didn’t have the reach of Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. We knew that if we chose SSG the success would be completely contingent on our ability to get the word out. Our final decision to choose SGG was due to two reasons. First of all, their mission was specifically targeted at nonprofits and we were raising these funds as a nonprofit. It was a good fit in that sense. The clincher was the “tipping point” model. In order to build the foundation for what we wanted to do we knew we needed to raise at the least $3500. If we raised a dime less than that the funding would have been pointless. We also knew that in order to completely fund the project and go above and beyond we’d need $10,000 and we wanted people to know that. SSG makes the tipping point and ideal funding goal posts very visible.

We were able to raise $1501 beyond our tipping point goal which was more than we needed to get started. I have nothing but good things to say about my experience with SSG. The team behind the site constantly provided input on how to make the campaign most successful and we’re quick to respond to queries. One of the founders even contributed to our campaign, which meant a great deal to me.

Knowing I’ll likely be doing a new crowdfunded project in the future I keep an eye on the trends, especially when it comes to determining which site will be the best to use. If I’m raising money for freelance journalists again I’d likely return to SSG. However, if I’m doing something more personal, like trying to fund a comic, I’d probably go with either Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.

This morning Compete released a study comparing the conversion rates of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. The study shows that Kickstarter, being the current market leader with the highest traffic rate, is also the best when it comes to visitors completing the pledge process. IndieGoGo, with half the traffic of Kickstarter, has been closing in on the more popular sites conversion rate. IndieGoGo could be doing much better and the studies author deduces “if I were Indiegogo, this would be the most concerning. Although a 58% abandonment rate is on track with ecommerce averages, it is nowhere near the 35% abandonment rate their direct competitor is seeing.”

Why is IndieGoGo’s abandonment rate so high?

One theory is I’m not alone in being uncomfortable with “flexible funding.” The original purpose of these sites wasn’t to fully fund projects, but to instead give someone what they need to get a project off the ground –  to kick start it. If you need $3500 to start your project, but you only raise $1000 – before the  fees and cost of your perks – what’s the point of taking that money? How are you going to finish your project if you can’t even raise the foundation? Even if I’m familiar with the person seeking the funding and am fairly confident they’ll raise the goal I won’t give money if their campaign is “flexible funding.” Rarely do flexible funding campaigns say what will happen to the money they raise if they don’t reach the goal. Is the amount being sought the “I can do everything with this project” goal, but only a few hundred dollars are actually needed to get it going? Is the project dead if you don’t reach the goal and instead my money will go toward something completely unrelated?

My other theory is Kickstarter’s review process results in a higher number of likely successful projects. The Internet is full of people complaining about Kickstarter rejecting a proposal. IndieGoGo is the Wild West of crowdfunding. Anyone can throw a campaign on the site. This, of course, results in a higher rate of duds, but it also allows someone to succeed or fail completely on their ability to pitch and market a project. It also means there’s much more chaff between your project and the people who may simply be browsing for something to support.

If I were seeking to fund a creator-owned comic at the moment I’d definitely pitch to Kickstarter first and IndieGoGo would be my second choice upon rejection.


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