18 July 2016
Two years ago, Reading Rainbow raised over $5 million on Kickstarter to build out its app. A core part of its message was, in their words, “No matter how much we raise, we promise that every dollar you pledge will bring Reading Rainbow to more platforms, and provide it for free in more classrooms.”
I was a backer, and I was happy to see Reading Rainbow do so well. But the project left me a little confused about Kickstarter’s guidelines regarding charitable giving. Thousands of backers donated money to help kids in need learn to read.
Kickstarter has a rule about charitable giving: “Our rules only prohibit offering funds raised directly through Kickstarter to charity. However, you are welcome to include information about donating future proceeds (raised outside of Kickstarter).”
That rule seems full of gray areas, so I decided to chat with Kickstarter to get the details about what creators can or cannot do regarding charitable projects. Here’s what they said:
“It’s acceptable to donate a reward or rewards to charity, and it’s also acceptable to donate future profits (outside of Kickstarter) to charity, but it’s not okay to donate any amount of actual funds raised on Kickstarter to charity. The same goes for running contests around donating to charities, since we do not permit contests as well.
In addition, sometimes we do have charitable organizations and non-profits run Kickstarter projects. This is totally fine, as long as the projects fall within our rules and create something to share with others.
Kickstarter is more about the creation of something new than a capital expense (like a new chapel for a church), as long as there were tangible rewards involved and the projects was within our rules, it could potentially be acceptable on Kickstarter.”
I sent Kickstarter some examples (from the perspective of creators), and here’s what is allowed and not allowed:
- For every item sold on Kickstarter, we’ll donate an item to a nonprofit.
- If we reach this stretch goal, we’ll give 50 rewards to a charity.
- Our organization has supported and continues to support a charity (but we’re not specifically saying that Kickstarter funds are going to the charity).
- Our organization is a charity, but we’re raising money to make a thing.
- 10% of all funds raised for this Kickstarter will be donated to our favorite charity.
- All proceeds of a specific reward level go to a charity.
That seems pretty clear to me.
The last thing to note is that Kickstarter doesn’t catch everything. They wouldn’t confirm this as I questioned them about charities, but I’m pretty sure they rely heavily on users to red flag projects that violate their guidelines. So you might see a project that doesn’t follow these rules, but unless someone tells Kickstarter about it, they probably don’t know.
So if you’re in doubt about whether or not your project meets those guidelines, ask Kickstarter up front before you launch. That way you won’t be caught off guard 2 days into your project if Kickstarter suddenly realizes that your project isn’t following the rules.