Kickstarter Lesson #219: The Power of Pre-Commitment

3 March 2017 | 8 Comments

Do you intend to vote in the next election?

As mentioned in this article, a study was conducted in which researchers called people and asked if they were planning to vote in an upcoming election. Everyone said yes.

The researchers later looked at how many of those people actually voted (compared to a control group who didn’t receive a phone call). Here’s what they found: “The subjects who said they were going to vote actually did so much more often than those in a control group.”

What’s going on here? Does saying you’ll do something actually increase the chances you’ll do it? How does this apply to crowdfunding? Let’s find out.


Robert Cialdini, author of a number of behavioral psychology books, talks about the principle of consistency: We feel compelled to do things that are consistent with our stated intentions.

You’ve probably experienced this in the form of RSVPs. If you confirm that you’re going to attend a wedding, there’s an excellent chance you’ll actually do it.

I’ve been using something similar to this method for a while via our future printing request form. On it I ask people three questions:

  • Which in-progress products are you planning to buy?
  • Which out-of-print products would you buy if we made them?
  • Which hypothetical new products would you buy if we made them?

The primary purpose of the form is to gauge demand. Even though the responses aren’t as rock-solid as if I asked for a pre-order, by asking people to state their intentions, the data is still useful. Since January 1, over 4400 people have filled out that form.

One of the best implementations of this method is something my friend and colleague, John Coveyou, used on his first Kickstarter campaign. Leading up to the launch, he reached out to friends, family, and various people to ask if they would commit to pledging $1 on launch day. 40 people agreed to do this.

Nearly all of those people followed through with a Day 1 pledge. Not just that, but over 30 of those people actually backed the project for a full reward or a higher reward level.

I think there’s a key difference between what John did versus getting people to sign up for a project launch reminder. John got people to say “yes” to making a pledge before his campaign began. He didn’t hound them or push them to do something they didn’t want to do–he simply asked them to state their intentions.


As subtle as this is, the principle of consistency and its impact on pre-commitments is a powerful tool for creators. It could make a big difference on the crucial Day 1 of a project, or it can help you accurately gauge demand on your version of our future printing request form.

I look forward to hearing examples in the comments about how you’ve implemented or engaged with this technique. If you say yes to something, are you more likely to do it?

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8 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #219: The Power of Pre-Commitment

  1. This is a really interesting concept and something I’m going to explore. I wonder how much timing impacts the success of this?

    If you ask people 6 months before, 6 weeks before or 6 days before I’m sure you’ll get different rates of success but it’s hard to assume what the sweet spot is.

    1. Frank: That’s a keen observation. I hadn’t thought about the timing, but I bet you’re right that it matters. My future printing request form probably has a much lower conversion rate than when John reached out to people 1-2 weeks before his launch.

      1. 1 – 2 weeks sounds a good time frame, I was thinking around 8 – 12 days. Any less feels like it might be too close, as you’re basically asking someone to do something twice in a week, which may be a frustration. More than 2 weeks seems like they are more likely to start forgetting.

        As I’m 22 days away from launch I think I will try and put something together for this and see how it plays out.

        Thanks for the idea!

  2. Good read! I hadn’t really thought about the science behind it, but we’ve tried a few pre-launch campaign services/tactics that were fairly successful. Although they’re not exactly the same as the point you’re making of stating an intention to do something, I still think those who commit to being notified of the launch of a campaign way ahead of time are more likely to take some kind of action when it does launch. It’s a nice rallying point for work you’ve done months and years before the campaign launch.

    We’ve tried Prefundia, Krowdster, and focusing on our Kickstarter preview link in the past and we plan to give both a Facebook Launch Party Event and Thunderclap a whirl this year.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Brian! I thought about mentioning Prefundia and other notification systems, but my theory is that there’s a psychological difference between signing up for an alert and pre-committing to pledge. I’m sure it can’t hurt, though.

  3. Hmm… That’s interesting. I’ve heard of this effect before, actually a couple months ago when I was helping with a local voting initiative.

    I’m getting ready to launch a kickstarter for board game display stands. Do you think that this technique could apply to more than just family and friends? Would there be a good way to do this with people in our mailing list? Sorta thinking out loud, although I’d be open to hearing people thoughts/comments.

    Thanks again for another great article!

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