Kickstarter Lesson #44: How to Kick It Forward Without Kicking It Forward

11 August 2013 | 27 Comments

You’ve probably seen Kickstarter projects that have the following message near the bottom of the page:

Kicking It Forward


Kicking It Forward is a pledge created by a Kickstarter creator (not Kickstarter the company) who wanted to give successful project creators a way to commit to giving back to others on Kickstarter.

This entry is not meant to rag on Kicking It Forward. I think their intentions are admirable, and they’re literally getting nothing out of it. They’re just trying to spread the idea that a successful Kickstarter creator can–and should–be a giver on Kickstarter, not just a taker. That’s a great mission.

I also have no issue with project creators who commit to kicking it forward. By all means, if that’s important to you, do it. But I’d encourage you to consider the following three reasons not to do so.

Jamey Stegmaier — KickstarterIt’s Not a Good Marketing Tool

I’ll just come out and say it: No one cares if you’re kicking it forward. That will never, ever be the deciding factor for someone who is deciding to back your project. You know what might be a deciding factor? When they look over at your profile and see that you’ve backed 0 projects on Kickstarter. That speaks a lot louder than a Kicking It Forward icon.

Conversely, if you’ve backed 50 projects, that’s going to say a lot more about your generosity and support of dream projects (not to mention your existing knowledge of Kickstarter) than Kicking It Forward.

It’s Not Fair to Your Backers

To be clear, Kicking It Forward is not a commitment to spend 5% of the overall pledges collected on other projects. If that were the case, this would be a scathing blog entry against it.

Rather, they’re very clear with the following on their website: “This is only money that the creator earns as profit AFTER the project ships and AFTER they have paid their expenses. This is NOT a suggestion to invest money they received from people who invested into their project via Kickstarter.”

Good, right? No problems here. But…wait a minute. Why are we talking about profits? If you’re talking about profits, then you’re readily admitting that you’re overcharging backers from Day One.  Now, I have no problem with project creators making money if they overfund. That’s how economies of scale work–the more you make, the less each unit costs, and you get to reap the benefits.

But I truly believe that profits don’t enter the equation until after you fund. Your project goal should be the bare minimum your project needs to exist, not the amount your project needs to exist AND for you to make a profit. The profit part comes later after your dream project becomes a reality.

So with Kicking It Forward, if you really want to do it, don’t do it from Day One. Wait until after you reach your funding goal.

It’s Not the Best Way to Kick It Forward

The greatest acts of kindness and generosity aren’t those that we broadcast to the world. When you help an old lady put away her shopping cart at the grocery store, you don’t shout to the world, “I just helped an old lady with her shopping cart!!!” No, you just do it, and you feel good about doing the right thing.

Kicking It Forward is the equivalent of shouting in the parking lot.

So instead of talking about supporting other Kickstarter projects, just do it. Back other projects. And don’t stop there. Write about your Kickstarter experience on your blog–share your knowledge with other creators. E-mail other creators words of encouragement. Be responsive if they ask you for your advice. Contribute to Kickstarter group on Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you truly believe in Kicking It Forward’s mission–to be a giver, not a taker–the best way to fulfill it is to to kick it forward your own way. Humbly help the old lady with her cart because you want to, not because you want an excuse to broadcast your generosity to the world.


What do you think? Can you think of a good example of a project creator who “kicked it forward” to other project creators on Kickstarter without formally Kicking It Forward? Let’s celebrate those project creators here.

Leave a Comment

27 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #44: How to Kick It Forward Without Kicking It Forward

  1. While I agree with your ideals of helping other projects, I do disagree with the idea that “The greatest acts of kindness and generosity aren’t those that we broadcast to the world.” We’ve gotten to this weird point in society where its very normal and popular to talk about all the terrible things we do to make us more relatable (turn on the radio for 5 minutes or most shows on Netflix by way of example), but somehow talking about the good things we do makes us pompous. If Bono trashes a hotel room he is great, but if he helps people around the world and is nominated for a Nobel, he’s a publicly reviled.

    If we all hide the good things we do, people will begin to think that helping is a shameful secret.

    I don’t exactly know the way to turn around this trend, but it seems like something we should be thinking about.

    1. Ryan: I actually think I agree with both you and me. :) I think altruism can inspire other people. Like, when I donate blood, I talk about it in the hopes that other people might consider giving blood as well.

      I think the key is that backing other projects isn’t really altruism. If you’re spending backer funds, you’re just spending someone else’s money on something for yourself. I don’t understand the point of celebrating that.

  2. I agree completely with your suggestion on backing other projects, Jamie. It’s one of the reasons I am using my personal profile on KS rather than creating a new profile for the fledgling company. Or do you think that is a mistake?

    1. Thanks for sharing! I’ll check it out. I’m intrigued by the premise, and I actually wrote a somewhat contradictory post on my personal blog about the value of sharing altruism. The example I gave was about donating blood, something I do as often as I can. I could keep that a secret, but my hope in sharing it is that it’ll inspire others to do the same.

  3. So, I’m curious about something with regards to this paragraph:

    “But I truly believe that profits don’t enter the equation until after you fund. Your project goal should be the bare minimum your project needs to exist, not the amount your project needs to exist AND for you to make a profit. The profit part comes later after your dream project becomes a reality.”

    I can absolutely see how this applies to, say, board games – your costs are primarily the unit costs for the physical games themselves. Where I don’t entirely follow is when we’re talking about projects which don’t have a physical product – for example, video games. If a developer funds a game through Kickstarter, obviously that money is largely going to developer salaries and that kind of thing; is the suggestion than simply that 100% of the funds raised through Kickstarter should solely be applied to the development of the game and not (for example) to pre-production on the developer’s next project?

    1. NerdyCanuck: That’s a good question. I wouldn’t consider developer salaries to be part of profit–that’s an expense, just like art, server space, etc. But yes, I do think funds raised should only go towards that specific project, not pre-production on the developer’s next project.

      1. I see what you’re saying, but I guess the question sticking in the back of my mind is this:

        What if you come in ahead of schedule, so by no intentional action there’s money remaining after all development is paid for and everything? Certainly it’s a better position to be in than the reverse, but what would you suggest a developer do in that scenario?

  4. This was an interesting perspective, I have to admit I found kickitforward earlier this month and thought it made sense, reading this post however I realized, it made sense from the creator perspective, not the backer perspective.

    This, I think, is something that we as creators struggle with, seeing things from the perspective of those we ask something of. This post is a great example of that. While the intention is great putting this on your project may (on some subconscious level) introduce the idea of expected profits, and we’re here to create.

    We all need to eat, but we should plan for success, not profit. Profit is a bonus, I didn’t realize something like this could cause friction in that area. Interesting thought.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, William. I like the way you put this: “[This] is something that we as creators struggle with, seeing things from the perspective of those we ask something of.” That’s exactly the case here.

  5. I agree that Kicking it Forward doesn’t do much to attract backers to the current ks, it’s more of a reputation building thing for the company in the long term. However, I think you are mischaracterizing the endeavour.

    Per InXile’s original guidelines, 100% of pledges go to making the product – pledges should never result in money leftover, but they can result in a marketable product owned by the creator (which can take the form of physical inventory left over from an increased print run due to lots of pledges). The profit comes not from pledges, but from InXile selling their game on Steam, or you sending your games to stores through distributors – games that would no exist without the KS. You pledge to give 5% of profits on those sales to other projects. No backer was overcharged 5% for it to happen.

    There is nothing sinister about KiF, but it’s not very useful to backers themselves. Backing other projects is a lot better to establish credibility.

    1. I agree–I don’t think Kicking it Forward is sinister in any way. I think the intention is good. But I think a WAY better way to be Kickstarter creator who supports other Kickstarter projects is to actively support other Kickstarter projects–before, during, and after your Kickstarter campaign.

  6. I couldn’t agree more! First, I don’t care. Second, why are you spending my money on a project I don’t want to fund? Third, your profile says “First created, zero backed…”

  7. I am not against big developers coming to Kickstarter, for one does not the data support that they are bringing droves of new backers to the site that would not otherwise have been there?

    That is at least my understanding of the thing. I also think it bad to say what is or what isn´t an indie project just because you are establised you should not be precluded from using kickstarter when trying to make a game or item that would otherwise never been made using you existing business model. I mean I dread the day when we have disscussions like those about being a “real” gamer or not. But this time about who deserves to make a Kickstarter or not. In the end that is up to Kickstarter to decide isn´t it? And I think this especially when data shows that that increases overall pledging across the board.

    I would like to see some examples where the big ones have missused kickstarter? I think even Queen Games that use kickstarter to sometimes get some of their games made much earlier. That that the best example I found and that does not hold all the way.

    As for profit I always read that if they publish more games or sell more games at a higher cost ie the extra copies to non kickstater backer and make a profit that would go to kick it forward.

    I also expected you to point out that if the profit is high do they simply put that say 10 000 $ towards someones campaign? Could you get a situation with 100 s of games not shipping to anybody because of large donations?

  8. While I agree with your assessment, I think that a major point in favor of the Kicking It Forward initiative is that it puts the focus on community building. Gone are the days in which Kickstarter and similar sites were indie – with all the exposure they now have, a lot of the initiatives tend to be run by “big” commercial publishers, and it’s easy for them to use the crowdfunding sites as a financing tool. Which, while not necessarily “evil”, does not really benefit the global community of creators, small publishers and the like.

    So, it does indeed have drawbacks – you have pointed them out, and I wholeheartedly agree that a) it’s not a great way to do things and b) there are better alternatives. But, flawed as it may be, it at least shows some concern on the part of the creators for the sustainability of the crowdfunding ecosystem as a whole, and that they see Kickstarter as something else than just a money machine.

    BTW, you want to know a great creator which ‘kicks it forward’ without using KIF? You. Even not being a creator myself, I think that everybody would agree that your Kickstarter Lessons are invaluable. Easily worth hundreds of dollars in consulting, all given for free to the global crowdfunding community. I hope more creators follow your lead and, as you have suggested, write in detail about the experiences they have gathered in running their projects – that will help pave the way for more great projects.

    1. andvaranaut–These are great points. I definitely agree that the spirit of Kicking It Forward is fantastic. I like the grassroots feel of Kickstarter, and I’m less drawn to the big corporate projects there. The spirit of Kicking It Forward hearkens to Kickstarter’s roots.

      As you point out, there are more ways to support Kickstarter than just pledging to other projects, and writing about the Kickstarter experience (or even sharing news of other cool projects) is definitely one of them–for me and for others. :)

  9. Chris–I think there’s definitely a little bit of the last point going on there.

    Dustin–That’s a great comparison to BGG.

    Kolby–I’m the same way. Even though I understand that they’re taking it out of profits, it’s hard not to view it as an inefficiency.

  10. It’s funny, I am so focused on efficiency that things like this actually have a better chance of dissuading me from pledging on a project. I think it’s great that we help each other out, but this is what I would read when I read about Kicking it Forward. “We are increasing the cost of your pledges to pay for this 5%.” Maybe that’s not the way I should look at it, but it is. I mean that money has to come from somewhere, right?

    On another note, I love what you said about the minimum goal. Great point that I’d never thought about, and obviously other companies don’t do this, while some do.

  11. To a lesser extent, your post called to mind this analogy:
    On BGG, there is an ongoing thread for crowdfunding announcements (Kickstarter, Indiegogo). A large portion of folks announcing their new KS gaming project bear the dreaded “BGG NEW USER” tag on their avatar.
    o me, this speaks volumes about their knowledge of the particular hobby industry that they are trying to break into with a new title. If you are brand-new to the premier board gaming resource website in the world, and the only game you’ve rated is your own (giving it a “10”), I’m less inclined to believe that you’ve really created a game “unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”

    1. While I understand your sentiment, I disagree with the conclusion. Many people who play and make board games have very strong local and digital communities that they are a part of. BoardGameGeek is a large online community and a wonderful resource, but being a member or an active participant of that community shouldn’t be a prerequisite for making a board game. Surely you aren’t suggesting that people who don’t post on one very specific site don’t have board game experience!

      That said, someone going to BGG and dropping their ad without approaching the community with respect is poor form. One wouldn’t walk into a local hobby store they’re not committed to, put up a bunch of signs and then leave so it makes no sense from a business perspective to do that digitally. If one is going to promo their game on BGG they should at least put in some preliminary effort to mingle and not disrupt the flow of the community as a whole. To do otherwise shows a disrespect to that community.

  12. When I first came across the kicking it forward website, I have to admit to thinking it was a great idea. In fact I even kept an eye on the projects posted there for about a week. It didn’t last though, as like you say, it doesn’t give nearly the same impression as seeing that a creator has backed other projects before.

    I’d never really considered your point about profit before, I guess I was more interested in creators showing they care about other projects than actually giving the money over. I think it certainly shows it to be a poor strategy to, in some way, advertise that you’re using kickstarter to make a profit in itself..

    Unless of course the reason people use kicking it forward is because they don’t intend to get any profit. After all, if you’re going to get £10 profit from the campaign, who cares about the 50p you’ll give up to get a little publicity!

  13. I think being a Supporter on other people’s projects is THE best way to “kick it forward.”

    I don’t do charity or these types of campaigns in order to make myself feel better… about myself.

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