27 October 2015 | 39 Comments
While I’m on the subject of frequently asked questions and answers that have a bearing on the greater Kickstarter ecosystem, I thought I’d share the second-most asked question during the Scythe Kickstarter campaign (here’s the first):
The question: “Can I pledge $1 now and upgrade my rewards on the pledge manager at the Kickstarter prices?”
My answer: “No, we don’t use a pledge manager. All pledges must be made in full during the Kickstarter campaign.”
I want to be clear that this is not a bad question or a dumb question. It’s a perfectly reasonable question that is indicative of what crowdfunding has become. It worries me a little bit, but for the most part I’m not judging the impact pledge managers have on Kickstarter; rather, I just want to talk about what it means.
I’ll get the worrisome part out of the way: It appears that some backers assume all Kickstarter projects use a pledge manager, including mine, even though the Scythe project page specifically contradicts that assumption near the top of the page:
This worries me because I’m 100% sure there are going to be backers who contact me after 7:59 pm CST on November 5 asking to add onto their pledge or upgrade it. But at that point the price will have gone up, and certain versions of the game won’t even be available for pre-order. Stonemaier Games Kickstarter projects are like one long early-bird reward, and we draw a hard line when the campaign ends.
Now, the good thing is that I’m armed with this knowledge, so it means that’s something I will specifically call attention to when I send out reminder messages to each pledge tier at the 60-hour mark of the project, especially the $1 level, which currently has 487 backers. I’ve also improved the visibility of the pledge manager question and answer on the project page, and I’ve mentioned it several times in project updates.
So what does this mean for crowdfunding as a whole? It means that pledge managers are becoming more prevalent, and for at least some backers, they’re decreasing the importance of backing now since you can just join in later.
Some might view that as being good for backers. It gives them more flexibility. They can reserve their spot now with a $1 pledge, and when they have more time or funds later, they can upgrade their pledge.
However, I think there is value in urgency. Not early-bird-level urgency where you can miss out on the best price in minutes, but the type of urgency that is inherent to the limited timeframe of a Kickstarter campaign. If a campaign is completely fluid and nebulous, that urgency goes away.
I think this will continue to be a frequently asked question, and I have just one small suggestion to creators to help alleviate any issues it may cause. It’s in the last part of the question: “Can I pledge $1 now and upgrade my rewards on the pledge manager at the Kickstarter prices?”
It’s perfectly reasonable to increase your prices post-Kickstarter. By that point you’ve hopefully reached a bunch of stretch goals–the value proposition is completely different. The product that was worth a $40 pledge might now be worth $50 or more. It’s fair to charge pre-order customers the higher price. They’re not there to fund your dream–they’re there to pre-order a product.
If more projects did that, I think that would create a clear differentiating factor for backers: Whether or not there is a pledge manager or a post-project pre-order option, they will assume that if they want to upgrade their pledge later, it’s going to cost more. So even if a backer assumes incorrectly that a project will have a pledge manager, they won’t be caught off guard when a creator tells them after the campaign that they can still pre-order the same stuff…just at a higher price.
That way the ecosystem continues to work for pledge manager and non-pledge manager projects alike, as well as for backers of both types of projects.
What do you think?
Reader and designer Mateusz Rakowski (Raku on the Board) kindly made an icon that creators can add to their project page if they want to communicate that they won’t be offering a pledge manager (that is, they don’t allow late pledges or pledge upgrades, increasing the urgency and importance of the actual campaign). The icon is free for anyone to use.