Saving an Underfunded Project in the Final Week (KS Lesson #264)

25 March 2019 | 31 Comments

Last week I posited a theory that I hope isn’t true: A Kickstarter creator’s chances of successfully funding a project significantly drop if they haven’t reached their funding goal in the first 48 hours, to the point that it almost seems necessary to fund within that short amount of time.

Fortunately, there are at least a few projects that defy this theory (I’m hoping that’s the case for High Rise by Gil Hova, which is now in the final 12 hours). There’s one in particular that was highlighted to me by alert reader Andrew L: Dungeons of Infinity.

Dungeons of Infinity is the creation of Jack Spoerner. With 48 hours remaining in the campaign, the project was $10,000 short ($40,000 goal). Yet the project gained over 200 backers to actually overfund, totally $42,420. How did that happen?

I reached out to Jack to get his perspective, which he shared along with some thoughts with Andrew and another backer, David. Today I’m going to consolidate and summarize their responses and add some of my own.

A Few Ways to Save an Underfunded Project

A number of these methods are things that Jack did (and that you might consider) well before the final 48 hours. That’s a key takeaway for me–don’t give up, but also don’t wait until the last minute!

  • Offer your most enthusiastic backers a compelling reason to upgrade their pledge. I’m sure there are multiple examples of this in the Dungeons of Infinity campaign, but the one that Andrew highlighted was the $125 pledge, which offered a limited number of signed games delivered early (air freight to Jack, then shipped to the backer).
  • Stay active, engaged, and responsive throughout the entire project. If your campaign isn’t going well, you might start to find yourself tuning out or replying less in the comments. But if you’re able to fight that urge, your communication in the comments, social media, and through project updates can show leave the door open for a myriad of opportunities. It shows people that you still believe in your project, which can inspire confidence in them, especially when a campaign is struggling. Andrew says this well: “iI there was any delay in content I would have decided it was doomed to failure and checked out mentally, but your routine updates made it seem like nothing was wrong and that you were moving forward so I should too.” I think a big key here is something I discuss in my article about the mid-campaign slump: Focusing on the backers you have (instead of only outreach to potential backers) can be incredibly effective.
  • Embrace happy coincidences. I bet every creator has a story about a time they got lucky. Luck is going to strike at some point, and it’s up to you to leverage it. In Jack’s case, the massive campaign for Critical Role went live during the third week of the Dungeons of Infinity campaign. The folks at Critical Role encouraged their backers to also support smaller campaigns, and Jack’s project was one of their focuses. Jack made sure to respond to each of the “Critters” when they backed Dungeons of Infinity.
  • Pursue a crossover with another project or product. This is mostly game-specific, but it might work for other categories too. A typical crossover is when one creator adds a few cards to their game featuring characters from another game, and the other creator does the opposite. That’s what happened with Dungeons of Infinity and Stonembound Saga. I tend to this this works best when the two creators are already fans/supporters of each other and when their games have natural fan overlap–that makes it feel more natural and less like a marketing gimmick.
  • Maintain momentum via stretch goals and flash-funding goals (and possibly recalibrate them). Stretch goals remain ingrained into the Kickstarter ethos as a way to make backers feel like they’re getting extra stuff for the same price and motivate them to share the project. It’s fine to adjust these goals throughout campaign to best serve your marketing needs (without breaking your schedule or budget). And you can also consider flash-funding goals, like, “If we raise $1000 in the next 24 hours, all backers will receive X bonus.”
  • Celebrate your champions. One of my favorite things about Kickstarter is that almost every project I’ve seen has at least one or two people who believe in the creator and the project so much that they become a massive advocate for it. Jack highlighted Leigh S in his response to me, saying that she tweeted about the campaign every 30 minutes to keep it visible in the Kicktraq Top 10. Jack is celebrating her support by designing a hero in the game after her.
  • Message all lower-level backers to remind them of the opportunity to update their pledge. Kickstarter allows you to do this en masse to each reward tier. I have a detailed article about how to do this, but one addition for an underfunded project is to remind these backers that they truly have the power to make the product a reality. Don’t guilt them; just remind them that this is a unique circumstance (opposed to other projects that have already funded).
  • Use your project follower stats as a source of inspiration (and more). Kickstarter now allows creators to see how many people have clicked the “notify me” button, and it also displays the number of followers who become backers (Jack shared this image for Dungeons of Infinity with me; see below). Not only can this be a source of inspiration for a creator, but it can also motivate them to make their project as appealing as possible before Kickstarter sends the final 48-hour notification to the followers. Creators can also use this information in response to people who are complaining that the project won’t reach the goal.

There are other techniques to save an underfunded project, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Big thanks to Jack, Andrew, and David for sharing their perspectives on Dungeons of Infinity!

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31 Comments on “Saving an Underfunded Project in the Final Week (KS Lesson #264)

  1. I just want to ask, and I’m honestly not trying to be negative, but your point here Jamey rests on the statement: “A Kickstarter creator’s chances of successfully funding a project significantly drop if they haven’t reached their funding goal in the first 48 hours”. Isn’t that something of a Tautology? I mean, 100% of projects that fund in the first 48 hours fund, and a non-100% of projects that don’t fund in the first 48 hours fund. But that’s true for literally any period of time throughout the life of a Kickstarter isn’t it? What exactly is different for the first 48 hours?

    What I mean is, clearly of projects that fail to fund, 100% of them fail to fund in the first 48 hours, but of projects that do fund do the vast majority of them fund in the first 48 hours?

      1. Jamey: Well, there are currently 204 projects live in the tabletop games Kickstarter category. Of those that are already funded 64 funded in the first 48 hours, 36 funded later than that. So of those that are already funded just under two thirds funded in the first 48 hours. Of the remainder ten were launched in the last 48 hours and have yet to fund and so could yet belong to either statistic. Of the remaining projects, two are within a few percent of funding and three projected to fund at over 200% by backertracker, with five projected to fund at over 125%. Of the remainder, 26 are projected to fund. If Backertracker is even 50% accurate on that remainder, and if it is also 100% accurate in its predictions of the remaining projects that are projected to fail (and I discounted projects that were projected at even 99%) that leaves 23 projects that are currently live that will back without having backed in the first 48 hours. Overall that would put the split at 64 funded in the first 48 hours and 59 funded without funding in the first 48 hours. Clearly if Backertracker is more accurate that may even swing to the majority of projects that successfully fund not funding in the first 48 hours.

        Clearly that’s only a snapshot, but I think that it suggests that ‘vast majority’ is a stretch.

          1. No problem. To be honest, I’d long held that opinion and this was a nice excuse to actually sit down and make the count to find out one way or the other.

            I’m a big believer that projects can and should plan to fund about half way through their campaign, if you pick a goal that you can hit in the first 10% of your time I feel like you should have a shorter campaign or a higher goal.

            But the reason that I wanted to voice the dissent is that I’m now seeing projects that could fund (and fund well) cancelling on day 3 because they didn’t fund by the end of day 2 and other projects cancelling after funding because they named a total that they thought they could hit in 48 hours rather than a total that they actually needed. I consider both to be negative tendencies that I see increasing and I think that’s because of the idea that projects must or should fund in 48 hours.

  2. Jamey, thank you for writing this. As the launch date for my kickstarter approaches and my anxiety and fear of failure ratchets up, reading your article does assuage those emotions. It helps to think about tangible actions that can be taken throughout the campaign. Thank you! -Ben

      1. It’s happening! I launched my first KS campaign and we funded 15 days into the campaign. :)

        Jamey, thank you for writing about your experiences. It’s been immensely helpful learning from you.

  3. Jamey this is really great information! Jack actually just turned me on to this after I reached out to him about his recent success with Dungeons of Infinity. I am running a kickstarter for a coop game called Raid Boss, and I am trying to cross over that threshold after not hitting 50% in the first 48 hours. I think we have a good strategy to get there, but this has opened up some ideas for things we hadn’t even considered! Thanks to you and Jack and the others that have posted on this thread!


  4. According to Kickstarter themselves, 98% of projects that reach 60% funded will eventually be successful. We clung to that as FlickFleet reached 60% in two weeks, but we were crawling rather than running. In the last couple of days one thing we did was post an update saying we were going to the wire and wouldn’t cancel regardless. We had a few people up their pledges and one very generous back who went in for five copies to get us to our target with four hours to spare! It wasn’t a comfortable experience, but we were successful and at a low enough level that we can deliver our hand-crafted games comfortably on time.

  5. Great article Jamey, and a great campaign to follow. Jack was very involved with his backers, and the engagement of some them was truly inspiring . I launched and ended Novus on the same days as his, with similarly themed games (but much different gameplay concepts) . This kept me watching his closely! On the final day I had only managed to get to 60% compared to his 95%, and knew I could not find the extra $10k needed in less than a day.
    Seeing the positive discussions in his group inspired me to send a comment in my own KS to encourage some of my backers to help fund Jack (since they would not be charged the funds they planned for my game).
    I am not sure how many made a pledge for Infinity, but it did spark some great chats in both KS groups! It was awesome to see his campaign finish off over the mark on his relaunch, and gives me some hope for the Novus relaunch later this year ⚔️😀⚔️.
    Congratulations Jack! You worked hard for that success, well deserved!

    1. Wes I was so touched by your comment to your group. I was so focused on my game I had no idea what else was out there. When I got wind of what you did I went a checked it out. I want to play it. So whatever I can do to help let me know.

  6. Thanks Jamey, I am about 5 days in on my campaign currently and 67% funding. I think we’ll make it in the end. You’re right about 1-2 big fans that believe in the project, I have a few of them, they’re constantly posting and spreading the word.

  7. Great insights! I can’t help but notice that there are no mentions in advertising. A project this vast, I thought it could invest in some marketing apart from engaging already backed people.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love those suggestions. But as a creator with a small budget I thought only advertising would do a difference that big; the above proves me wrong, thankfully!

    1. Harry, I did Facebook advertising throughout the campaign. It brought in over 100 pledges. So it played a big role. But it is not what put Dungeons of Infinity over the top. There was just a lot involved that created this rush at the end.

  8. Thanks for the shout out, and glad to help connect you guys. I felt like this was a very timely campaign for contrasting your previous point. I also noticed Gil Hova’s campaign and am watching it closely in the same manner.

    Thanks for being so approachable Jamey, and thanks for covering this topic with your thoughts as well — I found the suggestions and reflection to be very helpful!

  9. I feel like I’m noticing a trend recently of campaigns getting a minimal surge in the final 48 hours; maybe it’s just the ones I’ve been following (Consumption and Iwari come to mind immediately).

  10. As always, really good post with lots of useful tips. I am really surprised that Dungeons of Infinity finally funded, given that they were around 50% most of the time that I was checking them (and I kind of assumed they wouldn’t fund so stopped looking). The game looks really cool and I am very glad that they succeeded.
    Again, thanks for sharing all of this content with (future) content creators, I really think it makes a difference, not only on finding actual good advices and ways to do stuff, but also on growing the confidence on yourself to pursue this passion that game designing is! Your book is really inspiring (and brought to my attention the Viticulture Kickstarter video, which is priceless, :P).

  11. You’re right – the first 48 hours are huge. I like the idea of messaging or reaching out (Update) to backers at lower levels on reasons why they can raise their pledges. And flash Stretch Goals are interesting (as long as they are doable for the Creator).

  12. Thanks Jamey! It’s looking like we’ll hit our goal in the next few hours, which hopefully makes the sleepless nights worth it.

    One more tip I’d add: find your campaign’s weakest spot and try to fix it! In my case, it was that backers wanted to see more of the game’s final art before committing. My previous games had very strong hooks that got people interested while I was finishing art, but High Rise is a tough game to summarize in a sentence, and folks needed more than a one-liner to get on board.

    Once I posted Kwanchai’s final art, we started converting a lot of fence-sitters. I’m very thankful we have him for this game!

    1. Thanks Gil! I hope so. And I really like your suggestion of pinpointing the biggest weak spot (often by asking and listening to backers) and doing something to fix it.

      Good luck today! I’m proud to be a backer of High Rise. :)

    2. When I read Jamey’s support of your game, I went straight away and backed it. I’m glad you are over the hump.

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