Stephanie Pereira is Kickstarter’s Director of Community Education. Trained as an artist, Stephanie spent the first ten years of her career in the nonprofit arts world, before joining Kickstarter in 2011 as the Director of the Art Program. In her current role, Stephanie develops tools and resources for the creative community at-large to be able to realize their creative ideas.
On Monday, August 8th at 7pm EST, Stephanie presents her “Kickstarter School” webinar, an invaluable primer on how to bring a Kickstarter project to life. She will take a look at some successful projects from across the site and explore what kind of rewards work best, how to spread the word about your project, and other helpful tips.
We had a chance to ask Stephanie a few questions about her experience as an artist, curator and funder, as well as get her tips on building a strong creative community.
Hannah Fenlon: Tell me about your transition from art school to Kickstarter. How did your artistic training impact what you’re currently doing?
Stephanie Pereira: While I was in art school I realized two things. First, while I love the creative process and making art, I am not an artist. The other thing that I learned was that I loved organizing events and exhibitions with my friends. I was naturally good at it, and it gave me great satisfaction to bring more creative ideas to the world. By the time I graduated, my artistic practice had even drifted into event production, with installation work that was designed to interrogate the traditional gallery-going experience and transform space through engagement. It’s been well over a decade since I attended art school but the education I got there has stuck with me. The lens through which I look at the world is endlessly creative, project oriented, iterative and (I hope) generous. Because my school had a strong emphasis on critical theory, I am also not content to make work in my professional life that is lazy or represents the status quo.
I joined Kickstarter over three and a half years ago because I felt that as a platform, there was great promise for the creative community. Our founders imagined a world where making things would be easier, that funding would not be the barrier to getting stuff made, and that people could be more directly involved in the incredibly satisfying experience of creating, and not simply consuming the world around you. For me personally, I believe strongly that the arts are not a charity and that art should be able to exist for arts sake. I also believe that while it is an important skill for creative people to be able to communicate their ideas through many mediums, not just their art, that the medium of grant writing should not necessarily have to be one of them.
Hannah: Crowdfunding is pretty widespread among individual artists and artist collectives these days, but is also being used with more frequency by institutions (for creative projects) and celebrities. With all the “noise” happening in the fundraising space, how might an individual artist or artist collective determine that using a platform like Kickstarter is the right step for them?
Stephanie: At Kickstarter we have never been a big advocate of the word crowdfunding. When you come to our website, you are going to see lots of creative ideas and the people who are making them happen. Likewise, for the folks who are concerned about the “noise” in the crowdfunding space, I would remind them that what is important is you and your idea. People don’t generally write and share stories about crowdfunding projects. People write about ideas that inspire them, and the people behind them. On Kickstarter, people are supporting people, not crowdfunding projects.
The best advice I can offer to folks who are concerned about this is that coming to Kickstarter does not mean suddenly throwing your artist hat aside and speaking in the “language of crowdfunding.” You be you! Talk about your art, play us some music, tell us about your book, invite us to your film screening. That is what we are here for, and what we are talking about and reading about.
Hannah: Can you talk a little about the relationship between community-building online via Kickstarter, and building a community of fans and followers for the long term? In other words, how have you seen artists or creators turn their online communities into in-person communities?
Stephanie: It is SO important for anyone thinking about doing a project on Kickstarter to come at it with the ambition of growing and engaging an audience for the long-term. Your Kickstarter campaign typically lasts only 30-days, your creative project might last years. The community who rallies around you during that 30-day campaign is in a way your new family. They have pledged their support to your idea and are excited to see it happen. It is up to the people behind the projects to run with that trust, and take their new family along for the ride.
The best and easiest way that project creators have turned their on-line communities into in-person communities is using their campaign rewards. The rewards that a creator offers their community should be tailored for their community, and designed to engage them in a memorable and meaningful way in the creative project itself. For example, if someone is making a film, they can offer to list all their backers names in the credits of the film, invite them to a rough-cut screening of the film, or even stage a special backers-only viewing. Rewards like this engage the loyalty of your fans, and give them a sense of deep personal involvement in your project. Even better when it gives them a chance to get to know the project creator and their work. Rewards like a “Facebook shoutout” or a t-shirt are transactional in nature and don’t do this. For inspiration, check out our recent blog post which features 96 ideas for creative and engaging project rewards.
Another easy tactic is keeping your backers in the loop using the Project Updates feature built-in to every Kickstarter project. Project Updates are like a blog for your project and can be as rewarding as any other aspect of the project. I can’t tell you how many project creators we see that stop sending Updates once their projects have been funded. This is a mistake — It says to backers that now that you have their money, the relationship is over. It means that you can’t go back to them for a later project because you have not kept them engaged in your story. A great example of this is Brooklyn Castle, a documentary film project that did three successful Kickstarter projects over the course of the making of their film. They were able to do this because they kept backers invested.
Hannah: You’re kept very busy speaking to groups about Kickstarter, fundraising, and community building. What are some of the most frequently asked questions, and how have these changed since you started working for the organization?
Stephanie: I have worked for Kickstarter since Sept 2011, and the truth is that the questions generally have remained the same. People have a lot of questions about the basics of what Kickstarter is and how it works. After that, we get a lot of questions about good ideas for rewards, making a project video, and how to find an audience for your project. If they are not successfully funded the first time, people also often ask if they can try again. (By the way, the answer is, “yes!”)
Hannah: What was the most recent Kickstarter project you funded, and why?
Stephanie: To date I have backed nearly 550 projects, you can see them all here. Just this morning I backed and also tweeted about Miakada, an eco-friendly and cruelty-free clothing line made here in NYC. I encountered them at the vegetarian food fair this past weekend, and they had fliers promoting their Kickstarter project. Not only do I love their mission, their rewards almost all offer direct access to items from the clothing line, and at a price close to retail. This is so key! Rewards should represent early or exclusive access to what is being created, and not at inflated values. So many people treat Kickstarter like a fundraiser. It is not, I can’t stress that enough. Kickstarter is a tool for engaging a community to bring a project to life.
Need some more help launching a new Kickstarter project? Want more access to Stephanie’s crowdfunding expertise? Click here to register for her “Kickstarter School” webinar on Monday, March 21st at 7:00pm EST. Our webinars always include a live Q&A, so you’ll have the opportunity to engage in conversation with Stephanie about your own projects at the end of the session.