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A Collective’s Best Friend

Forget angel investors—it’s all about Kickstarter. How three groups met their ambitious fund-raising goals (and then some) by tapping the web’s newest rainmaker.

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Richard II on Trapeze
What it is: Shakespeare’s historical tragedy, performed by actors on circus apparatuses. Who’s doing it: Matchbook Productions, an aerial theater company.
How much it raised: $7,857 from 124 backers in 23 days (131 percent of its $6,000 goal).
What the money is for: renting rehearsal space, fixing trapezes, and paying the artists.
Reward for lowest pledge ($10 to $24): a “cheerful thank-you” and credit on Matchbook’s website (sixteen backers).
Reward for highest pledge ($1,000-plus): a personalized trapeze performance “telling any story, exploring any theme! Anything you want!” (one backer).
Why it was successful: A truly unique pitch. “There are a lot of theater projects on Kickstarter, but come on, how often do you see ‘Shakespeare on trapeze’?” asks “minister of propaganda” John Behlmann. “So we definitely played up the trapeze aspect in our tagline and video, but this isn’t about doing circus tricks. We really use the trapeze as an expressive element in the play.”


The Windowfarms Project
What it is: an online community of “windowfarmers” who develop special hydroponic gardens that hang in apartment windows, allowing urban dwellers to sustainably grow their own greens, herbs, and other veggies.
Who’s doing it: Britta Riley, interaction designer.
How much it raised: $28,205 from 231 backers in 39 days (113 percent of its $25,000 goal).
What the money is for: materials and testing for DIY windowfarm kits, hiring full-time staff, and paying rent for a workshop in Williamsburg.
Reward for lowest pledge ($25 to $49): a handwritten thank-you postcard (44 backers).
Reward for highest pledge ($7,500): a coffee-table book of windowfarms around the world, a DIY kit, and a custom windowfarming workshop for a local school or organization (one backer).
Why it was successful: catching one big fish to lure in the rest. “For the first two weeks, nothing happened, just $5 donations here and there, so I pitched one wealthy woman to go for a high-end pledge,” Riley says. “After that showed up on our site, a lot of people started giving because the project didn’t look like a sinking ship.”


Coming & Crying
What it is: an anthology of “not necessarily erotic” personal stories and photographs about “the messy, awkward, hilarious, painful, and ultimately true side of sex.”
Who’s doing it: Melissa Gira Grant (author, Gawker Media contributor, former sex worker) and Meaghan O’Connell (blogger, director of outreach at Tumblr)
How much they raised: $17,243 from 651 backers in 43 days (575 percent of original $3,000 goal; reached goal in seventeen hours).
What the money is for: luxe production for the book and paying contributors.
Reward for lowest pledge ($1 to $14): access to exclusive project updates online (39 backers).
Reward for highest pledge ($1,000-plus): inscribed copy of the book with “a private reading in a public place” (one person pledged this amount).
Why it was successful: intimacy with the audience. “With a traditional publisher, the readership likely wouldn’t feel that sense of belonging and co-ownership,” says Grant. “And we’d probably be asked to pose for the cover photo on a bed with our laptops and Kleenex looking soulful but not repentant.” Adds O’Connell, “People aren’t just buying something from you, they are backing you.” Being young and hot doesn’t hurt either—although Grant adds, “I think people identify with our candidness more than they might want to sleep with us.”


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