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Also by Blake Boles

College Without High School
Better Tan College
Copyright © 2012 by Blake Boles. All rights reserved.
Te author invites you to share brief excerpts from this book in
critical articles, reviews, and blog posts. Requests to reprint sizable
excerpts should be directed to the publisher.
Published by Tells Peak Press:
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Kindle ISBN: 978-0-9860119-3-1
Dedicated to the young,
broke, and travel-hungry
1. Before You Begin: Q&A
Is this guide for me?
How much can I raise?
What do I owe my contributors?
Which crowdfunding website do you suggest I use?
Who will fund my campaign?
Do I need to be 18 or older?
Online fundraising sounds great! Should I use it to
fund every awesome trip I dream up?
How do I prepare for a campaign?
What’s Unschool Adventures?
2. What’s Worth Raising Money For?
3. Earn More, Spend Less
Earn More for Travel
Spend Less on Travel
4. Crowdfunding Basics
A Short History of Crowdfunding
My Crowdfunding Projects
Te Psychology of Crowdfunding
Getting Started on Indiegogo
5. Smart Campaign Design
How Crowdfunding Is Diferent for Travel
Perks: Te Cake and the Frosting
Perk Case Studies
More Perk Advice
Flexible or Fixed Funding?
Choosing Your Campaign Length
Choosing Your Fundraising Goal
Creating the Pitch
6. Campaign Case Studies
7. Smart Campaign Promotion
Welcome to Your New Part-Time Job
Ethical Campaign Promotion
Unethical Campaign Promotion
Te Power of Connections and the Halfway Mark
A Few Other Promotional Tools
After the Campaign
8. The Real Payoff
9. Further Reading
10. Gratitude
11. About the Author
Before You Begin: Q&A
Before You Begin: Q&A 2
Before You Begin: Q&A
Is this guide for me?
If you have a big dream to explore the world, insufcient funds to do so, and the
courage to fnd a creative solution to this problem, then this book is for you.
Want to backpack across Europe for two months? Take a full-blown gap year? Join
a summer camp on the other side of the country? Attend an in-depth training
program or educational program? I can help you get there.
Te Unschool Adventures Guide to Online Travel Fundraising is focused on younger
travelers—those in their early teens to early twenties—because they typically have
the least money and the most opportunity for extended travel. But travelers of all
ages will beneft from the fundraising advice found within this book.
How much can I raise?
Te travel campaigns that I’ve helped build have successfully raised $1,200–$4,800.
But for a well-run campaign, there is literally no limit to how much you might
Tat being said, fundraising is not easy and shouldn’t be attempted lightly. Here are
the general challenge levels to expect:
$500–$1,000 goal: Less Challenging
$1,000–$3,000 goal: Challenging
$3,000–$5,000 goal: Very Challenging
$5,000–$10,000 goal: Extremely Challenging
Before You Begin: Q&A 3
What do I owe my contributors?
Te type of fundraising promoted in this book is not charitable giving, where
you simply ask people for donations. Instead, it’s a specifc type of fundraising
called crowdfunding, in which you design and ofer “perks” in exchange for every
contribution. Te best perks make use of your unique talents.
Which crowdfunding website do you suggest I use?
Tis book focuses on Indiegogo, one of the original crowdfunding websites and the
one friendliest to travel-oriented campaigns.
Who will fund my campaign?
Know this now: there is no army of anonymous philanthropic donors waiting for
you on the Internet! In other words, just because you create an online fundraising
campaign, don’t expect random strangers to donate to it. Maybe they will once or
twice, but never consistently.
So who will contribute to your campaign?
Your frst and best donors will be the people who typically support you in other
realms of life: your immediate family, extended family, family friends, and personal
Te next donors will come from your face-to-face communities: your educational
circle, workplace, sports team, drama group, or place of worship.
Your online communities—Facebook friends, Twitter followers, blog readers—will
also contribute.
Finally, you’ll receive donations from people who don’t know you personally
but who heard about you through the grapevine: the “six degrees of separation”
Having more social connections, especially face-to-face connections, will drastically
improve your chances of fundraising success.
Before You Begin: Q&A 4
Do I need to be 18 or older?
You may run an online fundraising campaign at any age. You will need access to a
PayPal account (and possibly a checking account) in order to collect your funds.
For minors, a parent typically provides these accounts.
Online fundraising sounds great! Should I use it to fund
every awesome trip I dream up?
No! Launching back-to-back campaigns, especially for trips that you could
conceivably fund yourself, will quickly alienate potential contributors.
Online fundraising is not about seeking handouts for every goal in life. Instead,
it’s about exercising your creative and entrepreneurial muscles to seize a big, life-
changing travel opportunity that you clearly cannot aford on your own.
How do I prepare for a campaign?
Work hard toward your travel goal in whatever way you can.
Did you work and save for months before starting this campaign? Conduct
hundreds of hours of background research? Study a language intensely? Tese are
the kinds of committed actions that will earn you sympathy and generate a lot of
energy for your campaign.
Did you just think up this trip yesterday? Have you not yet researched the important
facts and costs behind the trip? Are you not really committed to going? Ten it’s
not time to run a fundraiser. Crowdfunding is a powerful tool that should be used
Before You Begin: Q&A 5
What’s Unschool Adventures?
I’m glad you asked! Unschool Adventures (
is my travel and education company. Since 2008, I’ve been organizing and leading
adventures for groups of self-directed young adults. Sometimes our programs go
internationally—to Argentina or Australia, for example—and sometimes we stay
in the United States for writing retreats and leadership programs.
In my time running Unschool Adventures, I often hear young people say, “Blake,
I’d love to go on a big trip, but I just can’t aford it.”
Tis book is my answer to that eternal roadblock.
Now, let’s get started. You’ve got places to go.
What’s Worth Raising
Money For?
What’s Worth Raising Money For? 7
What’s Worth Raising Money For?
When I was 14, a vicious insect attacked me. It sunk its long fangs into my skin,
injected its venom, and hasn’t let go since.
I’m describing, of course, the travel bug.
If you’re reading this book, you’ve probably been bit by a travel bug too. And if this
bug refused to let go, then like me, you think about travel all the time.
At age 14, I traveled to Chile for a monthlong summer homestay. My dad, a
longtime traveler and Spanish-speaker himself, suggested the idea, and I leapt for
it. Having taken only one Spanish class in my life, I later realized that I was the
youngest and most inexperienced Spanish-speaker of this multi-age high school
group. ¡Que sorpresa!
Our group few to Santiago, took a bus south to Rancagua, and then split up to
join individual homestay families. Over the following month I had little contact
with my English-speaking group members. My host family graciously engaged
me in long, awkward conversations in which I spent half the time looking at the
ceiling, snapping my fngers, and muttering as I attempted to remember a certain
adjective or verb conjugation. During dinner one night, I asked my host mother
to pass me the avocado, which in my Spanglish came out as abogado, which means
“lawyer” in actual Spanish. Pass the salt, pepper, and lawyer, would you mother?
On my second night, my host brother, age 15, took me out to the local high school
gym for a punk music show. (Te band’s name: Los Tetas. I’ll let you translate
that one.) Rancagua, a medium-sized city with no signifcant tourist attractions,
didn’t get many North American visitors, so I became an instant celebrity. One
girl immediately claimed me as her boyfriend. Behind the blasting speakers of
Los Tetas, I heard her name as “Varvala,” which struck me as very exotic. It took
me a week of being her boyfriend (read: boy-toy) to discover that her name was
actually “Barbara” (much less exotic), a mistake that introduced me to the nuances
of Chilean dialect.
What’s Worth Raising Money For? 8
My homestay continued with such memorable trials and errors. In Latin America, many
young people start drinking alcohol at age 13. Tus, my host brother and his friends
inevitably introduced me to pisco, the cheapest and most abundant liquor in Chile.
One night of passing the bottle and clutching the toilet gave me a strong lesson in the
stupidity of drinking to excess—and a memory that I cherish to this day.
At the end of the month, I said adios to my host family with much-improved Spanish
and joined the other U.S. group members for a week of snowboarding in the mountain
town of Chillán. I remember carving frst tracks down a steep groomed trail, CD player
blasting tunes through my headphones (yes, a CD player—I’m old), with a panorama
of the snow-covered Andes flling my vision. Tis outdoor adventure iced the cake of an
already incredible monthlong learning and growing experience. I returned home feeling
truly blessed—and ready for the next adventure.
Would I be the same person I am today were it not for Chile? I doubt it.

Chile was a trip worth raising money for.
Blake and “Varvala”
What’s Worth Raising Money For? 9
When I started college, I worked part-time to pay for short trips to Mexico and Canada,
plus a few weekend backpacking trips. At age 19, my closest friend from high school
called me and asked if I wanted to go to Europe for fve weeks. He and two other friends
had been planning a way for all of us to travel together, and the upcoming summer was
virtually the only opportunity. Te cost: $3,000. I worked to cover $1,500 of the trip
myself, and my family contributed the other $1,500.
Tat summer we visited eight Western European countries, hopping Eurail trains from
city to city, sleeping at cheap hostels, visiting too many art museums, and forming
temporary partnerships with other backpackers. I played Frisbee in the Swiss Alps,
bargained for a seaside apartment rental on the Italian Riviera, and “freestyle walked” in
front of every major European monument.
It’s difcult to describe the sense of joy, empowerment, and adventure that I brought
home with me from Europe. If you’ve undertaken a voyage of similar magnitude, you
probably know what it feels like.
Was Europe a trip worth raising money for? Unquestionably.
- - -
Freestyle Walking in Paris
What’s Worth Raising Money For? 10
Travel can change your life. But travel can be expensive.
My Chile and Europe trips changed my life. And like many people, I relied upon my
family and minimum-wage work to fund these adventures. (Later at age 23, when I
enjoyed more earning power, I was able to fully pay my own way for a three-month
trip through South America.)
But fortune does not always work in our favor.
What if my father, a small business owner, had been weathering a downturn when I
was 14 and hadn’t been able to send me to Chile? I would have been in the exact same
position to beneft from that experience but would have lacked the opportunity. Te
same goes for Europe at 19.
You may be familiar with the feeling of working hard for months or years to save
for a big trip. Tis is an invaluable part of the travel process, and one that makes the
reward all the sweeter.
But you may also know what it feels like to work hard toward a travel goal and
remain utterly distant from it. Tis scenario is most prevalent among young adults
ages 16 to 23, those with the lowest wage-earning power yet the most freedom to
travel. Tink, for instance, of the 19-year-old working long hours in a climbing gym
or the underemployed recent college graduate making ends meet as a barista.
For the broke and travel-hungry, there are three options.
1. Travel more cheaply. Head to Central America instead of Europe; go for one month
instead of two; use your parent’s old backpack instead of buying the glimmering new
one in the outdoors store.

2. Figure out how to quickly boost your earning power (or save more of what you
already earn) in order to aford a trip.
3. Don’t travel yet. Postpone your plans until an unknown future date.
I think everyone should learn how to do numbers one and two. (We’ll discuss these
tactics in the “Earn More, Spend Less” section.) But not everyone should defer their
travel dreams, because sometimes there are golden opportunities that deserve to be seized.
What’s Worth Raising Money For? 11
Such an opportunity may be the gap year that you take between high school and
college: your one big chance to see the world before another four, six, or eight years
of school. Or perhaps it’s a trip that you and your two close friends fnally have
the chance to take together. Or it’s when a rare educational opportunity suddenly
appears, such as a multi-month apprenticeship with your favorite artist on the other
side of the country.
Imagine that you’re 19, you’ve been studying French for years, and then an organized
trip to France appears. It’s destined for all the major cities that you’ve dreamed of
visiting, and the maximum age for participation is 19. Despite working part-time
jobs for the past few years, you’re a thousand dollars shy of the required program fee.
What if you’re 16 or 23 and you’re dying to see the world, but your life is flled with
obligations to family, school, or a signifcant other? Suddenly, a door opens, and you
fnally have a chance to get away. But your savings won’t cut it, and that door won’t
open again for a very long time.
In moments like these, if you wait, you lose. Tis is when life demands a fast and
creative fundraising solution.
Fundraising is not a silver bullet. Just like a job or entrepreneurial venture, fundraising
demands time, focus, and dedication. If you fundraise too often, for a frivolous cause,
or for something that could reasonably provide for yourself, you’ll fail to meet your
goals and you’ll alienate your supporters.
But you shouldn’t think of fundraising as the domain of mooches and freeloaders,
either. Your friends, family, and community members know an important opportunity
when they see one. And when they observe that you’ve been working toward your
big travel goal, they’ll be happy to help. Not only will they enjoy the perks that
they receive in exchange for their contributions, they’ll appreciate living vicariously
through your adventure.
Tis is the power of online fundraising: it allows you to bridge the gap between your
funds and your dreams and seize a big, meaningful opportunity. What Chile and
Europe did for me, I hope that your travels will do for you.
Earn More, Spend Less
Earn More, Spend Less 13
Earn More, Spend Less
Before planning a fundraiser, every traveler should ask himself or herself these two
1. Can I spend less money on this trip than I currently think I need?
2. Can I earn and save this money, on my own, within the time available to me?
If, by answering these questions, you can balance your savings and expenditures,
fantastic! You have no need for fundraising. Your life will be simpler.
If you answer no to these questions, then it’s time for fundraising. But that doesn’t
mean you should forget about cutting costs or working toward your trip. A
successful fundraising campaign always begins with demonstrating that you have
minimized the amount of money that you’re trying to raise.
Below, I briefy outline the many traditional and nontraditional ways for a young
adult to earn more, save more, and spend less on travel. Even if these approaches
don’t bring you signifcantly closer to your goal, they’ll earn you sympathy from
campaign contributors.
Earn More for Travel
Traditional Tactics
Let’s begin with the obvious: get a job. But don’t waste all your time “job
hunting,” a.k.a. browsing Craigslist or handing out résumés to anyone who
makes eye contact with you. If a thorough search doesn’t reveal a decent job in
your area (a defnite possibility), move on to other tactics.
If a family member or friend owns a business, ask if there’s any way you can
help out. If the answer is no, ask if they know any other business owners that
might need your help.
Earn More, Spend Less 14
Perform basic 1950s-era services for neighbors and community members: clean
houses, babysit, rake yards, etc.
Trow an event such as a yard sale, bake sale, car wash, live music event, talent
show, spaghetti dinner, silent auction, or bingo game. Ask your friends and family
to help organize and run it. Advertise the fact that all profts go toward your trip.
If your trip has a charitable or philanthropic purpose, ask local businesses about
sponsorship opportunities.
Research the Rotary foundation scholarship. Trough Rotary, a former Unschool
Adventures student, Dani, did a ten-month homestay in Belgium at age 16 for
just a few thousand dollars, including fights and all expenses.
Entrepreneurial Tactics
If you’re a crafter or artist, sell your work on
If you can think up witty phrases or do basic graphic design, create and sell
t-shirts through sites like, or
Sell popsicles or another basic food item at a conference or other large community
gathering. Ask permission from the organizer frst. (I witnessed teenagers earning
$200+ per day doing this.)
Design a website, blog, Facebook page, logo, or other basic technological asset
for someone who sorely lacks one.
Tutor local school students in an academic subject. Advertise and conduct lessons
in your local library.
Buy and resell an inexpensive item. Sometimes you can work with a company,
like Krispy Kreme donuts, which will provide you with discounted products that
you may then resell at regular price. Other times, you’ll need to fnd or create
your own resale item. For example, order rubber wrist bands imprinted with the
inspirational message, “I helped send Blake to Uzbekistan!” for $0.25 each, and
then resell them for $1.
Earn More, Spend Less 15
Ofer to sell and ship your family’s unwanted stuf on eBay or Craigslist. Ask
for 50% of the net profts.
For all of the above tactics, be sure to highlight your travel goals when pitching
Tactics for Saving What You Earn
If you have a job, get your paycheck directly deposited into your checking
account. Ten open a savings account and automatically transfer 20% of your
paycheck from checking to savings every payday. If you never see the money in
your checking account in the frst place, you’ll miss it less.
While saving for your trip, live with your parents to save money on rent. Eat
rice and beans. Say no to friends asking you to join expensive evening activities
and yes to library books and Netfix movies.
Ask your friends which three things you spend money most frivolously on.
(Don’t just ask yourself, because it probably won’t seem frivolous.) Energy
drinks? Music shows? Shoes? Compare the cost of these items to one day’s
living expenses in the place where you’d like to travel.
Spend Less on Travel
Get clear about your travel goals. Do you really want to go to Italy, or do you
want to go somewhere romantic with good food, and Italy just happened to
be your frst thought? Spend an hour fipping through travel guidebooks in a
bookstore and then ask yourself what other, cheaper destinations might fulfll
the same goals.
Use airline miles to pay for fights whenever possible. If you don’t have any,
ofer to pay your parents or friends to use them for you at a rate that would still
leave you with a discounted ticket.
Earn More, Spend Less 16
Sign up for one of the many credit card promotions that ofers tens of thousands
of miles just for enrolling. Just one of these promotions can earn you a round-
trip plane ticket within North America.
Save money on travel within the United States with ridesharing. Search your
local rideshare board.
Remember the basic tenets of budget travel: Avoid peak season. Sleep in hostels
or campgrounds, not hotels. Eat primarily from grocery stores instead of
restaurants. Travel on the slow bus instead of the bullet train. Wait for the free
museum day. Read, write, hike, converse, play cards, or toss a Frisbee instead
of taking expensive tours, bungee jumping, or doing any of the hundreds of
other activities designed specifcally to suck tourists’ money from their pockets.
Read Vagabonding by Rolf Potts.
Get a smaller backpack. It will force you to take (and purchase) less junk.
Volunteer or intern while traveling. Use the following sites to fnd excellent
opportunities:,,, and
Work while traveling. Due to the trouble of obtaining a visa, work opportunities
tend to be temporary gigs in the service industry (e.g., hostels and restaurants)
that are paid “under the table.” Planning ahead isn’t useful for such opportunities;
simply show up and see what’s available. Prepare to stick around one place for
a month (and ideally multiple months) for your best chances of employment.
You might be able to fulfll your travel urge by getting a job that involves travel
or the outdoors, like those in summer camps, National Parks, farms, or cruise
ships. Search for opportunities on these sites:, Backdoorjobs.
com,,, and
Teach English abroad. Emerging economies are hungry for native English
speakers, so hungry that they’ll pay for your fights, room, and board, and give
you a stipend if you commit to teach for up to a year. Visit to
browse a seemingly endless number of job postings. Stay away from the ones
that demand a big fee.
Earn More, Spend Less 17
Ask your friends, family, and community members if they know someone who
lives in your destination and who would be willing to put you up for a few
nights (or weeks!).
Meet interesting locals and spend almost nothing on lodging with Couchsurfng.
org or
Crowdfunding Basics
Crowdfunding Basics 19
Crowdfunding Basics
Before jumping into the mechanics of a crowdfunding campaign, let’s address a
few important questions. Where did crowdfunding begin? What was it designed
for? What are its benefts beyond the obvious monetary aspect? Ten I’ll then
introduce you to Indiegogo, the best platform for online travel fundraising.
A Short History of Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding emerged at the turn of the twenty-frst century as a tool for bands
who wanted to produce an album but couldn’t get signed by a major record label.
Instead of waiting to get signed, these artists solicited small contributions from
their fans in order to independently produce a professional-quality album. Te frst
music-focused crowdfunding website,, launched in 2001.
Crowdfunding then crept into flm, another industry in which small producers
are beset by high entry costs. Indiegogo launched in 2008 at the Sundance Film
Festival as a platform for independent flmmakers.
When Kickstarter launched in 2009, crowdfunding took of. Soon, Kickstarter and
Indiegogo became to the two largest crowdfunding platforms, followed closely by a
host of imitators. Crowdfunding became a platform for artists of all stripes to fund
and launch new projects, whether in visual art, comics, dance, design, fashion, flm
and video, food, gaming, music, photography, theatre, websites, or writing.
In 2012, technology gadget designers set the bar for the most highly funded
crowdfunding projects, raising $10 million for a programmable digital watch
(Pebble) and $8.5 million for a new game console (Ouya). Video game projects
started raising multimillion dollar sums as well, kicked of by the $3.3 million
success of Double Fine Adventure.
While Kickstarter was grabbing the glory for these highly funded projects,
Indiegogo quietly started gathering steam in a diferent sector: “cause” campaigns,
such as those oriented around animals, community, education, environment,
health, politics, and religion.
Crowdfunding Basics 20
Te two companies also took widely divergent paths in regard to campaign
submissions. Kickstarter opted to pick and choose between campaigns in order to
cultivate a certain look, feel, and professionalism. Indiegogo accepted almost any
project that fell within their (very broad) guidelines.
My Crowdfunding Projects
I took the leap into crowdfunding in May 2011 when I wanted to turn my blog,
Zero Tuition College, into a social network. I frst pitched the idea to Kickstarter
and they turned me down. Tat led me to Indiegogo, where I launched my frst
campaign ( By ofering t-shirts,
beta-testing privileges, book packs, and personal coaching, I raised $2,370, $370
beyond my initial goal.
Eight months later I was at it again, turning Zero Tuition College into a full-
fedged book. I pitched Kickstarter, and again they weren’t interested. Teir loss!
Te Indiegogo campaign for my book, Better Tan College, raised $9,200 ($1,700
beyond its goal), providing me with the startup capital necessary to professionally
edit, design, and independently publish my manuscript (http://www.indiegogo.
While working on these projects, I was also directing my travel and educational
company, Unschool Adventures. Whenever I spoke at conferences or camps, many
young people and their parents asked me how to aford a big international trip
or educational program. In response, I wrote a blog post about crowdfunding for
travel, projects, and education. Taking my advice, four teenagers then launched
campaigns that raised between $1,200 and $4,800, earning them passage to foreign
countries or summer camps.
While I was overjoyed that young people were successfully raising money to travel
the world, I also noticed they tended to fall into a few traps. Tat led me to write
this book and (you guessed it!) launch an Indiegogo campaign to help publish it
( Tis fnal campaign raised $1,634 of
its $1,500 goal.
Crowdfunding Basics 21
The Psychology of Crowdfunding
Te obvious beneft of crowdfunding is that it helps you do something that you
cannot aford on your own, like produce a record, publish a book, or travel abroad.
But just as importantly, crowdfunding helps you commit to something big, whether
that is making music, writing, or traveling.
Many crowdfunding campaigns are essentially pre-sales. Just like when you preorder
a book on, a crowdfunding backer is paying you for a perk (e.g., a
book, album, photograph) that you haven’t yet produced.
When I launched the campaign for Better Tan College, all I had was a manuscript
on Microsoft Word—no cover art, no professional editing, and no ISBN. But as
soon as I accepted my frst campaign contribution, I realized: I’m bound to this
project now, and I have to see it through to the end.
Tis is the psychological beneft of crowdfunding. By preselling the results of your
future or unfnished project, you commit yourself to actually completing that
Consider crowdfunding a form of self-inficted, positive peer pressure. It works
because when you don’t complete your project, you aren’t just letting yourself down.
You’re letting down the backers who have given you their money and trust.
Of course, the psychological tactic of getting someone to commit to a project by
accepting money before it’s completed has been long-employed by book publishers
and record labels, to name only two industries. Writers sign book deals, musicians
sign record deals, and each receives an “advance” against future earnings. If they
don’t turn in their manuscripts or songs on time (or the work is not of expected
quality), then the publishing company can simply revoke their advances.
Te big diference between a book or record deal and a crowdfunding campaign is
enforceability. If you don’t send out your crowdfunding perks on time (or they’re
not of the quality you promised), contributors don’t have an easy way to get their
money back. Tey’re not a large corporation with a legal department; they’re
individual people with $25 or $100 to contribute to a starving artist or budding
traveler. Indiegogo and Kickstarter don’t have an enforcement team that will kick
down your door if you fail to deliver your perks.
Crowdfunding Basics 22
Te issue here is trust. Don’t lose the trust of the friends, family, and community members
who supported your campaign by not following through on what you said you’d do.
Tink hard before you launch a campaign, ofering only promises and perks that you
can deliver. Tat’s when the psychology of crowdfunding will work positively for you.
Getting Started on Indiegogo
At this point, our focus shifts to Indiegogo. Why? Because Kickstarter does not
allow travel or other “cause” campaigns—only creative projects. Tat’s okay:
Indiegogo ofers a powerful platform for travel fundraising, even if it lacks the
household name and polished look of Kickstarter.
To begin, visit and browse a few campaigns. You’ll notice that each
shares the following features:
a specifc fundraising goal
a specifc time limit (not visible on completed campaigns)
a choice of two funding models, Flexible Funding or Fixed Funding
space for a text description and a prominent photo or video
a list of available perks and their costs
social-media sharing tools
Goal and Time Limit
Upon launching, every campaign must designate a fundraising goal and time
limit. Te goal may be almost any amount of money. Te time limit may be up to
60 or 120 days, depending on your funding model. Indiegogo makes it difcult
to change your goal or time limit after launching, but if you write the support
department directly, they sometimes make exceptions.
Crowdfunding Basics 23
Funding Model
Indiegogo ofers a choice of two funding models: Flexible Funding and Fixed
When you choose the Fixed Funding model, you’re electing to use a Kickstarter-
style, all-or-nothing fundraising campaign. Tat means that when you receive a
contribution, Indiegogo will hold onto it for you and only release the funds to you
at the end of the campaign if you successfully meet your goal. If, on the other hand
your campaign fails to reach its goal, all contributions will be refunded and you
won’t be required to deliver any perks.
With Flexible Funding—the more popular model on Indiegogo—you get to
keep all the funds you raise, whether or not you reach your goal. When someone
contributes to your campaign, you’re guaranteed to receive the money and you’re
obliged to provide the perk associated with that contribution. (Tere are signifcant
advantages and disadvantages to each model for travel campaigners, which we’ll
discuss in the “Smart Campaign Design” section.)
As of late 2012, Indiegogo charges a 4% fee on funds raised for all Fixed Funding
and Flexible Funding campaigns that successfully met their goals. For Flexible
Funding campaigns that fail to meet their goals, Indiegogo charges 9%.
To illustrate:
If you ran a Fixed Funding (all-or-nothing) campaign with a $1,000 goal and
raised $1,000, you would pay $40 (4% of $1,000) to Indiegogo in fees.
If you ran a Fixed Funding (all-or-nothing) campaign with a $1,000 goal and
raised $500, you would pay nothing in fees, because all of the contributions
would be canceled.
If you ran a Flexible Funding (keep-what-you-raise) campaign with a $1,000
goal and raised $1,000, you would pay $40 to Indiegogo in fees.
Crowdfunding Basics 24
If you ran a Flexible Funding (keep-what-you-raise) campaign with a $1000
goal and raised $500, you would pay $45 (9% of $500) to Indiegogo in fees.
In addition to Indiegogo’s fees, you’ll pay roughly 3% in bank fees, either as credit
card processing or PayPal fees. (Tese are standard rates for such transactions, not
some exploitative fee on Indiegogo’s part.) Add all these fees together, and you end
up with:
a 7% total fee for any campaign that meets its goal
a 12% total fee for a Flexible Funding campaign that doesn’t meet its goal
Exceeding Your Goal
If your campaign meets its fundraising goal before your deadline, the party isn’t
over: people can continue contributing until the time limit is reached. Tere is
no upper limit on how much money any campaign can raise. A wildly successful
Indiegogo campaign entitled Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum (http://www. raised $520,461 more than its $850,000 goal,
leaving it with a whopping $1,370,461. (Tat left Indiegogo with a cool $54,818
fee—not a bad business model!)
Perks are the bread and butter of a crowdfunding campaign. When you design
your campaign, you get to custom-design up to 12 perks and designate each of
their prices. Contributors select a single perk in exchange for their contribution.
As with your overall fundraising goal, people may contribute more than is
necessary for a specifc perk. If, for example, you’re ofering a $20 perk through
your campaign, it’s possible for someone to contribute $30 for that perk, leaving
you with $10 of philanthropic gravy. Contributors also have the option of giving
you money without selecting a perk, providing an easy path for those who simply
want to donate to you and not fuss with any perks.
Crowdfunding Basics 25
Can I Start Now?
Okay, you’ve learned the basics! Now you’re ready to whip up a campaign and start
making your millions, right? Wrong.
Too many people take exactly this approach. Tey browse a few campaigns, read
the basic rules, and then launch an ugly, unedited, and unpolished monster.
Instead, let’s discuss the essentials of smart campaign design, starting with
the important diferences between travel fundraisers and other crowdfunding
Smart Campaign Design
Smart Campaign Design 27
Smart Campaign Design
How Crowdfunding Is Different for Travel
Spend an hour browsing campaigns on Indiegogo, and you’ll notice two types of
First, there are what I call entrepreneurial campaigns, those that fund movies, music,
gadgets, games, and other creative projects. For perks, these campaigns usually
ofer a copy of the fnal product (the movie, album, gadget, or game), access to
special versions of the product, behind-the-scenes peeks, and opportunities to meet
the creators in person.
Second, there are the charitable campaigns, those that raise money for disaster relief,
sudden hospital bills, environmental projects, and other causes. Tese campaigns
typically ofer perks that are more symbolic, like a thank-you letter or a t-shirt.
Somewhere among these lands of entrepreneurship and charity, lives you, the travel
Travel fundraising is sort of like entrepreneurship. You’re trying to raise a specifc
amount of money to undertake a big project, and you’re ofering perks in exchange
for contributions.
But travel fundraising is also like charity, because unlike a movie/album/gadget/
game, the outcome of your campaign isn’t a concrete product. It’s an experience.
And asking someone to fund your travel experience is awfully close to asking them
to fund a cause: the cause of “youth travel,” or just the cause of “you.”
But if you’re traveling for personal gain—like most travelers do—then remember
that your life and travel plans don’t constitute a charitable cause. Tis is especially true
if you come from a comfortable middle- or upper-class background.
Sympathetic friends and family will almost always donate to your campaign, simply
because they like you. But unless you’re purposefully combining your travel with
a true charitable cause (“Help me rehabilitate baby turtles in Costa Rica!”), don’t
Smart Campaign Design 28
run your fundraiser like a charity campaign. If I don’t know you, I’m not going to
give you $50 to travel to France just because you ask nicely.
Instead, make me a deal. Ofer me a unique, compelling, useful, and meaningful
perk in exchange for my donation. In other words, act like an entrepreneur.
Tis is the biggest challenge of travel fundraising: to make your campaign as
entrepreneurial as possible. And the core of this challenge lies in creating smart
Perks: The Cake and the Frosting
On Indiegogo, common perks that you’ll see on travel campaigns include $15
thank-you postcards, $30 t-shirts, and $100 “You’re So Awesome!” shout-outs.
Such symbolic perks may entertain friends and family, but to a stranger, they’re
fuf. Tey should not compose the bulk of your crowdfunding campaign.
To avoid this common trap, I advise you to think of perks in two layers: the cake
and the frosting.
Te foundation of what you ofer—the cake—should consist of valuable perks
that utilize your talents. Tese perks answer the question, What would someone who
doesn’t know me pay me for?
Can you illustrate? Trow pottery? Edit essays? Build websites? Each of these skills
can be employed to create a potential perk. For example, for $100, you could ofer
to custom-design a blog site. For $300, you could ofer to tutor someone in music
theory over Skype. For $50, you could craft a purse made from recycled plastic
Common entrepreneurial perks for travel campaigns include:
handcrafts and artwork ($5–$30)
homemade food that can be mailed, like cookies or chocolates ($10–$50)
souvenirs brought back from your destination ($30–$50)
Smart Campaign Design 29
digital or DVD copies of an informative video that you produce while traveling
(providing an introduction to the country, for example) ($20–$50)
personalized instruction, coaching, or mentoring that you can provide via
phone, Skype, or in person ($50–$500+, depending upon the challenge and
commitment level)
I recommend that such valuable, entrepreneurial perks—the cake—constitute
two-thirds of the total perks you ofer.
On top of the cake lies the frosting: symbolic, nostalgia-based perks. Tese perks
provide the contributor with a sense of meaning and appreciation.
Be very careful not to charge too much for frosting perks. Why? Because that
pushes your campaign down the charity spectrum and alienates contributors. To
avoid this, keep frosting perks cheap and have them constitute less than one-third
of your total ofering.
Te best frosting perks get creative and cute. For $15, create a short video of people
you meet on your trip saying “thank you” in their native languages.
Other nostalgia perks might include:
shout-outs on social media ($1–$5)
handwritten thank-you postcards, mailed from wherever you’re traveling ($5–
t-shirts with a photo or phrase related to your trip ($15–$30)
personal video greetings from abroad ($20–$50)
Smart Campaign Design 30
Perk Case Studies
Here are a few of my favorite travel campaigns that strike a nice balance between cake
and frosting perks.
Von Wong Does Europe
Benjamin Von Wong, a Montreal-based photographer, launched a campaign to raise
$5,000 for a one-month road trip across Europe that he and his videographer would
undertake to collaborate with artists across the continent. Vaulting past his goal, Von
Wong raised $12,395.
Many factors contributed to Von Wong’s success, including his great video, excellent
pitch, and approach of saying, “We believe in [our campaign] so much, we’ve already
bought the plane tickets!” But I think none of this would have been possible without a
foundation of excellent perks.
Here’s what Von Wong ofered (rewritten for brevity):
$5: Facebook page shout-out.
$20: Signed Polaroid sent from Europe and a “sexy Von Wong silicone bracelet.”
Plus the Facebook shout-out.
$40: Signed 8”x12” premium metallic print from the trip. Plus everything above.
$60: Tree tutorials explaining the Photoshop methods used to create three of the
fnal pictures from the tour. Plus everything above.
$75: 8”x10” hardcover book documenting the journey with exclusive behind-the-
scenes footage. Plus everything at the $40 level.
$100: Same as the $60 perk, but six tutorials.
Smart Campaign Design 31
$150: An “eDVD” of the entire project, including all behind-the-scenes videos,
explanations of the shoot, and all fnal Photoshop tutorials. Your name listed as a
“premium backer” in the video credits. Plus everything at the $40 level.
$210: Te $150-level perk plus the hardcover book.
$500: “Give a free photo shoot to an inspiring artist in Europe! We will travel
to, shoot and collaborate with an artist/band/crew/group of YOUR choice.” Plus
everything at the $150 level.
$750: Become an “ofcial partner” of the project, with your name or logo featured
on the travel blog and all videos produced. Plus everything at the $210 level.
$1,500: Become the one and only “ofcial sponsor” of the project—just like the
$750 perk, except “prominently featured.” Tey will also “fnd you, track you
down, and take you out for dinner!”
Notice how little mention of the actual European road trip was made in these perks.
Instead, Von Wong focused on the valuable (cake) perks he and his partner could
provide as a photographer and videographer. Tis was much closer to a flm fundraiser
than a travel fundraiser; yet it was indeed funding a massive tour of Europe. Von Wong
did an excellent job of focusing on entrepreneurship over travel nostalgia.
Journey of 2,180 Miles
Heather Harvie, a wilderness therapy feld instructor, sought to raise $2,180 to
hike the entire Appalachian Trail: a distance of 2,180 miles. Her campaign (which
was still running at the time of publishing) took a much more minimalist approach
than Von Wong’s, ofering a simple pitch and fve straightforward perks:
$10: Tank-you postcard from the trail.
$35: Hand-knitted wool hand warmers, made to order based upon age, gender,
and color preference.
Smart Campaign Design 32
$45: Hand-carved, sanded, and oiled wooden spoon, made from Appalachian tree wood.
$55: Made-to-order knitted hat.
$100: Made-to-order knitted scarf, hat, and hand warmers.
Heather cleverly timed her campaign to take place in the two months leading up
to Christmas, prompting strangers (including myself ) to order some of her crafts
as holiday gifts.
Sage Goes to Vermont
Finally, let’s examine the perks from a campaign that I helped design.
Sixteen-year-old Sage wanted to raise $1,825 to return to a summer camp that
helped change her life. For Sage, the big challenge was in creating perks. When
she and I started brainstorming the campaign, she claimed to have no marketable
skills whatsoever.
I admitted to Sage that running a campaign at age 16 is certainly more difcult
than running one at age 20 or 30, simply for the reason that you’ve had less time
to develop skills that other people fnd valuable. But I also knew Sage to be an avid
writer, budding photographer, and social media enthusiast. To me, that meant that
she had some skills to ofer—she just had to think about how to present them to
other people. Together we crafted a list of skills- and nostalgia-based perks (biased
a bit toward nostalgia in order to compensate for her age), launched the campaign,
and met her goal within fve days.
Sage’s perks included:
$5: Tank-you e-mail.
$10: “In addition to a thank-you e-mail, I’ll send you a REALLY FUNNY cat
Smart Campaign Design 33
$20: A beautiful nature photograph captured by Sage while at summer camp,
printed and mailed with a thank-you note.
$50: Exclusive excerpts (sent via e-mail) from the fantasy novel Sage will be
writing in the upcoming months.
$150: A custom-designed blog for you, by Sage, on Wordpress, Blogspot, or
Tumblr. “If you’ve ever wanted to start blogging but didn’t want to deal with
the hassle of creating one, I will help you out!”
$300: A custom-made short story featuring you as the main character—plus
everything else above.
More Perk Advice
Striking a balance between entrepreneurship and nostalgia is the most crucial part of
successful perk design. Here are a few more principles to keep in mind:
It’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t have quality skills to ofer, but you’re probably
Ask a close friend, parent, or coworker to help you identify your talents and fgure out
how to share them with the world.
Don’t create a frosting perk that simply says, “Donate this much and I’ll think you’re
Ofer something in exchange for every perk, and make sure it lines up with the cost.
Expensive perks should require a genuinely larger expenditure of your time and creative
energy. If you want to remind people that they can donate money without selecting a
perk, do so in the pitch—not by creating an all-fuf perk.
Limit the availability of any perks that you couldn’t fulfll if lots of people ordered
When you create a perk, you can designate how many of them are available. Use this
feature whenever you cannot reasonably fulfll a large order volume. For example, you’re
limited in the number of souvenirs you can bring back from a foreign country (your bag
is only so big) and the amount of time you have to provide one-on-one Skype instruction
(you’re only human).
Smart Campaign Design 34
Limit the availability of high-cost perks.
When Von Wong ofered sponsorship and dinner out in exchange for a $1,500
contribution, the perk was magnifed by the fact that only one person could claim it.
Make your highest value perks feel more exclusive by limiting their quantity.
Price your perks as low as possible while ensuring that you’re left with something
Providing a nice perk for a reasonable price is important. But it’s also important that you
use your fundraising money for your travels, not just for providing the perks themselves.
If it costs you $10 to print a custom t-shirt, don’t ofer it as a $12 perk. Every perk should
be worth your time to produce.
Watch out for shipping costs.
I learned this the hard way when I spent $15 to ship a book to a contributor in Bermuda.
If you’re shipping physical goods, calculate your shipping costs to various parts of the
world and include them in your price. For international shipments, many campaigns
ofer a separate perk level (e.g., $20 for a book shipped anywhere in the U.S., $30 for a
book shipped anywhere else in the world).
Produce excellent perks under $100.
Most crowdfunding campaigns succeed through tons of small donations rather than a
few big ones, according to Indiegogo (
to-price-your-perks.html). Your perks at $10, $25, $50, $75, and $100 will probably net
you the most contributions, so work hard to make them awesome.
Research what’s worked for campaigns like yours.
If you’re bike touring across North America, search for campaigns with the keyword
“bike.” If you’re raising money for a summer camp, search for “camp.” Harvest the best
perk ideas you can fnd from these campaigns.
Do weird stuf.
A group of friends raising money for a bike tour (
ofered a perk for $250 entitled Make Us Do Something! Teir ofering: “For this donation
we’ll do pretty much anything you ask us to do (within reason). Set us a challenge, a dare
or any other crazy task and we’ll try our best to complete it and flm it for you!” Genius.
With a solid foundation of perks underneath your feet, we now turn to the other aspects
of travel campaign design.
Smart Campaign Design 35
Flexible or Fixed Funding?
As previously described, Indiegogo ofers two campaign funding models, Fixed
(all-or-nothing) and Flexible (keep-what-you-raise). Many people choose Flexible
Funding by default, because they like the idea of walking away with something
instead of nothing. But that can prove an irresponsible or less efective option than
Fixed Funding. Te decision is based on whether you can fulfll your perk promises
if you don’t meet your goal.
Scenario 1: I’m Going, Regardless
Imagine that you’ve worked hard to save up $3,000 for a one-month India trip.
At this moment, you have enough to cover your plane tickets, visa fees, and basic
travel costs for the entire voyage. But if you could add $1,500 to that total, you
could extend your travels for two additional months, throwing in side trips to
Nepal and Pakistan.
To pursue this huge opportunity, you launch an Indiegogo campaign and devise a
list of India-oriented perks, including promises to bring back souvenirs and create a
short flm that introduces each region of the country you visit.
In this scenario, you should run your campaign with Flexible Funding. Why?
Because if you raise only a fraction of your $1,500 goal, you can still provide the
perks that you promised. You’re going to India either way.
Scenario 2: I Can Only Go If ...
Now let’s imagine the same India trip, but in this case, you don’t have enough
money to cover your basic costs. You’re starting with $0 and trying to raise the full
$3,000 via Indiegogo. As before, you’re ofering India-oriented perks like souvenirs
and a travel video.
In this scenario, you should run your campaign with Fixed Funding. Why? Because
if you don’t meet your $3,000 goal, then you can’t go to India, and therefore you
can’t fulfll your perks.
Smart Campaign Design 36
If you tried to raise $3,000 using Flexible Funding but only received a fraction of
it, then you’d still be on the hook for those souvenirs and travel videos. Tat’s a bad
situation to be in, one that disappoints contributors and leads to a cumbersome
refund process that you must personally organize.
Scenario 3: No Travel Perks + Disclaimer
Finally, you may run a fundraiser that contains no travel-related perks whatsoever.
Tis means that no matter whether you succeed or fail, you can fulfll your perk
promises because they are not contingent upon your trip. In this case, choose either
Flexible or Fixed Funding.
If you don’t meet your goal with Flexible Funding, however, watch out for a
pernicious psychological efect. If you don’t go on your trip, will you really feel like
meeting your perk obligations? You’ll feel less motivated to do so and might fake
More Reasons to Consider Fixed Funding
Most people who use Indiegogo select the Flexible Funding model because they
feel that some money is better than no money. As we discussed above, Flexible
Funding is a fne choice for travelers who can already cover their basic costs or don’t
ofer any travel-related perks. But I’d like to make an additional pitch for the power
of Fixed Funding.
To me, the startup mentality and the possibility of failure are what really make
a crowdfunding campaign exciting. Tis excitement is only captured by Fixed
Funding campaigns.
Imagine a small team of artists who want to collaborate on a big new project,
but only if they can convince enough people to put money down on their good
idea. Or a musician creating a new record. Or a solo engineer ofering a brilliant
new consumer product. When running a Fixed Funding campaign, each of these
people is asking you to gamble with your money in order to cover their startup and
production costs. But it’s not really a gamble for you, because if they don’t meet
their goals and can’t produce their perks, you get your money back.
Smart Campaign Design 37
For the contributors, Fixed Funding campaigns are more exciting and more safe.
Tey make contributors feel like they’re making something big happen which
would be impossible without them. And Fixed Funding campaigns encourage you,
the organizer, to do your best job as a campaigner—because you’ll receive nothing
if you don’t.
If you’re on the fence between choosing Fixed or Flexible Funding, go with Fixed.
Choosing Your Campaign Length
You can run an Indiegogo campaign for up to 120 days—so why not? Te more
time for people to donate to your campaign, the better, right?
Tink again. Te better duration for your campaign may be as short as a few weeks.
Writer, designer, and publisher Craig Mod ran a highly successful Kickstarter
campaign for a book named Art Space Tokyo and then published an insight-packed
article that analyzed almost every aspect of the campaign (
Craig originally planned to run his campaign for fve weeks. But in hindsight, he
realized that he could have done it in less time. Why? Because, as Craig describes,
“People engage things: a) when they’re brand new, or b) when they’re nearing a
deadline. We lose interest in that middle space.”
Go to Craig’s article and fnd the chart labeled “Kickstarter Daily Pledge Totals,”
and you’ll see that dead middle space. For twelve days in the middle of his campaign,
contributions slowed to a trickle.
Craig’s reasoning for this gap is that, in the beginning of the campaign, everything
is new and exciting. It’s easy to get people on board at the start. Likewise, at the end,
it’s dramatic and exciting. You’re almost there! Will you make it or not? People will
visit your campaign near the end.
But that dead time in the middle? Tere’s no inherent excitement there. Unless
you’re doing a great job of promoting yourself, you’re likely to see a big drop-of
in the middle. (Data from Indiegogo confrms this:
Smart Campaign Design 38
So why keep the middle? Just take it out. Do this and you’ll end up with something
that everyone can appreciate: a brief, exciting campaign of one, two, or three weeks
in length.
Choosing Your Fundraising Goal
A funny thing happens when you start accepting other people’s money: you start
feeling like you need more of it. Tis phenomenon leads many campaigners to set
fundraising goals higher than what’s actually required for their trip or project.
Ask yourself, Can I explain where every single penny of my fundraising goal will go,
and feel good about it? If so, then you probably have a reputable fundraising goal.
If you have to decide between asking for a little bit less or a little more, ask for
less. You can always exceed your fundraising goal. And setting a slightly lower
goal makes it more likely that you’ll reach your goal and thus avoid the penalties
involved with coming in short (either higher fees in the case of Flexible Funding or
losing everything in the case of Fixed Funding).
Creating the Pitch
With your campaign perks, funding model, length, and goal established, there’s
only one thing left to do: create the pitch. Indiegogo provides a template for you to
follow, so you don’t need major design skills. Te Indiegogo pitch template consists
of a prominent photo or video located at the top of the page, followed by a space
for text (and more images) below.
Te Pitch Photo or Video
Te frst decision you face is whether to put a photo or video at the top of your
pitch page.
Smart Campaign Design 39
According to Indiegogo, campaigns with videos raise 114% more on average
than projects with a photo (
insight-pitch-videos-power-contributions.html). Tat statistic alone should
convince you to create a video.
If you don’t consider yourself a competent videographer, welcome to the club.
Don’t let that idea stop you from making the video.
Te most basic pitch video involves you talking directly to your camera, explaining
the basics of your campaign. I did this with my Better Tan College book campaign
(, and Sage did this with her travel campaign
( Even if you don’t say anything
more in the video than you already say in the text, the video dramatically increases
the chance that someone will empathize with you.
One of my favorite amateur videos is Tessa Kaufman’s: http://www.indiegogo.
com/epicmonentinbrazil. Tessa, a 16-year-old from Colorado, used this video
along with a very compact text pitch to raise $4,800 to go to Brazil. Can you
muster enough videography skill to do what Tessa did (or fnd someone else to do
so)? My guess is yes.
For professional videography, check out Benjamin Von Wong’s video: http:// You probably don’t have access to the
equipment and know-how required to produce a video of this quality. But if you
do, go for it!
Sometimes you need to launch quickly, or you simply don’t want to invest the
energy in making a video. I myself didn’t use videos for two of my three campaigns.
In this case, choose a compelling photo to place at the top of your campaign page
that clearly shows you or your destination. Te more beautiful the photograph,
the better. If you’re using a destination photo, try searching Flickr for Creative
Commons-license photos for a great shot. (I recommend, a free
website that lets you quickly search Flickr.)
Smart Campaign Design 40
Te Pitch Text
When you create a new Indiegogo campaign, the pitch template includes four
categories of text:
Short Summary
What We Need & What You Get
Te Impact
Other Ways You Can Help
Indiegogo provides suggestions under each of those categories that are worth
following. To begin drafting your pitch text, simply follow the prompts.
Spend a few minutes browsing campaigns on Indiegogo, however, and you’ll see
that many campaigners never get past this step. Tey simply respond to Indiegogo’s
prompts as if they were flling out a test in school, and then they go live.
Tis is not efective pitch-writing.
As a potential contributor, I do want the facts. Tat’s what following the prompts
will provide. But more importantly, I want to discover:
Does your goal strike me on an emotional level?
Will you use my money for a worthy purpose?
Are you ofering a fair deal with your perks?
Can I trust you?
Tese elements diferentiate a lukewarm campaign from a blazing hot one. Tey
turn pitch-writing into an art, not a fll-in-the-blank form. And they’re completely
unique to each campaign, making it difcult for this author to give concrete advice
that will be useful to a broad audience.
Smart Campaign Design 41
Instead of attempting to guide you through a crash course in copywriting, I advise
you to carefully read the pitches of the fundraisers listed in “Campaign Case
Studies” and then pick up one incredible book: Made to Stick by Chip Heath and
Dan Heath.
Made to Stick proposes that all captivating (“sticky”) messages include many or all
of the following features. Tey’re:
story (i.e., in a story format)
Spend some time with Heath & Heath’s book (or fnd a summary online), and
you’ll dramatically improve your pitch-writing skills.
Finally, remember to keep your pitch as brief as possible.
Many people will want to support your travel campaign. But very few people
have the time or patience to sift through a ten-paragraph description of your
trip’s itinerary. Epic-length campaign pitches drive away potential contributors by
showing them that you don’t value their time.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author of Te Little Prince, wrote: “perfection is fnally
attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer
anything to take away.” So it is for pitch-writing.
Pitch Checklist
Despite the blueprint that Indiegogo provides, many campaigners still miss a few
important things.
Smart Campaign Design 42
Here are the elements that you must absolutely, positively include in the text of
your pitch:
images and/or descriptions of the perks that you’re ofering
an explanation of your funding model and what happens if you don’t meet
your goal
a clear explanation of where the money is going
photos and graphics—not just text!—including a photo of yourself and your
Polishing the Pitch
Te best way to start writing a pitch is to compose a draft, walk away from it for a
day, and then return to revise it. Repeat this as many times as needed until you feel
you’ve produced the best possible pitch.
Next, give the pitch to the three smartest people you know who and are also likely
to contribute to your campaign. Ask for their feedback. Revise accordingly. (You can
use this process for the pitch video, too.)
Make sure that at least one of your reviewers is a spelling and grammar fanatic. Few
things kill the professionalism of a fundraising campaign more quickly than a few
stuppid typos.
Finally, combine the pitch text with the video or photo that you selected. Give it a
fnal examination. Does this campaign feel compelling to you? Does it authentically
represent your ambitions and character? Can you actually do what you’re promising
to do?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’re ready to launch.
Put in the time and efort required to craft a pitch that makes you proud. When
you’re traversing the Pyrenees or teaching English in South Korea, you won’t regret it.
Campaign Case Studies
Campaign Case Studies 44
Below are case studies that demonstrate smart and not-so-smart travel campaign
design. I’ve chosen campaigns that are primarily travel-focused and possess a
healthy mixture of good, bad, and ugly components from which you can learn by
Open the website of each case study and do your own analysis prior to reading
Project Doorway ($3500 raised of $3000 goal)
“Students from Lakehead University planning a dogsledding expedition to Svalbard,
Te Good: A very strong opening paragraph immediately demonstrates the team’s
commitment, and the rest of the text pitch only reinforces it. Tese six students are
obviously motivated and prepared.
Te Bad: Boring, overpriced perks, especially under $100.
Te Ugly: No images, headers, or stylized text in the pitch. Too much plain text
makes my eyes hurt!
Drive, Eat, Blog ($5175 raised of $5000 goal)
“A cross-country culinary adventure.”
Te Good: A noble mission: road-tripping to meet chefs and sample regional foods
before starting a bakery. Excellent perks at the $100+ level. (A dozen cookies or
brownies? Yes, please!) Also, a nice supporting blog.
Campaign Case Studies
Smart Campaign Design 45
Te Bad: Tey followed the Indiegogo pitch outline as if it were a college exam.
Te Ugly: $50 for a shout-out and a magnet? Come on. Send me some cookies.
Te Ride to Rio ($8,790 raised of $10,000 goal)
“An epic 6 month, 12 country, 10,000 mile journey across two continents, powered
purely by bicycles.”
Te Good: Beautiful video and supporting website. Compact, well-written pitch.
Sponsorship secured from a gear company. Creative perk at the $250 level (“Make
Us Do Something!”).
Te Bad: Insufcient explanation of where the money goes if their Flexible Funding
campaign fails to meet its goal. Will the ride happen and the video get made?
Te Ugly: Some perks ofer nothing in return. Tey simply say, “Buy us a spare
tire,” or “Buy our fights home.”
A Summer to Serve ($5,550 raised of $5,000 goal)
“Two brothers, 12 years apart, dedicating their summer to travel the country to be in
the service of others. Te Great American Road Trip meets the Peace Corps.”
Te Good: Compelling, authentic video. Well-styled, easy-to-read, image-rich
pitch. Fixed Funding model.
Te Bad: Tey waited to explain and emphasize their choice of Fixed Funding
until the end of their pitch; that belongs up top.
Te Ugly: It’s unclear as to what exactly they’ll do on the road trip and where the
money is going.
Smart Campaign Design 46
A Very Long Walk in Spain ($2,718 raised of $2,500 goal)
“Chris Gould is making a documentary about the 500 mile pilgrimage he’ll be making
through Spain, known as the Camino de Santiago.”
Te Good: Compact, straightforward pitch. Very reasonable perks. Simple, efective
pitch video. Entertaining video updates.
Te Bad: No explanation of the funding model. What happens to those perks if you
can’t go to Spain, Chris?
Te Ugly: You’re hiking the gorgeous Camino de Santiago, man—give us a few
photos on the pitch page instead of just text!
Te Eduventurist Project 2012 ($3,136 raised of $7,000 goal)
“A Learning Journey to explore new horizons and paradigms for educating changemakers!”
Te Good: Incredibly well-done video with personal testimonials.
Te Bad: Too many blocks of text in the pitch. Follows the Indiegogo outline too
closely. Give us brevity and images!
Te Ugly: $250 is far too much for a thank-you card and mini-quote book.
Tall Tour 2012 ($1,001 raised of $1,600 goal)
“Help Bobby tall bike tour from Vancouver, Canada to Los Angeles, visiting bike co-ops
and making connections between them along the way.”
Smart Campaign Design 47
Te Good: Fantastic video. Concise, compelling pitch. Very entertaining mission
(“I will be touring all the way back to LA! ON A TALL BIKE!”).
Te Bad: No perks between $25 and $200.
Te Ugly: $200 for you to spell my name on the ground with rocks? Come on.
Teens to Tailand ($3,605 raised of $18,000 goal)
“How one teen can make a diference in the world.”
Te Good: Nothing. Nothing at all.
Te Bad: Te one paragraph of pitch text provides no information about who
these teens are, where the money goes, or what happens if the campaign fails to
meet its (completely unreasonable) goal. Blurry pitch photo.
Te Ugly: Te $100 perk: “A thank you email and imaginative appreciation halo
(because you are an angle) [sic]”
Walk With Me ($1,225 raised of $10,000 goal)
“Experience the Appalachian Trail in full from the comfort of your own living room.”
Te Good: Te campaigner seems well intentioned.
Te Bad: Te $25 perk states, verbatim: “If you donate this, you will be interviewed
at some point during the trip, depending on your location and availability. Tis
interview will be scheduled by a local producer and is to cover the thoughts an
idea’s of friends/family who encourage or discourage this event.”
Te Ugly: A $1,000 postcard. Enough said.
Smart Campaign Promotion
Smart Campaign Promotion 49
Smart Campaign Promotion
Welcome to Your New Part-Time Job
When I signed the contract to publish my frst book, College Without High School,
I naïvely assumed that my publisher would take care of promotion. Tat’s what a
book publisher is for, right?
To its credit, my publisher did get my book onto and into a few
independent bookstores. I obtained a single radio interview and a single magazine
review. But that’s where the promotion gravy train ended.
It took me about a year of lackluster sales to realize no one—not my publisher,, bookstores, or a few media appearances—would seriously publicize
my book. Only I could do that.
Te same truth applies to your crowdfunding campaign.
Indiegogo won’t promote your campaign. Random people won’t google it.
Philanthropists are not trolling Indiegogo (and if they are, they’re probably
donating to truly charitable causes).
Tere’s only one way to promote your campaign: you need to contact people who
know and trust you, day after day, for the entire length of the campaign.
Between promotion and fulflling your perk promises, you are signing yourself
up for a lot of work. Te more you treat your campaign like a job—with the
commitment and energy you would give to running a business or working for
someone else—the more likely you will be to succeed in reaching your campaign
Ethical Campaign Promotion
Promoting a fundraising campaign means making people aware of its existence and
then encouraging them to contribute.
Smart Campaign Promotion 50
Promotion cannot be ignored. With excellent promotion, a hastily composed
campaign can achieve its goal. And without promotion, even the most perfectly
polished campaign will be dead in the water.
With these facts in mind, remember that there’s a big diference between smart,
ethical promotion and stupid, unethical promotion.
Follow these basic tactics to ethically promote your campaign:
Posting a link to your campaign and updates about its progress to your social
media networks every few days. Highlight the hard work that you’re personally
putting into the campaign and travel preparation.
Politely asking a few well-connected people to post a link to your campaign to
their social networks, blogs, and/or newsletters. Only do this with people with
whom you already have a personal connection. Send a short e-mail or private
message (two paragraph maximum) when making your request.
Notifying specifc networks of people (like online groups) who are related to
your goal. For example, if you’re applying to an Unschool Adventures trip, I’ll
gladly publicize your campaign on the Unschool Adventures Facebook page.
It’s a relevant announcement that my group members won’t mind seeing.
Directly soliciting your closest friends, family, and associates. Tese people will
be your frst donors and your best cheerleaders throughout the campaign. Tey
know, trust, and believe in you; don’t be afraid to ask for their help when the
campaign is going slowly.
Telling people about your campaign with regular old face-to-face conversation.
In our evermore digitized world, real-life connections still matter most.
Te situation that you’re aiming to create with ethical promotion is one in which
your friends, family, and communities
know that your campaign exists
receive a few reminders that your campaign exists, in case they missed it the
frst time
Smart Campaign Promotion 51
aren’t annoyed by your reminders
feel inspired to contribute because of your hard work and ingenuity, not
because they feel pressured
Unethical Campaign Promotion
Unethical promotion, on the other hand, creates a situation in which potential
contributors feel annoyed, spammed, or pressured into donating. Tactics that lead
to such feelings include:
Blasting your social media networks or online groups multiple times a day.
Even once a day is too much for many people. Te only time sending multiple
announcements in one day may be appropriate is near the very end of your
Using language that makes you sound needy, ungrateful, or impatient. If you
saw this on Facebook, would you feel inspired? “My campaign is going really
slowly. Go donate right now!!”
Taxing a community beyond its means. If you (or someone else) has recently
run a fundraiser that drew heavily from a specifc community, such as a
workplace, sports team, educational circle, or place of worship, don’t run another
immediately on its heels. (Tis is especially relevant to campaigns that are on the
charity end of the spectrum.)
The Power of Connections and the Halfway Mark
In 2012, a Wharton School professor, Ethan Mollick, analyzed the factors that make
Kickstarter campaigns successful. While these fndings aren’t 100% applicable to
Indiegogo campaigns, they’re worth noting, especially if you’re doing a Kickstarter-
style Fixed Funding campaign. Professor Mollick discovered two interesting trends
relevant to campaign promotion.
First, the raw number of social media connections that you—the campaign
founder—possess makes a big diference. As described by Jeanne Pi, who wrote
Smart Campaign Promotion 52
an excellent summary of Mollick’s research (
For [a $10,000] project, holding everything else constant, if you had 10
Facebook friends, you would only have a 9% chance of succeeding. If you
had 100 Facebook friends, your chance jumps to 20%. And if you have 1,000
Facebook friends? Your chance of succeeding is now 40%.
What does this mean for you? If you don’t have an extensive social media network
of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, blog readers, etc., then it’s time to start
building one. And if you don’t have time to build such a network, then plan on
asking a few friends with large networks to do some serious promotion on your
Mollick’s second big insight was that failed campaigns tend to fail by large margins.
Most signifcantly, 97% of failed campaigns don’t reach 50% of their goals.
Tis means that reaching 50% of your goal is a pretty signifcant achievement.
If you can get your campaign past the halfway mark, you’re much, much more
likely to reach 100%. Chalk this up to human psychology—we like to support
winners—or perhaps some other reason. But no matter what you do, focus on
pushing your campaign past 50% as early as possible.
Indiegogo’s data confrms that the simple act of launching your campaign and
receiving immediate contributions is important for later success. According their
blog, 85% of campaigns that reach their goal receive their frst contribution within
one day of going live (
insight-85-of-campaigns-which-hit-their-target-recieve-their.html). Also:
...the probability [that] a campaign will reach its goal doubles once the frst
contribution is received, quadruples once it reaches 10% of its goal, and is
more than fve times as likely once 25% of the goal is raised. (http://www.
Te above data suggests that you should launch a campaign only when you are
100% ready to start promoting it. Don’t launch a campaign and then “give it a few
days” without any action on your part.
Smart Campaign Promotion 53
To get your campaign moving quickly right from the beginning, ask a handful
of your most enthusiastic supporters to promise to make a donation as soon as
your campaign launches. Tis will take a bit of planning on your part, but it will
pay for itself immediately by creating an invaluable feeling of momentum in your
Next, focus your ethical promotion tactics most heavily on the frst few days.
Remember what Craig Mod wrote about the beginning and end of a crowdfunding
campaign? Tese are the exciting periods. Tey’re the times when your communities
will be the most genuinely receptive to your updates and promotions. Let loose all
your cannons and do your best to push the campaign past 25% or 50% in those
frst few days. Remember, you can always exceed your goal.
A Few Other Promotional Tools
Campaign Updates
To sustain a feeling of momentum throughout your campaign, use the Campaign
Updates tool to send a direct message to your contributors. (Te message also
appears publicly on the “Updates” tab of your campaign.) According to Indiegogo,
campaign owners who provide an update at least once every fve days raise 218%
as much money as campaign owners who update less often (http://www.indiegogo.
What should you do with Campaign Updates? First, use them to solicit promotional
assistance, especially when contributions have slowed to a trickle, such as in the
middle of a campaign. Your current contributors have a vested interest in seeing
your fundraiser succeed, especially with Fixed Funding campaigns. If you ask them
politely to help spread the word, they just might do so.
Second, use Campaign Updates to share news regarding your travel and perk
preparations. Have you been practicing your French? Trowing pottery for your
perks? Tese types of activities demonstrate your continued commitment to
the campaign. Showing is better than telling, so use photos, images, and videos
whenever possible. Ten add these same video updates to the top of your pitch for
new contributors to see.
Smart Campaign Promotion 54
Finally, show us your personal side by using Campaign Updates to comment on the
fundraising process itself. Tell us how difcult you discovered promotion to be, or
describe how you might run a campaign diferently next time. Show us how you’re
learning from this journey, and again, we might just feel inspired to help spread the
word or even contribute a second time.
New Perks
After your campaign launches, you may still add new perks. Take advantage of this
feature to invigorate a boring campaign or to add more inventory if your current perks
are sold out.
Stretch Goals
Some campaigners create “stretch” goals, funding goals beyond the original goal at
which new features are unlocked and added to perks. For example, you might say that
if your $3,000 India campaign reaches $4,000, you’ll upgrade your “Introduction to
India” video perk with a “Learn 15 basic Hindi words” extra feature.
Stretch goals are especially useful promotional tools for campaigns with low goals.
Use Google to search the Indiegogo and Kickstarter websites for the word “stretch”
to see examples.
After the Campaign
When your campaign ends—whether successful or not—a few promotional tasks
Tank Your Contributors
Send personal thank-you e-mails whenever possible. If you have a very large number
of contributors, send a single e-mail with contributors listed as BCC recipients.
(Find contributors’ contact information via your campaign dashboard.)
Smart Campaign Promotion 55
Send Your Perks
Do this as soon as possible. Notify your contributors via e-mail or a Campaign
Update when they can expect their perks and again when you actually ship them.
Send Campaign Updates
Share photos and videos from the places you travel, links to travel blog posts, and
anything else you think your contributors may enjoy.
By thanking your contributors, sending your perks promptly, and staying in
touch after the campaign, you increase the chance that your friends, family, and
communities will support more of your projects in the future.
The Real Payoff
The Real Payoff 57
If you successfully meet your fundraising goal, then you’ll be on your way. Enjoy
your trip and send gratitude to the people who helped make it possible.
If you don’t meet your goal, then perhaps your travels will need to wait a while.
Tat’s okay. Send gratitude to those who helped anyway, and tell them that you’re
not giving up.
Running an online crowdfunding campaign is hard work. Tere’s no free money
in this world, and even the most well-planned campaign may meet failure due to
circumstances outside your control. (Global recession, anyone?)
Te one thing you always have control over is whether you learn from these
fundraising challenges or not.
Copywriting, video production, online promotion, perk creation: these tasks
may seem unique to crowdfunding, but they’re really just microcosms of bigger
challenges you’ll run into over and over again in life. Defning a clear goal? Asking
for help? Ofering products or services of value to other people? Getting people to
pay attention to you? Yea, you’ll do those things again.
Run a great campaign, enjoy your travels, and never forget that learning is the real
Drop me a line and tell me how your campaign goes:
The Real Payoff
Further Reading
Browse these websites for additional advice on designing, launching, and
maintaining your crowdfunding campaign:
IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Tips for Campaigners:
Kickstarter School:
Kickstarter Tips from a Fan of Crowdfunding: http://a.wholelottanothing.
Te IndieGoGo Blog (specifcally the Customer Happiness and Insights sections):
Tank you to the generous people who crowdfunded the publishing of this book:
Tank you Brenna McBroom, Jessica Barker, and Alex Kurucz for providing
feedback on the blog post that became this book.
Vincent Perez ( designed the cover, Julie Pedtke (juliepedtke.
com) designed the PDF, and Alex Cabal ( designed the ebook. You
guys all rock.
Lori Mortimer—you’re an awesome editor. Two down, more to come!
Abby Li Ward
Aimee Fairman
Alex Rivera
Alexandra Oliver
Alison from WA
Bette-Lou Rush
Brady Endres
Breana Kali
Cameron Lovejoy
Casey Holt
Christine Yablonski
Christopher Cross
Clabbe Bjurstrom
Darcey Wunker
Debbie Eaton
Debbie Wong
Denise Deeves
Elizabeth Walkup
Ellie Burton
Emma Hershey
Gail & Broc Higgins
Hannah Lily Hall
Hans Bruesehoff
Jaiela London
Jennifer Constable
Jennifer Shearin
Jenny Bowen
Jessica Jones
Josh Beck
Karen Roddy
Karen Tucker
Kelli Traaseth
Laurie Wolfrum
Maggie Garrett
Majbritt Larsen
Maria Hines-Brigham
Matilde Lausell
Morgan Roddy
Patrick Coyle
Paul Betts
Paul Kurucz
Priscilla Sanstead
Rob Tullis
Robert Harper
Rowan from TX
Sandra Dodd
Tanner Shepherd
Tanya & Andrew Davis
Virginia Phelps
Wendy Lapham
About the Author
Blake Boles is the director of Unschool Adventures, the author of Better Tan
College and College Without High School, and the founder of Zero Tuition College.
Read Blake’s blog and learn more at
If enjoyed this book, please consider writing a review on Tank you!