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Those were the Days

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Nostalgia and Fundraising

I've been following the astonishing Kickstarter campaign for LeVar Burton's Reading Rainbow app. Last Wednesday (May 28), the campaign opened with a goal to raise $1 million by July 1. The goal was surpassed within 11 hours and in the first day, more than 40,000 people contributed almost $2 million to the project. The goal has now been increased to $5 million and as of this writing, they are more than halfway there less than a week into the campaign.

Even though Kickstarter is for for-profit enterprises, anyone who wants to do a charitable crowndfunding campaign can learn a lot from this. The Reading Rainbow team clearly did some excellent advanced planning, they have a compelling vision, and having a well-beloved celebrity spokesman doesn't hurt.

A few days ago, Mr. Burton did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) and I noticed that many of the comments and questions centered around nostalgia. Depending on your age, you probably know Mr. Burton as Kunta Kinte (1977), Geordie La Forge (1986-2002), or as the host of the PBS Reading Rainbow television show (1983-2006). For many people, one or more of these roles had a significant presence in their lives as they were growing up.

In the Kickstarter campaign, they have the usual rewards associated with access to the product but they also tie in to this nostalgia. In the campaign video, they make several humorous references to the Reading Rainbow and Star Trek television shows. (If you are a ST:TNG fan, you MUST watch to the very end.)

Several of the rewards offer opportunities to meet Mr. Burton at Sci-Fi conventions or to try on the Geordie La Forge visor - a scared object and the ultimate Instagram photo opp for many Trekkies.

Research shows that nostalgia evokes positive feelings and increases optimism. But how does nostalgia affect behavior? In this case, people who remember watching and enjoying Reading Rainbow as a child want this generation of children to have that opportunity as well.

I think it would be very interesting to do an A/B test using nostalgia in fundraising appeals. Is there a way to tap into the past to encourage support for positive change today? Perhaps my memories of a happy childhood might encourage me to donate to a cause that brings happiness to children who need it. I think it might.

UPDATE 7/2/14: The fundraising drive ended with $6.4 million from 105,855 backers including a $1 million challenge grant from Seth McFarland. The campaign broke Kickstarter's record for most donors for a single project and is its fifth most funded project.

Tagged in: Fundraising

For me, fundraising and communications go together like peanut butter and jelly – delicious & filling!

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