What Actually Motivates Someone to Support a Crowdfunding Campaign?

We can’t create effective marketing messages for our Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns if we don’t first understand what motivates people to support crowdfunding campaigns in the first place.

Now, motivating factors will differ slightly by audience type—what motivates someone to support a game is different than readers of a book—but some things are consistent across the board.

A 2014 study by Baylor University went deep into the weeds of the peer-reviewed literature and conducted a cohort study to assess backers’ motivating factors using self-determination theory and cognitive evaluation theory. 

They were able to parse out the ever-important WHYs behind backers’ support of crowdfunding campaigns.

What are the motivating factors?

-1- To help others
-2- Be part of a community
-3- Collect rewards
-4- Support a cause

-5- Trust/like the creator

OK, #5 isn’t really a motivating factor but it’s an important element to this puzzle. Let’s keep it in because it is important later on.

The Methods

The authors of the study conducted a survey of users on Symbid—the largest equity crowdfunding firm in The Netherlands—and mapped out investors’ motivations to pledge or invest equity for a given project.

They then approached investors with a rewards-based project to assess their interest in various rewards. 

After both campaigns were presented, they offered the investors a chance to change their pledges/investments once they had all of the information at their disposal.

The Results

The only statistically significant variable that affected someone’s inclination to support a crowdfunding campaign was THE REWARD.

If you create something that people want, they will support you.

Sounds simple, right?

The only non-financial factor that affected whether someone would pledge or not was TRUST/DISTRUST of the creator.


Ok, let’s discuss because I’m sure you have questions.

The motivating factors aren’t really that surprising, are they? I mean, being part of a community and supporting a cause are really secondary factors to actually wanting the product that’s being offered

If you create a beautiful book that I WANT to read, I will back your campaign even if I don’t know you.

If you create something that looks okay but I’m left on the fence, then the secondary factors like community impact and social cause might sway me one way or another.

Trust/distrust as an important influencing factor is one that we can address. New authors who don’t have a track record don’t need to worry, you just need to be transparent.

Using this information in your marketing messages

Now that we have the keys to the kingdom and insights into our backers’ brains, let’s use this information wisely.

Highlight the book itself and the rewards readers will get in all of your marketing messages.

Research what rewards your readers actually want, since this is the most important factor.

Create a book that your readers want to read. Test out the story and illustrations (if you have any) with beta readers. 

Get feedback early on in the process and revise based on what your readers are telling you.

Feature the illustrations/book cover and story on your campaign page. Don’t be afraid to show them what they will be getting—they need to know. It’s the #1 determining factor if someone will pledge or not. 

Addressing the Trust/Distrust Factor

Here’s where experience really helps—authors who already have books published or have an established track record of crowdfunding campaigns have that built-in trust.

However, new authors can establish this trust in many ways.

Back other campaigns on your crowdfunding platform of choice. This shows people that you give more than you ask for and have experience in the crowdfunding community.

Be transparent with the Risks you list in the section where you discuss how you will handle things if the unexpected happens. Show backers that you have a plan and will communicate with them about your progress. 

Set a reasonable goal and offer reasonably-priced rewards. Backers know that they are paying a little extra to help fund your project but if you’re asking for $85 for a hardcover book, you need to be sure you’re justifying the costs.

Same thing goes with the goal—set a reasonable goal to cover your costs+a buffer. Don’t ask for $30k if you really need $9k. People can tell and will be turned off.

Get reader reviews of advanced reader copies. Send your story (in any format) to readers and ask for their review. Place these reviews on your campaign page. Backers will trust what other people are saying about your book more than blindly taking your word for it.

Communicate regularly with your backers in the form of updates (don’t be annoying, though). Keep these updates public so that strangers visiting your page can see how you’re interacting with people who are already supporting you.

Anything else?

Sound off in the comment section below if you have other ideas for how authors can establish trust with their readers.

Here’s the link to the full study so you can get nerdy and dive into the statistics:

Does the Possibility to Make Equity Investments in Crowdfunding Projects Crowd Out Reward-Based Investments?  by Magdalena Cholakova and Bart Clarysse

Want to learn more about crowdfunding your book?

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2 Replies to “What Actually Motivates Someone to Support a Crowdfunding Campaign?”

  1. Hi Lisa, as part of introducing my coaching cards to the public, I made 10 videos. I was thinking if it would be useful to post these video as part of updating my crowd/the public. So re-use my existing content. Is that even possible?

  2. Absolutely! It’s always good to recycle your content because lots of people don’t see them the first time.

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