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Awards and Reward Development

If you try to launch a crowdfunding project simply by asking for contributions and offering little of value in return, you’ll very quickly discover that managing projects isn’t like running a political campaign or charity fundraiser. Few will pledge money simply to provide support. The majority of backers expect something in return—hence the need to incentivize them by offering compelling goods or services in exchange for contributions.

In the case of physical products, the notion of pre-ordering, or making advance payments, is a well-established practice. Similar transactions work well under the crowdfunding model, especially when coupled with eye-catching or exclusive extras such as elaborate collector’s sets and limited edition coffeetable books. The type of reward you offer should be determined by the kind of project you’re running. In the case of special events, for instance, you might offer free admission, backstage passes, or even a chance to hop up onstage and jam with a favorite band.

However, for consumer products, the first and most obvious reward would be to provide backers with a digital or physical copy of the item in advance or at a price far less than the typical retail value. From there, you can tack on or bundle together other rewards. Bear in mind that creativity pays: Among the most consistently popular rewards are those that offer personal or unique touches, or provide singular opportunities, e.g. lunch with a famed industry figure or the inclusion of donors’ names in your new software product’s credits.

Sample Rewards

When weighing reward prospects, be sure to research similar projects to see what resonates with fans. The overall distribution makeup and the individual items’ respective contributions to the campaigns’ bottomline are important to keep in mind. The following are example rewards you might consider offering:

  • The product itself. A copy of the item in question—and, potentially, one sold for a limited time at a steep discount. Be sure to calculate any associated costs and figure them into your pricing structure and funding goals.
  • Advanced or early access to the product or service. This may include advance entry for backers to prototype testing programs.
  • Enhanced versions of the product. For instance, autographed, deluxe, director’s cut and collector’s editions.
  • Merchandise and souvenirs. Besides “making of” books and autographed materials, you might offer posters, stickers, t-shirts, caps and other items that commemorate the project.
  • Behind-the-scenes photos, videos, and booklets. Items that show the people, concept work and other elements featured within the project—especially if there is a large visual component to it.
  • Opportunities to affect the project’s eventual outcome. Some film, book, music, TV, theater and video game projects allow backers to suggest how stories develop, the contents included in the finished package, and featured subjects or locations.
  • Making your backers part of the product. Several creative projects allow backers to be a character within the narrative, soundtrack or action itself.
  • Giving contributors credit. It’s always a good idea to thank your backers, but sometimes there are ways to do so publicly: within the product itself (e.g. liner notes, book, or game credits) or at surrounding events. Be generous with donors.
  • Combined rewards. These rewards combine several other rewards into one or bundle several pricing tiers worth of incentives together. Many successful campaigns use an “all of the above” strategy, offering simple rewards at lower tiers and then add extras on top of them.
  • Exclusive access. Chances to meet people who are part of the creative team behind various projects or related notables (e.g. actors, directors, musicians, artists, online celebrities, etc.).
  • Private parties, events, and occasions. Some projects offer special events as a reward to donors—usually at the highest pricing tiers. These may include invitations to exclusive launch parties, private events held in backers’ honor or private concerts.

There are lots of options when it comes to creating unique, eye-catching and memorable rewards. Pick the ones that fit your project best.