Thoughts On The Psychology of Crowdfunding

We’re no strangers to Kickstarter here. Hell, Rob is writing his own series on the experience (which you should be seriously reading just for the resources). Our friends are using Kickstarter. I interview people using Kickstarter.

There’s also other sources of fundraising. There’s Indiegogo. There’s Rockethub. There’s specialist sites from Gambitious for games to – and I’m serious – Offbeatr for adult (and no, no link sorry).

Even tightwads like me get into the act. I got my Ouya fully knowing it was more of a lab experiment than anything else, but it was worth participating. I’m waiting on several projects to move forward now and really enjoyed being a part of them.

This isn’t exactly new. People have learned to leverage social media, pre-existing fans, and so forth for years, but mostly you could get support, or networking, or advocacy. Now it’s just a hell of a lot easier to ask for money and get it, which does simplify things in that whole money-where-your-mouth is way.

Having supported several projects myself – and seen ones get enthusiastic support, such as Ponies for Pathfinder which I am sure has nothing to do with any popular property – I began thinking that these Crowdfunding sites are about more than money. Not that the money isn’t nice.

See I’m thinking there’s something else going on here. I think a big draw of crowd funding is psychological. Now I state this from my more personal analysis so there’s no research behind it; consider it a framework for future discussions and analysis.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe fuels Crowdfunding – and ways they might get out of hand.

Sense Of Agency: Crowdfunding gives you a sense of making things happen. You get to actually be part of something, and your money goes for something. There is, in short, a feeling of power (a rush I admit to feeling in most of my choices at Kickstarter).

(Way to get out of hand: people get unrealistic expectations)

Sense Of Ownership: When you Crowdfund something you are giving money directly to the creator. You feel like you’re really part of the whole process, and that some of it is really yours. When that product arrives (if it does) then part of it is yours directly.

(Way to get out of hand: People may feel that you owe them to change the work for them.)

Sense of Community: When you Crowdfund you are automatically part of something – the other people throwing money into the kitty. There may even be newsletters and updates and message boards and the like that draw you together. Crowdfunding feels like being part of something.

(Way to get out of hand: I can’t exactly see one – but I’m sure I will in time. Though I suppose if you don’t deliver that community can turn on you.)

Sense of Achievement: There is finally a sense of achievement, of victory when the product arrives. It’s there. It’s real.

(Way to get out of hand: See that whole not delivering part and all the angry people.)

Sense of Selectivity: You fund what you want. You get to make choices. You get to support what you care about. That’s pretty powerful.

(Way to get out of hand: People having conflicting visions, or the crowdfunder doesn’t deliver on expectations).

So I think that a strong part of Crowdfunding is psychological. In fact, the more I look at my own motivations, the more I look at how people react to Kickstarters and what friends experienced, I think psychology is an enormous part of it. It’s a part we ignore to our detriment.

Of course if we pay attention to it, then we can do some awesome Crowdfunding.  I can already theorize a much better Kickstarter with this analysis (and the challenges to it) that I may write up if *I* ever do one.

Plus if you at all do any studies on Crowdfunding, may I suggest this would be an awesome research paper . . .

– Steven Savage