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ysabetwordsmith in crowdfunding

Types of Perks

Perks, also called incentives, form a mainstay of the crowdfunding business model.  A perk is anything offered by a creator to an audience to reward or encourage certain types of behavior.  Most perks connect closely with a specific project so as to ensure their audience appeal, although some are more general.  Some types of perk only work with a particular mode of project, while others can apply to anything.  Let's take a look at some popular perks...


Advance access -- This covers all versions of letting certain people do something before everyone else gets to.  Examples include submitting prompts before a project session opens, or reading installments before they go public.  Similarly, prompters often get to see what is created from their prompts before it is posted publicly.  This is often a perk for regular participants, sometimes for donors.

Autographs -- Many small items such as books, bookmarks, albums, etc. can be autographed. This is a popular perk for projects that produce hardcopy materials.

Customized content -- Something that is usually generic can be personalized.  A good example of this is taking a blank icon base and putting someone's name or a phrase on it.

Discounts -- Anything with a price on it can be discounted. This often applies to preorders or to orders above a certain amount. Some creators offer a discount to their regular supporters/donors, leaving standard prices for one-shot shoppers. Subscription rates typically provide a better deal for longer terms than shorter terms.

Exclusive access -- This involves getting to see material that is not available to the general public.  It may be extra material for the project, but can also be something tangentially related, such as background items or essays. This type of perk is most often used for donors or subscribers.

Extra content -- More material gets released, such as an additional poem or background material like a timeline.  This can apply just to a qualifying donor or fan (such as going from one to two free icons), or it may be posted for everyone to enjoy (such as a bonus installment of a webserial).  It's one of the most common and popular perks.

Extra session -- Enough participation activates a whole new round of a project.  This tends to be a high-end perk for established projects that are getting very busy.   Some divination projects will spark an extra session with a different divination tool.  The Poetry Fishbowl has an option for a mid-month session focused on a specific series.

Free shipping -- Material items cost money to mail from creator to recipient. Waiving the cost of shipping is a popular perk for donors, for shoppers who spend a lot of money, and for holidays or other special occasion sales. It can also be an effective competitive maneuver in a time when some suppliers will cheat people by artificially padding the shipping cost.

Guaranteed coverage -- The prompt/request WILL get finished and delivered, however long it takes, rather than catch-as-catch-can.  This is typically a perk for making a donation in a project that calls for prompts.  Most creators guarantee coverage for donors, but may leave themselves the option of skipping unpaid prompts if the session gets too busy.

Hardcopies -- This type of perk involves the creator sending items to audience members.  The hardcopies may be original art, printouts of literature, etc.  Sometimes these are handed out free as rewards, especially small things like bookmarks or ACEOs.  Other times they are offered for sale, and the perk aspect has to do with what variety of items will become available based on what level of audience interest.

Premium notification -- This allows some audience members to get information earlier than the general public does, or more information, or in a more convenient delivery method.  It usually applies to established projects with a strong fan base of people who really want to follow that creator's work, and creators who are busy enough to generate multiple levels of information.

Publicity -- Crowdfunding naturally includes mentioning the names of active participants on both sides.  This perk covers everything from simply listing sponsor/promoter names to reviews or ad swaps.  Listing sponsors is nearly universal, though not quite every project does it.  Many projects have special perks for high levels of support and will make a bigger deal of announcing people who reach those levels.  Some creators will rather vigorously boost the signal for other projects or activities run by their fans/donors; this is often an unofficial perk rather than an official one.

Refined content -- Previously posted material gets revised in some way.  A good example is the Story Sketches project, with several ways to activate another round of work on a popular sketch.  Another is that weblit often gets revised if it proves popular enough to issue in hardcopy, a decision often based on audience interest.  Some projects that generate short fiction also have an option for revising the most popular stories.

Reprint rights -- Some projects produce material that is easy to repost or otherwise share.  Icons are usually intended for use by the person who prompts and/or sponsors them.  Flash fiction, poems, and other smallish items may be made available for their sponsors to repost personally in addition to the public posting on the project's main site. 

Supplemental goodies -- Occasionally, creators issue prizes are that are things not directly related to a given project.  This allows the audience to enjoy the creator's talent in general, such as with a free book or a type of art that isn't part of the main project.  One perk for the Story Sketches project (which normally involves illustrating scenes) is a free icon.

Upgrades -- The base content gets elaborated in some way.  For instance, art may go from line art to grayscale to color, offer access to a higher-resolution image, or produce a larger size art of original.  Icon Day by djinni has several of these including color and size upgrades.  In fiction, a short story may be extended into a longer story.

Voting -- Participating in a project can earn voting rights to influence it.  Some creators post polls that are only accessible to donors or regular participants.  "Flight of the Godkin Griffin" by haikujaguar allowed donors vote on plot directions.  Other creators let everyone vote in a given poll, but use checkboxes rather than radio buttons and award extra votes to certain groups.  The Poetry Fishbowl project does this for selecting monthly themes: anyone can get a single vote, prompters get two votes, and donors get three votes.

Worldbuilding -- Some projects lend themselves well to collaboration, and extend that option as a perk.  Donors or regular participants may get to name a character, establish a town, or designate some other feature of a popular setting.  This type of perk tends to work best with creators who have a bunch of diverse settings active, with a large and lively audience full of people interested in supporting different things.  In some applications it can help to indicate which characters, settings, etc. are more popular.

Year-end gifts -- Many creators do something nice for their audience at the end of the year (for Christmas, Yule, Chanukah, etc.).  Popular examples include holiday cards, bookmarks, ACEOs, and so forth.  Some creators use recipients' birthdays instead of a year-end holiday as a time to thank people for their support and participation.  Another practice involves sending out a small item to all participants from that year, with more elaborate goodies for regular participants and/or high-end supporters.


For creators: What kinds of incentives do you use in your project(s)? Which seem to be the most effective? Can you think of more perk types that aren't listed yet?

For patrons and fans: What kinds of incentives do you like best? Do incentives motivate you do become more involved with a project, or not? Why? Are there perks you'd like to see that nobody seems to offer yet?

Comments

Thank you for this post; it's very useful! When I can think straight, I'll have to brainstorm ways to incorporated this!

You're welcome!

That's what I was aiming for. A list of different perks should help creators who want to offer incentives but aren't sure what to try. It's also handy for patrons to think about what kind of perks they like the most, and ask for those when input is requested.
Many musicians use pre-order sales to fund CDs; in addition to a signed copy shipped as early as possible, pre-orders often include other perks.

When I published my CD, Coffee, Computers & Song, pre-orders cost $5 extra but included a bonus CD (see icon) and free shipping.

For my next CD I'm considering things like early access to the tracks at various stages in the recording process (basically "Refined Content"); producing the extra CD was fun, but also a major time sink.

Edited at 2011-09-05 11:18 pm (UTC)

Thank you!

These are good ideas. I've added autographs, discounts, and free shipping to the list of perks.