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Researchers reveal which phrases work best on Kickstarter

Howard Lake | 17 January 2014 | News

Researchers at the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA have analysed which words and phrases are likely to contribute to success on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
Researchers Tanushree Mitra and Eric Gilbert examined 45,000 crowdfunded projects, analysed 9 million phrases and 59 other variables commonly present on crowdfunding sites.
Language alone does not assure successful funding on sites like Kickstarter. The researchers looked at other variables such as the duration of the campaign and the presence of a video, but still found that:

“The language used in the project has surprising predictive power— accounting for 58.56% of the variance around successful funding.”

The words that are typically seen on successful Kickstarter pitches will not surprise many fundraisers or marketers. They make use of principles such as reciprocity, scarcity, and social proof.


How to move from Fundraiser to CEO - by Bruce Tait. Upwards white arrow on blue background.

Positive tone

Words that conveyed a positive tone were more likely to be found in projects that were successfully funded. “Also receive two” and “mention your”, indicating a benefit to the supporter, were both positive predictors of funding. Other positive indicators such as “we can afford” and “the project will be” suggested authority and confidence from the project owner.
Conversely, “not been able”, “later i”, and “hope to get” were also predictors of projects that are not funded. Words that suggested desperation or low expectations were also associated with projects not being funded. These included “goes a long way, “lose it all”, and “short of our goal”.
One phrase that cropped up often on funded projects was “good karma”. That will not appear in many charities’ fundraising appeals or funding applications, but might be more appropriate to the online world.

Kickstarter words - by Howard Lake

Words on that are indicative of a project’s likelihood of being funded or not funded.


Useful for charity fundraisers?

Kickstarter is not a charity specific crowdfunding platform. Although there are creative industry and cultural projects listed, the majority of projects posted are for commercial products.
So this research should not be automatically applied to all online fundraising by charities or online crowdfunding by them. Nevertheless, many of the findings will undoubtedly ring true with fundraisers and those tasked with crafting written fundraising communications.

Better crowdfunding tools from data

The researchers are releasing a dataset of 20,000 phrases with their associated β weights, in the hope that others will use it to develop “tools to help both backers and project creators make the best use of their time and money”.
The 13-page research paper, The Language that Gets People to Give: Phrases that Predict Success on Kickstarter, can be downloaded as a PDF.