Jenna Isaacson Pfueller, a ten-year newspaper veteran and DC-based photographer, has an unmatched passion for all things thrifty. With a love for hand-me-downs, Jenna had an idea to document thrift stores around the country through both a social and photographic lens, capturing scenes and objects along the way and ultimately creating a photo book to showcase her experience. Realizing the time and money she would need to complete the project, she turned to Kickstarter to launch a crowdfunding campaign aptly named “All Thrifty States.”
Why it worked:
Jenna set a fundraising goal of $7,000, although initially she never thought it was a possibility to raise that much money. The donations would be used to pay for the expense of the RV she would need to drive across the country, as well as gas. Ready to fully embrace the spirit of second-hand style, as well as her love for talking to strangers, Jenna was determined to raise the money she needed to hit the road.
Before launching her crowdfuning project, Jenna contemplated the pros and cons of using a platform like Kickstarter, and admits she was curious if people would even trust her with their money. But Luckily, with photographs of thrift stores she had taken on previous trips, Jenna had work to show people in her Kickstarter video, which helped her credibility.
Understanding that the promotional video needed for her Kickstarter campaign was a critical piece of the puzzle, Jenna procrastinated and put off making it for months. But when she finally got down to it, she was surprised at how easy it was to create. ” It was fairly simple. To put it together, I wrote out a paragraph, recorded it on my iPhone, uploaded the track and then edited it using the program Soundslides.
After the campaign was live, Jenna needed to spread the word to anyone she thought would care. Going above and beyond, she took the initiative to write and send out her own press release launching “All Thifty States.” Digging up email addresses online and in magazines, she sent the release to major organizations, radio shows, bloggers and even talk show hosts including Oprah.
Jenna also sent the news along to relevant organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation army. Goodwill got on board immediately and offered to help pay for a portion of her travel expenses.
“The final weeks of the campaign were crazy like eBay,” Jenna says. Surpassing her goal by over $500, Jenna then found herself in a “be careful what you wish for” situation. “Now with the money raised, I really had to go do it.”
Sharing her news through Facebook was also key. Not only did Jenna share her Kickstarter link almost every day through a “All Thrifty States” Facebook page she created, but she also tagged people in posts to thank them for their donations.
But when it came to Twitter, the story was a little different. “I’m a bit of a twittiot,” Jenna says. “I didn’t realize until three days before my fundraising deadline was up that my tweets had been locked and people couldn’t retweet me. So make sure your twitter account is unlocked.”
Jenna also did her fair share of grassroots marketing and put her promotional materials everywhere including on community bulletin boards, newspaper boxes, and even leaving stacks of postcards on top of the New York Times stand in Starbucks. But likely setting her apart from other Kickstarters, Jenna also traveled to New York City with an “All Thrifty States” poster and was picked out of the crowd live on the Today Show. “I really wanted to feel like if I didn’t make my goal, I had tried my hardest.”
As her deadline came down to the wire, she ended up raising $2000 within the last week alone. “As the deadline approached, I started throwing out bigger incentives liked signed prints, Grandma’s recipes, and more thrift store prizes. I was on Facebook every day. I was determined to reach my goal.” Finishing with a total of 193 backers, most of whom gave less than $50, the group was broken down to 75% from her friends and family and 25% from strangers or thrift store enthusiasts.
“One of the most important tips I can give is to give your budget an extra 20% cushion,” Jenna says. In her case, the price of gas had skyrocketed from the time she launched her project to when she began her trip, so she needed more money than she originally asked for. “But thanks to Kickstarter, I was able to collect paypal donations while I was on the road. Many old donors gave again.”
To thank her donors for their kind contributions, Jenna offered reward incentives that tied directly to her “All Thrifty States” journey around the country. “I wanted to tie the gifts directly back to the campaign, but I was also looking to give items that I could ship easily in bulk.” Jenna’s incentives ranged from unique “All Thrifty States” postcards and stickers, autographed prints, and of course “mystery surprise thrift store items.”
Today, Jenna is returned home from her thrifty trip across the country and has only 11 states left to go. But with all Kickstarter funds used up, she needs to start from ground zero to raise money again. “I’m hoping these last 11 states will be easy to hit because I have this great foundation of support,” Jenna says.
With tangible Kickstarter experience now under her belt, Jenna’s biggest advice for launching a successful crowdfunding campaign is that there must be an element of the project that makes people feel good about giving. “A lot of photographers want to do a project that is only interesting to them, but the key to using Kickstarter is to do a project that’s interesting to a lot of people. You have to show that you want to make a difference in people’s lives.”