Scams, Damned Scams, and Crowdfunding – When Creators Fail to Communicate

Today marks a thousand days since backers of Zoe Quinn’s Project Tingle received an update on the game. Having raised over $85 thousand from over two thousand backers via Kickstarter, the all-but-canceled full motion video adventure game was originally scheduled to deliver in February 2017, and the last update to backers was sent on 30 August 2018.

This is certainly not an anniversary to celebrate, but it does highlight one of the most pernicious problems in all of crowdfunding: lack of communication. When I encounter people who believe crowdfunding to be a “grift” or a “scam”, too often they cite cases like Project Tingle, where a creator has raised a substantial amount of money, and then ghosted their backers.

Certainly there are cases where creators take the money and run. However, I feel as though more often than not, creators get in over their heads with a project. Perhaps they didn’t accurately gauge the time and money that it takes to fulfill their projects. Perhaps they mismanaged funds, and some even used the money raised to cover personal expenses. In some of these cases, backers can be forgiving. After all, every crowdfunded project is a leap of faith. An investment. And some investments don’t pan out.

It’s funny… until it isn’t

But without adequate communication along the way, backers feel lied to. “Scammed”. And who can blame them? While this undoubtedly sours customers on a particular creator, the secondary result is a broader mistrust of crowdfunding as a whole. Given that many creative industries are struggling right now (or outright collapsing – *cough! – comics – cough!*), crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter provide a space for creators to thrive, but only if there is a willing audience who isn’t already jaded on the process.

Whether you are a first-time creator or a seasoned industry veteran, and whether you raised thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars for your game, comic book, etc., it’s undoubtedly a blow to your pride to admit your failure to deliver. But even if you are failing in your primary duty of delivering on the project, you also have a duty to keep your backers informed. If you aren’t keeping your backers in the loop, you are failing twice over.

If you are a creator who has gotten in over your head with a crowdfunded project, don’t let your pride override your integrity. Respect your backers enough to be honest with them. If you need to cancel a project, apologize and cancel it. Certainly don’t wait a thousand days to do it.

After all, confession is good for the soul.

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