Crowdfunding 101 Blog Series – Part Two: Ananda Leeke’s Crowdfunding Journey with Kickstarter

Happy Thursday Digital Sisters!

As promised, Digital Sisterhood Network (DSN) is continuing its Crowdfunding 101 Blog Series in preparation for the upcoming Blogalicious Weekend Conference panel discussion on CrowdFunding: The Financial Backing for Your Project Is at Your Fingertips! that will take place on Friday, October 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Part One of the Crowdfunding 101 Blog Series provided an overview of crowdfunding. Today’s  blog discusses Leeke’s crowdfunding journey with Kickstarter. It is based on excerpts from her upcoming book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Crowdfunding 101 Blog Series – Part Two: Ananda Leeke’s Crowdfunding Journey with Kickstarter

Ananda Leeke’s crowdfunding journey began with a challenge from her Ameriprise Financial financial advisor Judy Weathers during their first quarter meeting in 2010. They were reviewing Leeke’s self-publishing expenses for two books published in 2007 and 2009, and estimating the expenses for a third book. Weathers asked her if she could find investors or alternative funding for the book. At first, she thought Weathers was asking her to do the impossible, but a small voice inside convinced her to be open and pursue alternative funding.

Ananda Leeke and Judy Weathers at Ulah Bistro on U Street, NW in DC

Ananda Leeke and Judy Weathers at Ulah Bistro on U Street, NW in DC

Months passed without Leeke lifting a finger to identify alternative funding. Then, it happened. The light bulb went off during an episode of Digital Sisterhood Radio. She was moderating a panel of creative women in social media when Abiola Abrams, author and founder of, referenced an Essence article that discussed the power of using Kickstarter to fund books and films. After the show, she visited and learned about several authors who used it to raise money for their books. Their success inspired her to take the plunge.

Here’s what happened: she created two Kickstarter campaigns for her self-publishing package and photography fees to support her Digital Sisterhood book. Using video was a must for her. So she recorded an eight-minute video with her laptop’s web cam that was very simple and shared her reasons for writing the book and using Kickstarter. She included the same information in the description section of her campaign page. She also offered seven pledge options ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $200) with rewards that included:

  • $1 Pledge: Donors names will be published in the book as supporters.
  • $5 Pledge: Donors will receive everything mentioned above and access to the behind-the-scenes video & audio updates that will document the creation of the book.
  • $10 Pledge: Donors will receive everything mentioned above and access to a live author chat on during the book writing and publishing process.
  • $20 Pledge: Donors will receive everything mentioned above, a personal thank-you note with book logo and signed by author, and an invitation to participate in the online book release party via
  • $50 Pledge: Donors will receive everything mentioned above, an invitation to vote on the book cover design, and a Digital Sisterhood mug.
  • $100 Pledge: Donors will receive everything mentioned above and an autographed copy of the book.
  • $200 Pledge: Donors will receive everything mentioned above and a private one-hour author chat via Skype or telephone with the author.

With the support of her generous donors (backers is the Kickstarter term), her first campaign raised $1,159 in 2010. Her second campaign raised $701 in 2011. She also received donations via PayPal and from friends who gave cash and check donations.

Leeke’s funding goals were very conservative. She wanted to make sure she received every dollar she raised because Kickstarter only offers fixed funding, an all-or-nothing approach. That means if you don’t reach your funding goal, you don’t receive any of the money you raised.

The biggest challenges she faced with her campaigns were writing a book while she was conducting two fundraisers and underestimating the time it would actually take to publish the book. Her underestimation caused a three-year delay in her delivery of rewards to her donors (she is in the process of delivering rewards over the next two months). To maintain communication with her donors, Leeke posted regular updates about her writing process in 2011 and part of 2012. She slacked off in 2013. Fortunately, her donors have not complained. They are a great group of people who have a lot of compassion and patience. They taught her that crowdfunding is rooted in generosity. For that, she is truly grateful.

As a result of her experience, Leeke believes crowdfunding is rooted in:

  • Passion for a cause, project, or venture;
  • The experience of connection, relationship building, and social capital within a community;
  • The power of asking;
  • The act of generosity; and
  • The practice of gratitude.

Stop DSN’s blog tomorrow for Part Three of the series. It will offer a checklist and guidelines on how to conduct a successful crowdfunding campaign.

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