45,000 Projects Demonstrate the Power of Words for Raising Funds


Language has a strong effect on funding success. From the orators of ancient Rome to the more modern sermon givers, presenters, and speech writers, we have long prized the skill of selecting the right words, and timing them well to persuade us to do something.

If you want to understand which words work in a quasi real time commercial environment, all you have to do is head over to Kickstarter and analyze the  commonalities and patterns in the termonology used for projected that achieved funding status.

Success follows a pattern

Based on the success of recent studies that demonstrated how certain words and phrases can predict whether a corporate email will be sent up or down the organizational hierarchy, the authors of a recent ACM conference paper# set out to uncover which words and phrases prompt people to back a venture, and by contrast, which are a turn off.

By analyzing the terminology of 45,000 Kickstarter projects, the researchers found that positive words and expressions that communicate confidence, experience, and achieve emotional resonance work. Through earlier research on the science of persuasion, we also know how social currency also affects behavior.

While non funded projects have several expressions in common; they suggest need, negativity, and lack of assurance.

Words that Work for Funding
This is an example of the top phrases and words in each set I pulled together from the report. Two applications of this type of research on predictive phrases (and control variables) suggested by the authors are:

  1. work on computerized text analysis to draw inferences of real-world behaviors, and
  2. an emerging class of crowdfunding sites — in the hope to help both backers and project creators make best use of their time and money

As more of us become direct marketers for a variety of projects and causes as we move more toward the free-agent model at least in some aspects of our lives, it is important to understant what penetrates the wall of indifference and hits the sweet spot on making the connection.

This is a study of persuasion based on the English language, and even within one language, we have to look for common ways of approaching the question using evidence.

Single Day with Most Pledges on Kickstarter

Kickstarter just passed 1 billion in pledges#, with more than half in the last 12 months. The site reminds us that 5,708,578 people who have backed a Kickstarter project come from 224 countries and territories, and all seven continents.

For example, 25,480 backers in Italy pledged more than $4.4 million, 97,597 bakers pledged more than $21.6 million in Germany, and 53,364 backers pledged more than $10.1 million in France. Three quire different cultures and economic environments and three potentially different ways to use words that work.

I suspect that moms are the best in most of these countries (see the Kickstarter site). Even in translation, the meaning hardly ever gets lost.

We have millions of words to chose from. Yet, as it turns out, words that work are very few and, when used judiciously and ethically, they can make a difference.


[top image credit: science of persuasion]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.