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kidJerry

Jerry the Bear, with a satisfied customer.

A few months ago, Sproutel, the company behind Jerry the Bear, the interactive bear that helps kids with Type 1 diabetes learn to live with the disease, decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign.

When the campaign went live, today on Indiegogo, it had an unusual perk: for $3 million you can buy 12,000 bears, which would give one to every child between the ages of 3 and 7 diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the coming year in the US.

Aaron Horowitz, the CEO of Sproutel, thinks it’s the largest crowdfunding perk ever offered.

At the same time, the overally goal of Sproutel’s campaign is just $20k.

So what’s behind the spread?

Sproutel has demonstrated marketing smarts before. The two-year-old company has already gotten 250 bears, sold individually for $300 each, into the hands of children with diabetes.  The team was one of the companies invited to this year’s White House Maker Faire.

So we asked Aaron how the team approached their crowdfunding campaign.

Here are some tips:

Think BIG

As in $3 million big. Aaron admits the perk is “a Hail Mary pass,” but it’s not ridiculous.

“There are hundreds of folks who give between $250k  and $10 million a year to diabetes related causes,” he said. “It’s about raising awareness that Jerry could be one of those causes.”

It’s a strech, he said, but “we’re hoping that it will elevate this opportunity to those who are passionate enough to do something.”

Know your audience

“We have a multitude of communities which our campaign resonates with: kids who have have diabetes, parents, makers,” Aaron said, “so we wanted to create perks and messaging within the campaign that could engage the diverse interests of these different social networks.

So $299. will buy a bear for a kid with diabetes — that’s the core offering of the campaign. But Sproutel is also offering a bear without the electronics for $99 — to appeal to parents of kids without diabetes, and a “virtual high five” for $5 to appeal to everyone else.

Research, research, research

“Look at a TON of campaigns both past and present,” Aaron recommended.

How are people pricing their perks and the overall size of their campaigns? Look at what has worked for others and how they have successfully engaged their audience.

For example, Sproutel decided to set a low overall funding goal for its campaign, $20k, and they attach it to a real funding need – they’ll use the money to fund their next production order.

“While our mission is to get a bear in the hands of every child diagnosed next year, we felt as though a multimillion dollar funding goal would scare folks away,” Aaron said.

Of course if a whale steps in a buys the $3 million perk, that will be a “stretch goal” to remember.

Follow in the footsteps of giants

“We sought out to talk to those who had run highly successful crowdfunding campaigns and learn as much as we could from their experience,” Aaron said. “This was particularly helpful in thinking through how to design perks, stretch goals, and pricing. While there is no formula, having successful campaigns like Misfit Shine’s to look up to gives you a sense of what has worked for others.”

What was so great about Misfit Shine’s campaign?

“The misfit campaign was so impressive because of the precision of its execution,” Aaron said. “From an outside perspective it seemed like a well-oiled machine, churning out updates and generating press steadily throughout the entirety of the campaign.”

It also raised $846.7k, eight times its original $100k goal.

Asked if there were other campaigns that impressed him, Aaron mentioned Reading Rainbow and Design that Matters; both were able to get large contributors to match funds raised.

sproutel kidwithjerry Offer the Largest Crowdfunding Perk in History, and Other Advice From Sproutels Campaign

Talk to the experts

“The experts at Indiegogo are incredible assets to have in your tool belt,” Aaron said. “They have seen every campaign under the sun and have real data to back up their advice. I recommend looping them in as early as possible to give feedback from the start.”

Try new things

What works for one company/product might not work for everyone. The landscape of crowdfunding campaigns has changed pretty drastically in the past couple of years, Aaron said, so make sure to infuse your own personality and ideas into the campaign.

For Sproutel, this explains the $3 million “mission accomplished” perk that would fund a bear to every child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the coming year.

At the same time, the campaign’s overall goal is just $20k, modest by crowdfunding standards. It is also offering 8 perks well below the mega-million donation.

There are no guarantees, but on day 1 of its crowding campaign, Spoutel appears to have just about every possible price point — covered.

DC Denison

DC Denison

DC Denison is the editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

The former technology editor of The Boston Globe, DC is also interested in content management systems.


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