By now you probably know about Kickstarter and its inversion of the existing model of producing content. When I was a kid, the powers-that-be atop traditional media outlets would make guesses about the content people wanted, and then they’d spend a lot of money producing that content and convincing you to want it. That model still exists in movies, TV, music, and books, but it’s risky. The profits from successes have to subsidize the losses from failures. Executives are often getting fired because their guessing record (or ability to manage development toward their guesses) wasn’t good enough.
The beauty of Kickstarter is that it invites artists, designers, inventors, and entrepreneurs to become storytellers. They have to cast a vision for what they want to create, and then hope that vision finds its audience and resonates. Whereas the old model declares, “You probably want this, 18-34 year-old male,” the new models asks, “Do you want this?”
This is the question people answer when they back a Kickstarter project. They respond, “Yes, I want that. Record the album, edit the film, print the magazine, produce the watch, and send it to me.” It’s the question Seth Godin is asking with his new project, and people are answering in droves.
Don’t you love that? I do. There’s something magically democratic and put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is earnest about it. That’s not to say Kickstarter is perfect; it’s not. But it’s a new way, and I like what the new way makes possible. It’s also smart — ask people if they want something before you spend a ton of money creating it.
I wonder what it could mean for churches.
I don’t think I want churches to create Kickstarter projects for every budget item (though both are crowdfunded), but I’ve been thinking about the Kickstarter question: “Do you want this?”
How would it change church communications, and even the broader scope of a church’s activities, if we asked instead of guessed? Sure, we’d still get some things wrong. But maybe we’d glean some valuable insights.
Maybe we’d put the handbell choir out to pasture and instead start teaching kids to write, rap, or code. Maybe we’d start doing video announcements, or maybe we’d find out video announcements are a project very few people would back. Maybe we’d make Facebook the primary outlet for our online communication efforts … or maybe we wouldn’t. Maybe we’d retool the small groups ministry so that it ties into serving with the youth ministry because a large crowd enthusiastically backed that idea.
To cast this kind of vision, we’d have to become committed storytellers who are attuned to our communities. In the process, I wonder if people in our communities would become committed backers who are attuned to the leadership of their church. On Kickstarter, becoming a backer costs you something. I like that.
Speaking of leadership, I don’t want to put every single thing to a vote. No way. What I’m saying is that Kickstarter teaches us that we don’t have to guess all the time. Sometimes we can tell a good story about what could be and invite people to get onboard.
Hey, it’s working for Seth Godin.
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.