A lot of board game creators ask the same question: “how do you fund your board game on Kickstarter?”
It’s a great question. Kickstarter is complicated, but the potential to earn thousands of dollars from dozens, hundreds, or thousands of backers is worth investigating.
But there’s a fallacy in this thinking. The way this oft-asked question is framed from the get-go can lead you astray.
I’ve written about how you have to bankroll your own board game projects long before they reach Kickstarter. That means you have to find an alternate form of funding. This is true whether or not you go to Kickstarter.
If you already have to raise funds before Kickstarter, that raises a big question. “Do you need to fund your board game on Kickstarter?”
The answer to that is no. Four alternatives readily come to mind. Let’s talk about them.
Note: I am not endorsing any of the four ways below. What’s good and what’s bad depends entirely on your situation, your business plan, and your pitch. The purpose of this exercise is to clearly delineate alternatives to Kickstarter, however attractive or unattractive they may be.
A lot of times, people act as if Kickstarter were the only way to raise funding. It’s easy to forget that Kickstarter is only ten years old as of the time this article is being written. People have been starting businesses since ancient history.
Let that sink in. People have been raising funds for their projects since before angel investors, crowdfunding, or even the modern banking system. You don’t necessarily have to go with the newest, prettiest, trendiest funding method.
Self-funding is the grandfather of all fundraising. That means dipping into your personal funds, be it your checking account, savings account, 401(k), or using credit cards. You can even try asking friends and family for money.
Obviously, you don’t want to bet the family farm to try to fund your board game. Tapping into your retirement accounts can be a bad idea. Even drawing from your savings isn’t always the best option.
There is, nevertheless, one massive benefit to doing it this way – you don’t have to answer to anybody. You don’t have to try to chase Kickstarter trends. No bank, small business association, or angel investor can override your decisions when you self-fund. You are truly the master of your own destiny.
2. Get a loan from the bank.
“I’m not made of money, Brandon.” Most people aren’t. In a world in which people cannot come up with a few hundred dollars for an emergency, asking you to pull thousands from your own personal accounts to fund a board game project would be absurd.
To many people, the logical answer is to go to Kickstarter. After all, if you fund your board game on Kickstarter, you can build your business with sales before the product is even finalized!
Of course, this is built on some faulty assumptions in the first place. The most obvious is that you have to raise funds to create a game ready for Kickstarter in the first place. Kickstarter is a noisy medium where there are a lot of phenomenal options available for roughly the same price. Why would somebody back the concept of an awesome game when a print-ready awesome game is one more click away? In short, they wouldn’t.
If you are unable to self-fund and you need extra money to be ready for a Kickstarter, you can always ask the bank for a business loan. Granted, I’m not recommending this option, nor am I saying it’s a bad idea. It is merely an option that is available to you, and indeed, was the way that many businesses in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came to be.
(Just be careful with debt.)
3. Get an SBA loan.
Naturally, though, banks may show some hesitation to lend you money for one reason or another. Or perhaps you hesitate to take a loan from a bank. There is another place you can go, provided you live in the US: the Small Business Administration.
Much like a bank would, the SBA can provide loans. Fortunately, they often provide loans for smaller amounts with different loan terms and more attractive interest rates.
There are some hurdles, though, and many of them are not easy to clear. According to Fundera, the customers most likely to be approved had over $180,000 in annual revenue, a credit score of 680, and have been in business for four years or longer.
Clearly, this is not the right option for “I’m a college student and I want to make a board game.” It may be a good option for “I’m 41, have been in business for a while, and want to try something new.”
4. Find angel investors.
Last but not least, you can always seek out funding from an angel investor. Some people have lots of money and they seek ways to use it. One of the ways affluent individuals like to spend their money is by providing capital for a business start-up, sometimes for equity and sometimes for kicks.
This can seem like an extremely loopy answer. “Why would anybody give me tens of thousands to make a board game?” It’s a legitimate question to ask. The simple truth is that there are people out there who want to be involved in projects they like and for whom money is not an object. If you can’t self-fund or get a loan, finding a person like that becomes, by default, your next best bet.
Is it a long shot? Oh, absolutely. But it’s something to keep in mind.
Do You Really Need to Fund Your Board Game on Kickstarter?
Forget about Kickstarter for just a second. It is just a new venue for an old idea – selling attractive products to customers. Whether you crowdfund, take a loan, self-fund, or find an angel investor, you will have to face one simple question. Is my business meeting a real market need?
If the answer is “yes” and you can demonstrate with real evidence that the answer is “yes,” then don’t limit yourself to Kickstarter. Spending your time obsessing over the right way to raise funds is not nearly as important as making something worth raising funds to create.
Consider all the options.