Is It Cool To Make Mutual Kickstarter Pledge Agreements With Other Campaigns?

kickstartermessagesReader Maxim is running a campaign on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter right now to print up some really cool playing cards. Yet he didn’t contact us to ask us to write about his project: we don’t normally post about items in the crowdfunding phase, anyway. He was concerned about a message he received from another Kickstarter campaign creator, who was asking him to swap pledges to artificially inflate each other’s totals.

How would that work? On Kickstarter, you don’t receive any of the money you’ve raised unless you raise the full budget. Say, for example, you set a budget of $10 to make some potato salad, but are only able to raise $9. That would be considered an unsuccessful campaign, and you wouldn’t get any of the money. If you raised $11, or $55,500, you would get it all (minus fees.)

Here’s part of the message that Maxim received:

Hi there Here is an idea for cross promotion You donate some money to my campaign and I donate to your campaign and I will post your campaign to my social media (FB and YouTube)

Examples: If you donate $50 I donate $70, if you donate $20 I donate $30 if you donate $10 I donate $15. If you donate less than $10 I donate same amount.

We know that Maxim wasn’t the only campaign creator who received this message. However, is it fair or ethical to go all “Strangers on a Train” with Kickstarter pledges? You can’t pledge to your own campaign, but is this the next best thing?

While it’s good to support your fellow creative people, there’s a way to exploit such a request. Simply make this kind of agreement with other campaigns that appear to be struggling. If they don’t make their funding goal, you don’t owe any money at all. If you make your funding goal, they’re on the hook while you don’t owe anything. We’re not saying that is what this particular user had in mind, but it’s one way to artificially boost your numbers and run a scam.

We contacted Kickstarter to ask how the rules applied in cases like this one. While they can’t discuss specific situations involving their users, Kickstarter pointed us toward their Community Guidelines, which say quite clearly that sending unsolicited messages to other members is very much Against The Rules. So is spamming people about your campaign outside of Kickstarter.

That avoids the moral question of whether it’s okay to swap pledges in this way, since approaching other campaigns randomly isn’t allowed in the first place. Let’s settle this in the time-honored way of all moral arguments: with a poll.

(Also, here’s Maxim’s campaign, if you’re curious.)

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