How Purpose Driven Crowdfunding Saved The Public Domain Review


The Tally

On the 5th of March, 2013, The Public Domain Review (TPDR) launched their first crowdfunding campaign, an effort that sought to raise $20,000 over a period of 8 weeks. By May 1st, on campaign end, they not only achieved their goal, but surpassed it, raising $22,070 thanks to the help of 676 generous people.

The Takeaways

  • Make a good video

  • Offer a single reward (to motivate a jump in donations)

  • If you have a community or fans, trust in their enthusiasm.

  • Take time planning, and be prepared for the intensity that exists during the campaign phase.

  • Considering the intensity, you may wish to do a shorter campaign (this one was 8 weeks).

What is The Public Domain Review?

The Public Domain Review is a not-for-profit project dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available online.  To this end, they have built a rather large and loyal community interested in their latest discoveries.

Getting Things Started

When funding was running low, the team began brainstorming ways to keep the site up and running, and after much deliberation, landed on crowdfunding as the way ahead.

But that brainstorming was just the start. Adam Green, an editor at TPDR, aptly described the changes in intensity during the preparation stage:

“There was a month or two of gentle planning, then a more intense few weeks just before launch.”

Like many crowdfunding teams, this one had to make a decision on the platform they’d use to host their campaign.  Should they take it to an external source or build and manage it on their own website?

Adam knew that taking it outside of their site didn’t really fit the spirit of their campaign, which was more of a “donate to show your love…rather than [a]…goods exchange,” so decided it was best to keep it on their site. TPDR, already having an audience to market to, saw no benefit in paying hefty fees to a platform for the privilege of marketing to their own audience. Adam was happy that “saving on the fees that Kickstarter/IndieGogo charge” enabled them to allocate a higher percentage of funds to the project.

With a WordPress site already in place, the decision became easy for them. They knew they wanted it to feel seamless, like it was a part of the rest of their unique design, not separate from it.  They chose IgnitionDeck because of this flexibility it afforded them.  “We liked being able to design the page exactly as we wanted, within the aesthetic of our site.”

Pledge What You Want

Rather than offering a variety of differing rewards, TPDR chose to go the ‘Pledge What You Want’ route, offering  a single reward for those that pledged $40 or more [a very cool tote bag]. This single reward was a tremendous success, helping them raise an average of $32 per pledge.

support-public-domain-reviewWhat to Expect

The Public Domain Review didn’t know what to expect when they launched their campaign.  They hadn’t even set a deadline when they started.  “Our campaign ended up going on for 8 weeks, which was a bit exhausting from our end, and I am sure a little exhausting from the other end as well.” They felt, they could have made it shorter overall, and ended up with the same results.

Not knowing what to expect can be really hard to plan for, but making a good video is always bound to increase campaign effectiveness. Adam and his team knew that as long as they got their message across, they could count on their community.

And they were right. According to Adam, the feedback was all positive. “Lot’s of people were very excited to be able to help. The response was really amazing and, dare I say it, quite touching.”.

A Stronger Community


The wonderful side effect of choosing to raise money on their own site was a more personal connection with their community.  “In general it opened out our project a lot more. … and in that way was about a lot more than just getting money in.”.

By opening up to their community to raise money, it also opened up the communication with their editors and their readers. And seeing how much others supported their efforts… well, let’s let Adam close out this one as he says it best: “it was always a shock and pleasure to see complete strangers pledging their money. Something that really made us believe in our project.”

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