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As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly innovating and coming up with another big idea—and seeking funding to turn that idea into a reality. And if you don’t have the financial and professional credentials that lenders need to see to be approved for a typical small business loan, crowdfunding just might be your best option. You’ve likely heard of the two major crowdfunding players, Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But what’s the difference between Kickstarter and Indiegogo?
First, let’s recap: What is crowdfunding? It’s almost exactly what it sounds like: A crowdfunding campaign lets you raise small amounts of money from a large group of people, often from all over the world. Perhaps the two biggest platforms are Indiegogo and Kickstarter—founded in 2007 and 2009, respectively—these two platforms have funded nearly 800,000 projects between them.
Both are excellent platforms for fundraising and generating awareness of your brand. Let’s go through the difference between Indiegogo and Kickstarter so you'll know which platform will best suit your burgeoning business.
Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter: The best option for funding your business
The basics: Indiegogo
Compared with Kickstarter, which is more focused on sharing creative or serviceable products and media, Indiegogo offers backers a broader collection of projects, including tech and design, health and fitness, education, transportation, phones and accessories. They’re open to a pretty wide range of projects and businesses.
So, if you don’t fall under the purview of Kickstarter’s creative mission, Indiegogo might be the better option for you. The film "Super Troopers 2" exists because of the community at Indiegogo; they raised $4.6 million and hold the record for raising the most money in the first 24 hours of a campaign on the platform. Indiegogo also funded the nonprofit Code.org, which raised over $5 million on Indiegogo.
The basics: Kickstarter
Kickstarter has funded more than 190,000 projects to date. This platform caters to artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers—any innovators who create products, services, or media they can share with others.
Even if you’re not making games or the latest tech gadget, if your business is based on creative talent and production, Kickstarter would be a great place to seek funding.
That said, if you’re trying to fundraise for a charity—like personal needs, disaster relief, or an environmental project—you won’t be able to do it here. Kickstarter’s rules require that your project be something that you create and can then share with the world—or as they put it, “It’s finished. Here’s what we created. Enjoy!” (If you are looking to fundraise for a cause, whether it’s personal or global, you can try GoFundMe, which is run by Indiegogo and focuses exclusively on funding charities and other causes.)
Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter: Campaign rules
Campaign rules: Indiegogo
Indiegogo is less strict than Kickstarter about the types of projects they host. You can create tangible products, but Indiegogo also accepts fundraisers that benefit nonprofits, educational campaigns and community projects. But it’s worth noting that Indiegogo doesn’t allow personal cause campaigns.
If you’re on the fence between Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the tipping point might be the equity component. As we said, Kickstarter doesn’t allow campaigners to offer their backers investment opportunities, but Indiegogo does allow you to find investors through their site.
Campaign rules: Kickstarter
Kickstarter is dedicated to its mission of supporting artists and the arts, and it is strict about only hosting projects that support that mission. So it has a few rules about what is and isn’t allowed on the platform.
Your project’s goal has to be to create something that can be shared with others. That can mean a physical thing—like a piece of technology or a piece of art—but experiences like music and film count, as do events and communal spaces.
You need to clearly communicate and present your project to your backers. If your project involves creating an object, you have to produce an actual prototype to show them.
Projects can’t raise funds for charity, though nonprofits are allowed to launch projects.
You can’t offer equity, revenue sharing, or investments as incentives for people to donate to your project. Cash only here, friends.
Your item or offering must fall under Kickstarter’s eligibility standards, per their Prohibited Items list.
Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter: How to apply for a campaign
How to apply: Indiegogo
Indiegogo doesn’t have an approval process, so all you need to do before launching your campaign is gather your campaign materials.
To start with, you’ll need a video of your pitch, as well as a written description. You also want to make sure that you’re as detailed as possible about your project, why you need to raise money and what you’ll be using those funds for.
Then you’ll need to implement a perks system, as well as a title image and shorter description. Indiegogo recommends linking your social media and your website if you have one so that your potential backers can get a big-picture idea of what you and your project are about.
How to apply: Kickstarter
Kickstarter requires an application and approval process before you can launch your campaign. Their application asks for details of your project, like what you’re raising money for and how much you need—the basics, essentially.
You’re also responsible for creating all of the content on your project page. You can (and should) upload a video of your project, as well as a written description and a reward system for the people who donate. The Creator’s Handbook will walk you through each step and give you tips on how to make your project stand out. After you upload all that information, your project is submitted for review.
When Kickstarter reviews your project, they’re really checking to make sure that your project falls within one of their accepted categories and that you haven’t broken any of their rules. The review process usually takes around 30 hours on average.
If there’s nothing wrong with your proposal, you’ll be able to launch your project. But if Kickstarter feels your product doesn’t meet community guidelines, or if it breaks one of the aforementioned rules, they have the right to deny your campaign. Finally, keep in mind that when your project is approved, it does not automatically launch—you have to do it manually.
Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter: Pros and cons
Extensive support network
Indiegogo has an extensive support network for project creators and its multiple partnerships can help you at every step of the process.
Some of the supportive partnerships Indiegogo offers are:
Design, prototype and manufacturing partners to help you make your product
Fulfillment partners like Easyship and Zenpack, to help you package and deliver your products to your customers
Retail partners, like Amazon and Newegg, which can host your product
24-hour customer support line
On Marketplace, you can post your products so people can buy them directly from you (somewhat like eBay or Etsy)—and you can continue to use the Indiegogo Marketplace even after you’re done fundraising.
If you reach the end of your campaign and didn’t reach your fundraising goal but want to keep trying, InDemand lets you continue raising money and building a community after your campaign is over. It doesn’t have the same timeline or target requirements as the campaign does, so you can let it run as an extra way to raise some money as you focus on other aspects of your business.
Not as well known
Indiegogo might not get you as much traction as other crowdfunding sites because it's not as recognizable. This doesn't automatically mean you won't have success raising your desired funds; it might just take more promoting on your part.
Detailed more below, even if you don't reach your fundraising goal but still wish to retrieve the funds you have raised, Indiegogo will take a percentage of what you raise, so you'll end up getting less than what your campaign shows.
Best for: Indiegogo is best for someone who wants to raise money for a non-tangible project, since they allow for that, whereas Kickstarter does not.
No fees if your goal isn't reached
Normally, Kickstarter would take a 5% fee from the total funds you raised, but that's only if you reach your goal. If you don't, there are no fees.
Popular crowdfunding site
With Kickstarter, you get the backing of a really well-known platform for raising money for a project. This could help bring in more money because people already trust Kickstarter.
Only one funding option
Unlike Indiegogo, you can't pull funds from your campaign unless the full amount of your goal has been reached. If it doesn't get funded in full, those who pledged money to your fundraiser will not be charged.
More intense application process
You'll need to provide details about your project, which could be a negative for someone who hasn't really fleshed out all the details yet. There are also only so many categories of projects that Kickstarter accepts, which could complicate the approval process.
Best for: If you have created a physical product that you can offer people, Kickstarter is a better option for fundraising. People know Kickstarter for raising funds for actual products they can use, so you're more likely to reach your goal on this platform.
Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter: Funding and fees
There’s a clear distinction between how Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer funding and it’ll impact which platform you choose.
Kickstarter only has one funding option: the all-or-nothing model.
That means that when your backers pledge their money, they’re doing only that—pledging it. If your campaign doesn’t meet the fundraising goal by the deadline you set, you don’t get any of that money and your backers aren’t charged their pledged amount.
This might sound scary, but a few notes on this: First off, you get to set the fundraising goal, as well as the timeline, so you’ll be able to set markers for yourself that you think are possible to reach. If you choose Kickstarter as your project’s home, evaluate your processes and set attainable goals. Gauging interest in your product before setting a target number will help you do that, as will promoting your campaign on other social media platforms and in your community.
Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo has two funding options.
Fixed funding is like Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing model: You pick a funding goal you think you can reach and receive the full amount (minus Indiegogo’s processing fee) if you reach it. If you don’t reach your funding goal, your backers are refunded their money.
But they also offer a flexible funding option, which allows you to keep whatever funds you earn even if you don’t hit your target amount. If you’re worried about reaching a specific number, or if your product is niche and needs time to gather some steam, flex funding gives you a lot more wiggle room.
Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo take a part of the total funds raised and charge a processing fee (that’s how they both stay in business, after all).
Kickstarter takes 5% of your total funds raised, so if you don’t meet your target, they don’t charge that fee. (But if you do meet your target, you’ll need to deduct that 5%.) Their payment processing fees are between 3% and 5%. Take a look at the full Kickstarter fee breakdown on the website.
Indiegogo also charges 5% on all funds raised, not on the goal you set. Stripe, their credit card processor, also charges a processing fee of 3% plus $0.30 per transaction. Since Indiegogo is international, there may be other fees associated with international transfers and individual banks. Go to the site for a full list of Indiegogo’s fees.
The bottom line
Kickstarter will only approve your project if it fits the company's creative mission and you don’t earn any money at all if you don’t reach your fundraising target.
Indiegogo accepts more types of ventures on their platform and they’ll also let you keep whatever amount you raise if you choose that funding model. Plus, campaigners appreciate Indiegogo’s extensive support system, both during and after your campaign is live.
But it almost doesn't matter which one is technically better. All that matters is which one is best for you. And no matter which platform you decide to use, don’t put all your eggs in that one crowdfunding basket. Consider pursuing crowdfunding if you think it’ll be lucrative for you, but don’t turn your back on other sources of startup funding in the meantime.
This article originally appeared on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.
Lauren Diethelm contributed to this article.