GoFundMe VS Kickstarter
Crowdfunding is a funding solution shaped to fit the iniquitous era that incubated it. As our society (and our collective psyche along with it) careens from crisis to crisis, reducing us to neurotic spectators watching our phones and waiting for the next shoe to drop, one thing has become abundantly clear: the cavalry isn’t coming. There are no angels in the outfield, no kings across the water to save us. As banks maintain the vice-like grip on the immense capital they’ve held since the Great Recession, and as access to basic medical care grows more tenuous by the day, Do It Yourself isn’t just a lifestyle branding trend, but a necessity for survival.
Enter Kickstarter and GoFundMe.
If you have even a passing familiarity with modern crowdfunding, you probably know that Kickstarter is for crowdfunding campaigns that support people who make tech gizmos and fantasy board games, while GoFundMe is for personal causes. This is basically accurate, though it’s worth drawing some finer distinctions between the two.
Let’s compare and contrast these two platforms in greater detail.
Table of Contents
Both Kickstarter and GoFundMe let you leverage the power of the internet — particularly, the sociologically effective power of social media — to raise funds. With both platforms, money donated to a campaign will have a portion of that money taken out in fees. Here’s where the similarities end, though.
The fundamental difference between the two platforms is that Kickstarter only allows crowdfunding for creative projects. Unlike GoFundMe, all Kickstarter campaigns are screened before they can go live. To be approved, your project must create something which can ultimately be shared with your backers upon the successful completion of the campaign. GoFundMe is different. It’s a platform for charitable crowdfunding, and while GoFundMe doesn’t prohibit business fundraising, most of its campaigns are about raising money to help people pay their medical bills and/or cope with personal tragedies and disasters.
Both platforms stand out amongst today’s crop of crowdfunding sites, with Kickstarter and GoFundMe facilitating the raising of over 4 billion and 5 billion USD respectively. This exceeds the fundraising total of any other crowdfunder.
Additionally, both services let campaigners give rewards to the backers who contribute to their cause, though in the case of Kickstarter, such gift-giving is mandatory. With GoFundMe, it’s merely an option you can deploy.
Kickstarter has five iron-clad rules for crowdfunding campaigns:
- Projects must create something to share with others
- Projects must be honest and clearly presented
- Projects can’t fundraise for charity
- Projects can’t offer equity
- Projects can’t involve prohibited items
Additionally, all projects must be cleared by Kickstarter before they can go live. This can take up to three days.
GoFundMe lacks a similar set of concrete rules for what constitutes a proper campaign on their site and likewise does not require campaigners to get pre-clearance before launching. It should be pointed out, however, that both Kickstarter and GoFundMe forbid campaigns that involve illegal activities, weapons, porn, hate speech, fraud, drugs, and the like.
Terms & Fees
Here’s how Kickstarter’s terms and fees compare with those of GoFundMe:
Up To 60 Days
Max Campaign Duration
All Or Nothing
Keep What You Raise
3% + $0.20 Per Pledge
Payment Processing Fee
2.9% + $0.30 Per Pledge
5% + $0.05 Per Pledge
Payment Processing Fee For Donations Under $10
Same As Above
As you can see, there’s one rather significant difference between the platforms in terms of the fees assessed. Kickstarter takes 5% off the top, while GoFundMe has eliminated their platform fee entirely. That doesn’t mean no fees are assessed to GoFundMe pledges, however — the payment processor will take 2.9% + 30 cents from each GoFundMe donation. Kickstarter pledges have nearly identical payment processing fees taken out, meaning that the funds a Kickstarter campaign raises will, in the end, have about 8% taken out in fees.
The terms of the campaigns of our two protagonists also differ significantly. Kickstarter campaigns are all-or-nothing when it comes to collecting the funds you raise from donors. What does this mean?
It means that with Kickstarter, your funding campaign can last anywhere from one to 60 days (Kickstarter recommends setting a funding period of 30 days, however — their data indicates that shorter campaigns are more likely to reach their target). If you don’t reach your fundraising goal by the end of your campaign, you won’t get any of the money raised. It will instead go back to the donors who sent it.
Given the fact that only about 37% of Kickstarter projects reach their funding goal, this means that roughly 63% of Kickstarter campaigns result in the project taking in $0. While this sounds bad, Kickstarter makes the case for all-or-nothing funding by making three points:
- It takes pressure off of creators who fall short of their fundraising goal — otherwise, backers might expect campaigners to deliver results without the funds necessary to do so.
- Motivation. As Kickstarter puts it, “Adding a sense of urgency motivates your community to spread the word and rally behind your project.”
- Pointing to the data that shows that the projects that reach 60% of their funding goal end up meeting their funding goals 98% of the time, Kickstarter simply states that “it works.”
Do these arguments truly justify Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing funding policy? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.
GoFundMe, by contrast, operates under the keep-what-you-raise crowdfunding model. You can set your campaign duration to whatever you want it to be, and at the end of the funding period, you will receive whatever you’ve raised, regardless of whether or not you’ve hit your target.
As GoFundMe is primarily for personal and charitable causes, the justifications for having an all-or-nothing funding policy don’t really apply. These campaigns are, for the most part, launched by people who need every cent they can get and who aren’t trying to “deliver results” to backers.
The Campaign Process
With both Kickstarter and GoFundMe, the application process is quite straightforward. Essentially, you fill out details about yourself and your proposed crowdfunding campaign, hit send, and that’s it. There are some differences, though. With Kickstarter, most (though not all) campaigns are flagged for further review based on the application details. Ultimately, Kickstarter estimates that about 80% of the campaign submissions they receive are approved. This sounds pretty good, though given the volume of campaigns applying to use the platform, the unfortunate 20% constitutes a lot of campaigns!
GoFundMe, by contrast, lets you launch your campaign immediately, though they can always take down your campaign later on if they find you in violation of their rules.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Kickstarter and GoFundMe are pretty transparent when it comes to their sales practices. Kickstarter, in particular, has no incentive to try to attract marginal campaigns to their site, considering that they only get their cut if a campaign is successful.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Kickstarter’s customer service doesn’t have the best reputation. There is a support ticket system, but many campaigners have found that they can’t get in touch with Kickstarter quickly enough when time is of the essence. GoFundMe generally gets higher marks from users when it comes to customer service. They have a 5-minute support guarantee, promising to respond within 5 minutes to any message sent to them via their contact form.
Reviews, Criticisms & Complaints
Both Kickstarter and GoFundMe get a lot of criticism from users. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that the crowdfunding industry is barely out of infancy. Kickstarter, in particular, gets criticized online from both backers and campaigners: backers complain of shady companies that bail on their obligations by either failing to send them the promised rewards or by sending broken/defective rewards. Campaigners complain of a lack of timely support from the company.
GoFundMe has seen a number of complaints as well, particularly from people who found it difficult to collect the money they raised due to GoFundMe not trusting them for one reason or another. One thing GoFundMe users don’t complain about much of late is the site’s platform fee, as there is none. This wasn’t the case until fairly recently, however. In fact, criticism of GoFundMe’s old 5% platform fee — criticism that intensified after officials in Clark County, Nevada set up a GoFundMe for the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas massacre without realizing that 5% of all donations would be taken by the platform — seemed to play a big factor in GoFundMe abandoning it. Instead, GoFundMe now asks donors to voluntarily contribute money to the platform when pledging to a campaign.
All in all, Kickstarter and GoFundMe have each raised billions of dollars for business projects and charitable causes that would have otherwise struggled for funding. Even when you consider that a certain portion of this money has gone to scammers, it still means that these companies have facilitated the redistribution of money from willing donors to people and projects that needed it more.
Which Is Best For Your Crowdfunding Needs?
If you’re looking to launch a crowdfunding campaign, should you go with GoFundMe or Kickstarter?
Choose GoFundMe If…
- You want to raise money for a personal cause/emergency/tragedy, whether it be yours or that of a friend or family member
- You want to raise money for a business/entrepreneurial venture but you want to avoid paying a 5% platform fee
- You want to raise money for a business/entrepreneurial venture but you want to keep whatever you raise, regardless of whether you reach your funding goal
Choose Kickstarter If…
- You want to raise money for a business/entrepreneurial venture using the crowdfunding platform that’s most optimized for such ventures
- Your project involves producing something that can be offered to your backers in exchange for their support
- Your project is creative in nature (art, tech, film, board games, etc.)
As the two leading crowdfunding companies, Kickstarter and GoFundMe are aimed at different audiences, so it wouldn’t make much sense to name a winner and a loser in this comparison. However, I hope this article has been helpful in highlighting the similarities and differences between the two outfits to give people a better sense of who they should go with, depending on their funding needs.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there; an uphill slog in the best of times. While crowdfunding may not be a comprehensive solution to startup undercapitalization or to medical hardship, in many cases, it’s the only option available. We’ve been left to our own devices, so we’ve got to make do with what is available. While this fact is, in itself, an indictment of a Kafka-esque system that forces people to beg for money from strangers to cover the costs of getting gunned down at a concert, it is the reality we inhabit.
Crowdfunding lets us harness the power of social media to solicit money for our small businesses and for our own needs. It’s a tool available for all to use, so by all means, use it!
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