by Nat Frothingham
“Humbled, Grateful, Overwhelmed” – these were among the many reactions at The Bridge office on Thursday afternoon, March 12 to news that a Kickstarter Campaign to support the paper had gone over the top.
When the Kickstarter campaign began on Friday, Feb. 13, the dollar goal was set at $10,000, but when the four-week campaign officially ended on Saturday, March 14. 173 backers had contributed $12,567 in amounts that ranged from a dollar to over $1,000.
From time to time in recent years we have been encouraged to consider a Kickstarter campaign as a way of reaching out to readers and friends to seek support for The Bridge.
Well, we demurred. And we demurred for good reason. There was no one at The Bridge who could really conceive of such a campaign and take it every step of the way to a successful conclusion.
But this year, in the person of our Managing Editor Carla Occaso and with the help of our graphic designer Marichel Vaught, we had the critical players who could put a campaign together, take it online, and keep supporting the campaign with comment, information, fresh offers of help, from beginning to end.
Our Kickstarter presentation begins with these words: “The Bridge is a fiercely local, twice-monthly newspaper that reports on the community around Montpelier, Vermont.”
Of course, that’s exactly what The Bridge is — a twice-monthly, “fiercely local” newspaper that takes itself seriously — but not too seriously. And the little videos that were part of the Kickstarter presentation show us in both formal and casual clothes.
In formal clothes, of course, The Bridge reports on such august institutions as the Montpelier City Council and from time to time the Vermont State Legislature. In our casual clothes, we’re a paper of enthusiasm. We treasure Montpelier’s face-to-face downtown. We embrace the arts. We’re excited by people who put on plays, paint pictures, make music, and protect historic buildings. We’re also fascinated by innovation.
And we like to laugh.
Some of our enthusiasms and some of the silliness of life around us got expressed in our Kickstarter campaign. We offered cupcakes as a reward for people who pledged money to The Bridge. And after that offer, Carla asked New England Culinary Institute if they would be willing to make the cupcakes, and they agreed. What do people really want in their lives? Cupcakes. Those were the most popular “reward” offered to those who pledged to our campaign.
We also got a strong response to an offer of computer help from Norwich University computer expert Jeremy Hansen, a computer scientist who volunteered his time to help us reach our goal. Subscriptions to The Bridge did well. Also popular was an offer from retired professor Margaret Blanchard — a writer and artist. Blanchard offered two free hours of creativity consultation to any individual who is imagining a creative project but who could use Margaret help “from visioning to planning to potential actualization.” In addition, artist Joyce Kahn volunteered to teach art.
Typically in past years, and as recent as about a month ago, The Bridge reached out to readers and friends for help in with a traditional fundraising letter and enclosed envelope. That letter had a wonderful response. But there was something in the Kickstarter campaign that made it possible for us to reach out both to old friends and to people who had never made a contribution to The Bridge before.
We had contributions from as far away as the North of England. After a gap of several years I was in touch again with an old friend. People were stopping me in the street. People were transfixed by a campaign that had four weeks to run and if you don’t make your goal you lose all the money already pledged. What fun! And thanks to everyone who participated and pledged.