Kickstarter Funding Hawaii Projects

Kickstarted: When it comes to funding creative projects, more and more Hawaii artists are relying on the kindness of online strangers.

Island Pacific Academy students funded their literary magazine with Kickstarter.

Photo: Elyse Butler

Nine students at Island Pacific Academy, a small school in Kapolei, wanted to raise $600 to start a literary magazine. They could have relied upon the time-honored fundraising methods that high-schoolers have used for generations—bake sales and car washes. Instead they turned to Kickstarter, a website that brings creative ideas together with people willing to cough up a few bucks to make them happen. The students ended up raising $752.


Photo: Courtesy RootHub

The internet loves Sabrina Velazquez.

Photo: Ana Monique

Since launching in 2009, Kickstarter has rapidly become the Web’s foremost “crowd-funding” resource for artists, musicians, indie filmmakers and others seeking financing for creative projects. And Hawaii’s socially networked, DIY generation has been cashing in. The twists are that no money changes hands unless a project reaches 100 percent of its funding goal, the backers get rewards, and the proposals must meet Kickstarter’s creative guidelines. Charity is not allowed, no matter how worthy the cause—unless that cause is, say, sending a reggae-playing ukulele musician from Kailua to the Mainland to spread the aloha. That artist, RootHub, raised $2,396.

The rewards, which vary with the amount pledged, might include a thank-you on an artist’s website, a role as an extra in a film, a credit in the liner notes of an album or perhaps even a private concert.  Sabrina Velazquez, a Honolulu singer/songwriter trying to finance her debut LP, offered to write a song for anyone contributing $1,000, or bake cookies and deliver them while singing that song to anyone contributing $5,000. Nobody went for it, but, with 61 backers pledging between $5 and $100, she still managed to raise $5,035.

Grady Gillan's 'zine project brought in three times his original budget.

photo: grady gillan

More than half the people pitching Kickstarter projects fall short of their goals and get no money at all. But some wildly surpass their targets. That was the case with Honolulu photographer Grady Gillan, who wanted to raise $300 to publish his ’zine, Aloha Friday, and ended up with $1,067. The rewards? Copies of Aloha Friday. “I could have probably come up with the $300 on my own, but I thought Kickstarter would be a good way to publicize it and take pre orders,” Gillan says. “Obviously, it worked, because now I’ve got dozens and dozens of strangers from all over the world who I’m mailing it to.”