The Perfect Kickstarter Campaign? LeVar Burton's 'Reading Rainbow' Project Closes in on $3 Million
Photo Credit: S & A

The Perfect Kickstarter Campaign? LeVar Burton's 'Reading Rainbow' Project Closes in on $3 Million


LeVar Burton’s Kickstarter campaign to fund a global digital version of Reading Rainbow has far exceeded its goal, with over $2.8 million raised at the time of this writing and 32 days left in the campaign. 

Over 64,000 people have chipped in to revive the children’s reading show as a web program that can be accessed by classrooms around the world. The fundraising team met their original $1 million goal in less than 12 hours, and have continued gaining support since. 

See Burton’s reaction to meeting the fundraising goal HERE (thanks to Sergio for the link).

Celebrity crowdfunding has been the subject of much debate in the past year or so, ignited by the wild success of projects like the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter and Zach Braff‘s campaign for his film Wish You Were Here. In light of this most recent victory, it makes sense to look a closer look at the Reading Rainbow revival.

Dare I say, this might be the perfect Kickstarter campaign. Besides LeVar Burton’s notoriety as an actor who’s starred in a few successful TV series, the campaign has several other ingredients intrinsic to viral campaigns:

A built-in audience from the 23 years that Reading Rainbow was on the air, many of whom are nostalgic to see the show return. 

A funny, engaging and well-produced pitch video. While Burton could have simply appeared on camera with a straightforward ask, he and his team put work into entertaining people and bolstering their cause. 

Appeal to a real social issue that’s timely and resonates with an audience. This is where the Reading Rainbow campaign diverges from many others. The team isn’t simply looking to fund a celebrity vanity project. They’re asking us to help teach the babies to read. And who can refuse that?

Cross-cultural and cross-generational appeal, as generations from young to old are connected to the Reading Rainbow brand, and the project is intended to be accessible to every child across the globe. If executed properly, it benefits everyone.

A well-designed campaign page with snazzy graphics, targeted facts and research demonstrating the issue of illiteracy and the need for the project.

Innovative technology. The reason for the project isn’t just to revive the TV show, it’s to respond to the needs of today, using digital media and the web to reach modern audiences in a way that works for them.

Aside from Burton’s celebrity, all of these things – aligning with an established brand, creating an effective pitch video, appealing to a social issue, reaching a certain audience, etc – are best practices that can be achieved by smaller, independent crowdfunding campaigns on a proportional scale. So hopefully other content creators are taking note.  

While you could argue that special perks made a difference in Burton’s success, the really high profile perks don’t kick in until the $250 giving level. About 85% of the donors thus far have given at the $200 level or below, receiving perks like bumper stickers, calendars, t-shirts and digital downloads – the same rewards as most other campaigns.   

And speaking of other campaigns, I’d urge anyone giving to Burton’s campaign to follow a practice mentioned by Tambay in a previous post – don’t forget the little guy. If you’re going to donate to a celebrity campaign, try to find at least one other, worthy non-celebrity project to donate to as well, a project that truly needs your funds. 

Here are a few campaigns to consider: 

Caroline’s Wedding, a feature film adaptation of the novel by Edwidge Danticat 

Negrita, a documentary on the Afro Latina experience in the United States

Papa Machete, a short film about Haitian machete fencing 

Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project, a feature length profile of the famed playwright and activist 

Eye of the Storm, a 3-part multi-media project on the concept of self 

Find Burton’s Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign HERE

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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