The Kickstarter Potato Salad Campaign: A Loss of Credibility for Worthy Causes?


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — You've no doubt heard about the guy raising money on Kickstarter to make potato salad. With the help of 2,500 backers from all over the world, Zack "Danger" Brown has currently raised nearly $40,000 for his "project," with 25 days to go. Pledges have poured in from all over the world: Norway, France, Spain, Brazil, Israel, India, Iceland and Colombia – and many more.

Since 2009, the site has raised over $1 billion to fund more than 65,000 creative projects. But you have to ask: has Kickstarter finally jumped the shark, at the cost of all credibility? Among an assortment of worthy artistic endeavors -- books, bands, crafts, fashion and independent films -- is the quirky fundraising website doomed to ultimately be cluttered with crappy causes? Money to make potato salad?

Brown's campaign began with a modest $10 goal.

"It's unbelievable, I could never have imagined it," he told Good Morning America. "At Day One we had $200, and I thought that was way too much money." He also admits he is no cook. "I haven't made any potato salad yet. I've never made potato salad."

The idea began as July 4 fun with friends.

"The thing that drew me to crowd funding is what draws a lot of people: I am risk-averse, and I needed a kick," he told the Columbia Dispatch. "I needed to be supported in my venture. It's a way for people to unite online. It's not controversial. It's not snarky. It's not mean. I think that everybody is having a really good time with it."

With weeks remaining to raise additional capital, that bowl of potato salad has grown to include "a giant party" in Columbus, Ohio. "The entire Internet is invited," he says.

But Brown says the project is not meant for his own enrichment. What started out as a lark can now become something much more meaningful. While Kickstarter's terms of service prohibit giving money directly to charity, he is looking for a way to put the funds to good use.

"I want to do the most good that I can do with this," he says.

But the whole plan could backfire. While Kickstarter doesn't offer refunds on pledges, financial backers can withdraw their support anytime, except during the final 24 hours of the campaign. Fans caught up in the fun of the moment now may decide they can make better use of their money. At that point, Brown's project might be nothing more than small potatoes.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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