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<i>Reading Rainbow</i>'s All-Star Kickstarter Sprint to $5 Million

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By Noah J. Nelson (@noahjnelson)

What do Seth MacFarlane, Ouya, Veronica Mars, a smart watch, and Neil Young have in common?

Butterfly in the sky.

Reading Rainbow's Kickstarter enabled return has been the big crowdfunding story for the past month, with the campaign's cracking of its one million dollar goal being celebrated across the 'Net. Here, at last, was a crowdfunding campaign we could all feel good about together.

The rapid rise of the campaign led to a very ambitious stretch goal: $5 million. Even the beloved children's show has had to call in some help from its friends to make that big number. Now, in the final days of the campaign, the campaign is pulling out all the stops and just might be redefining how a last run-up is supposed to look.

First was the announcement yesterday that Family Guy and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane will match every dollar pledged to Reading Rainbow over $4 million up to the $5 million mark. MacFarlane's most recent foray into reviving classic educational programming was the successful return of the science series Cosmos. These kinds of dollar for dollar challenges are common in public media, but are rarer in crowdfunding and are almost never done at this scale.

That announcement alone was a major coupe and jumpstarted the campaign which had all but leveled off (Kicktraq).

The Reading Rainbow team hasn't stopped with MacFarlane, however. Today they announced that they've recruited the top four Kickstarter campaigns--RR is sitting at #5 currently--to help them get to their goal. The creators behind the Pebble smart watch, the Ouya game console, Neil Young's Pono music player and the Veronica Mars movie are all creating either special edition versions of their wares or a special event to support Reading Rainbow.

This turns the Reading Rainbow campaign into a kind of Kickstarter All-Star event. It is an unprecedented development that is unlikely to be repeated in this form, but one that reinforces the idea that crowdfunding is a group effort.

Not every campaign can be for something that both has a nostalgic hook for a generation and an altruistic heart, but that doesn't mean that crowdfunding campaigns can't work to help each other out. Smaller scale versions of this gathering of tribes happen all the time inside crowdfunding circles. An early version of this was the "Kick it Forward" practice that the video game community adopted in the wake of some wild successes there. Some creators pledged that they would take funds above and beyond their goals to support struggling projects.

This is a path that emphasizes community over the egos of any one creative. That can be a difficult idea for some people--creative and consumer alike--to get their head around. Yet it is also the kind of thinking shows crowdfunding at its best, and a trend I'd like to see continue.

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