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To exploit or explore? The impact of crowdfunding project descriptions and backers’ power states on funding decisions

Andrew S. Manikas, PhD Zhang, Y. DeCarlo, T. Bhattacharya, A.
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. May 16, 2022

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Reward-based crowdfunding attracts significant research efforts to understand its success drivers; the current study expands such efforts by exploring the word choices within project descriptions and their potential effects for crowdsourced funding of innovative projects. Project descriptions have the potential to influence backer funding decisions significantly, and creators have complete control over them, suggesting the relevance of this previously unexplored factor. A secondary data analysis of 245,704 online requests for new project funding indicates greater success for project descriptions that emphasize exploitation rather than exploration themes. A series of follow-up experiments also demonstrate that risk perceptions mediate decision-making processes and that a person’s power state is an important moderator of funding intentions. In particular, potential backers with less power are more likely to fund a project with an exploitation-focused description rather than one with an exploration focus. Conversely, backers with greater power perceive both project types as equally attractive, but they also are more likely to fund an explorative project than those with less power. These novel contributions help clarify how funding for startups varies as a function of specific word choices in funding requests, as well as the role of power in determining individual funding behaviors.