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“Pledge” me your ears! The role of narratives and narrator experience in explaining crowdfunding success


This study examines how the success of reward-based crowdfunding (RBCF) is affected by two narrative styles—namely “results in progress” (RIP) and “ongoing journey” (OJ)—and by the entrepreneur’s RBCF experience. Our findings reveal that greater success in collecting funds is achieved by RBCF campaigns that are communicated through RIP narrative styles rather than OJ styles. Moreover, we have underscored the positive effect brought about by an entrepreneur’s RBCF experience. In addition, we highlight how these two factors interact with each other in their overall effect on successful fundraising through RBFC, showing that entrepreneurs with extensive experience in RBCF attract more pledges by adopting OJ narratives rather than RIP narratives. The outcomes of this study advance the theoretical understanding of success factors in RBCF and provide RBCF entrepreneurs with suggestions regarding the most appropriate narrative style to adopt, depending on their level of experience.

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Fig. 1


  1. Fundraising through crowdfunding can take different forms that can be grouped into four main categories (Assenova et al. 2016; Block et al. 2018; Cholakova and Clarysse 2015): equity crowdfunding and lending crowdfunding, which closely resemble traditional financing models (as contributors receive, respectively, shares of the new venture’s equity or interest on their investment); donation-based crowdfunding, in which backers receive no reward in exchange for their contributions but rather gain the personal satisfaction of supporting a project that they consider meaningful and worthy; and RBCF, in which backers provide funds in exchange for some intangible (e.g., the opportunity to meet the creators of the project, etc.) or tangible reward (e.g., a gadget, a limited edition of the product, discounts, etc.). RBCF is a type of crowdfunding leveraged to finance several new projects worldwide and, in line with several previous studies (Belleflamme et al. 2014; Davis et al. 2017; Kraus et al. 2016; Massolution 2016; Ziegler et al. 2017), is the focus of our study.

  2. We also conducted a plain OLS without Heckman procedure as a robustness check (Cassar 2004) and the results hold.


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The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge Gruppo Bertoldi, Walliance, and the Entrepreneurial Finance Conference community for the “Best Paper on Crowdfunding” award received at the Third Entrepreneurial Finance Conference. On top of the honor of such accomplishment, the monetary prize received contributed to further develop the paper by permitting the authors to present the paper to other conferences as well as favoring the collaboration of the authors. Moreover, Francesco Cappa would like to gratefully acknowledge Ermenegildo Zegna for the support received through the Ermenegildo Zegna Founder’s Scholarships for 2017–2018, 2018–2019, and 2019–2020.


The research was supported by the Ermenegildo Zegna through Founder’s Scholarship 2017–2018, 2018–2019, and 2019–2020. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Francesco Cappa or Riccardo Maiolini.

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Cappa, F., Pinelli, M., Maiolini, R. et al. “Pledge” me your ears! The role of narratives and narrator experience in explaining crowdfunding success. Small Bus Econ 57, 953–973 (2021).

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