WHEN THE "human-centered" habit-design firm The Action Mill set out July 7 to raise $38,000 by today on crowd-funding site Kickstarter for a card game called My Gift of Grace, it was no sure thing. After all, the company was asking people to back production of a game to help families discuss end-of-life issues.
Well, apparently, there's a market for conversation about making death less scary. On Tuesday, the company announced it raised more than $40,000 from more than 400 backers. (At least seven backers pledged more than $1,000 each.)
Talking Small Biz first introduced readers to My Gift of Grace and Jethro Heiko, 40, a designer and partner in Philly-based The Action Mill, on July 15.
Heiko said reaching the fundraising goal suggested "there's a lot of hunger for the conversation and more candor in talking about death," adding: "There's enough people who've had a [bad] experience, whether it's with doctors, lawyers, family, and the costs have been too high. People lose their nest eggs, homes, jobs, when the conversations [about end of life] aren't happening and you haven't done the planning."
My Gift of Grace doesn't have winners or losers. Instead, it uses cards divided into questions, statements and activities. To start the game, each player fills out a card that has a question ("What are three things you'd like to have happen at your funeral?") or statement ("I'm concerned about being a burden on my family."), which become conversation-starters with family and friends. The game ends with "action" cards that double as magnets, and act as reminders to, for example, visit a cemetery and talk with an employee to learn more about death and funerals.
The company hopes to ship My Gift of Grace (which will cost $30 per set, $50 for two or $100 for five) to customers and backers in October. After that, The Action Mill hopes to support the conversation with a Web platform and online tools.
This isn't the first time the firm has tackled the taboo topic of death. Earlier this year, it launched Death & Design, a blog that looks at ways people around the world approach death rituals and processes.
Heiko said the focus on death is really about habit change and culture change, two pillars of The Action Mill's business model. "It's about creating new habits for the conversation of talking about death," he said.
Consider the comment one backer posted to My Gift of Grace's Kickstarter page.
"Too many Americans die badly, in ways they would never have wanted, because they never wanted to talk about it. We avoid the conversation: 'It's always too soon until it's too late,' " said Dr. Ira Byock, director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and author of Dying Well.
He added: "I am backing Action Mill because I want to give [My] Gift of Grace to people in my own circle of friends and family."
On Twitter: @MHinkelman