From bankrolling your cross-country motorcycle adventure to “find yourself” to raising campaign funds (Obama), crowdfunding is second nature these days. People are finding that crowdfunding may seem like an easy-to-use tool but they soon find out that there is an art to raising funds. One of the biggest downsides of crowdfunding is knowing how and when to push your cause.
I’ve been writing about crowdfunding film projects for the past few months and I asked filmmakers about the challenges of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the like. All of my subjects said the same thing about their crowdfunding platforms; Be prepared to get unfriended on Facebook or unfollowed on Twitter by friends and family who get tired of your pot banging for donations.
I spoke with director Matt Livadary back in October about using both Kickstarter and Indiegogo for his documentary, Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo. Livadary started out in the film industry in development and was no stranger to how things worked. He knew that crowdfunding was the fastest route to financing in lieu of having connections with money. But it wasn’t a sure bet and it wasn’t that fast. “Those connections are very hard to come by, especially these days. Even the big guys like Joel Silver have a hard time raising funds. So crowdfunding was the best choice. It was grueling though,” Livadary says.
The director raised a respectful $300,000 that he used to document his yearlong travels across the country, following the 2011 season of the International Gay Rodeo Association.
Livadary also says that if he had it to do all over again, he wouldn’t necessarily go the crowfunding route or he would do it differently. “It took all of my time to push the cause on all of my social media platforms. I was also individually emailing and calling donors WHILE I was shooting, editing and traveling with the documentary. It was exhausting. Next time, I’d consider hiring a crowdfunding service or skipping it altogether.”
For post funds to finish his film, he’s gone another route.
1. Appeal to the crowdfunding gurus themselves.
Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other services feature individual campaigns. This is one of the biggest goals to hit out of the gate. By being a “Featured Project” Or “Projects We Love” on one of the major crowdfunding sites, you are putting your project out to strangers thereby exponentially increasing your odds of being fully funded, sometimes in record time.
Wesley and Brad Sun saw their project Chinatown: A Graphic Novel hit $11,000 in just 5 days. “People responded to us because they believed in what we were doing. We also set the bar a little low. We even extended our goal to $15,000 and got that in two more days.” As you can see here , their approach wasn’t that special but it hit the mark with donors.
Tip: To get featured on crowdfunding sites, record a video and feature aspects of your project. Don’t be stiff and formal. Don’t spend a fortune either. Be human, be charming and be honest. People like straightforward and funny. You want to go to there.
2. Recruit supporters to Facebook and Twitter from different angles so that you aren’t out there by yourself.
Carefully craft each pitch from each friend. People are used to being hit up on these platforms so you need to brainstorm with friends and colleagues on how they will connect. Humor is a great way to go.
3. Thank people who contribute along the way, no matter the result.
This is kind of huge. Your mom told you to say “please” and “thank you” but this goes double for raising funds. There is nothing more important than individually thanking each person who contributes to your campaign. A personalized email, text or call (depending on your relationship with the donor) is essential in garnering more support. A shout out on Facebook or Twitter is fine but try to call out individual names. Don’t just scattergun a “Hey, big ups to my donors.” Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
Tip: Sheila Branult, an independent marketer from Seattle, encourages people not to beg. “It really puts people off when you beg. Also avoid guilting people into giving. Be funny and warm. And be simple about your approach. People don’t need to know all of your hopes and dreams. Make it simple for them to contribute. People respond to the simple approach rather than a complicated one.”
4. Learn from your mistakes and try again.
If your project runs out of time or you just don’t hit your goal for other reasons, don’t give up. Wait a bit, get feedback from friends, family and most importantly colleagues and then re-craft your approach.
The best thing you can do is be open, flexible and willing to head in another direction. And…have fun. That’s the best way to do anything.