10 Must-Read Posts Before Running Your Own Crowdfunding Campaign
I just launched a Kickstarter campaign for my first feature film, and I hope if you're reading this that you'll help me turn my dream into reality. Seriously: my entire life has been leading up to this, and I can't do it without you. However, this site has always been about helping others while I'm learning these things myself, so I kept track of all the valuable posts I found during my research. If you're thinking running your own crowdfunding campaign -- defined as asking for small amounts of money from a large number of people, as opposed to asking for large amounts of money from a small number of people -- consider the following posts essential reading. I should note on my own campaign that there are some great rewards available -- get the entire film for just $10, or get a producer credit for $120!
Louis Pasteur once said, "chance favors the prepared mind." If you use an all-or-nothing platform like Kickstarter, as I am, you're taking a huge chance: if you don't make your goal, you get nothing. To prepare, then, I read everything I could get my hands on. Here are ten of the most helpful posts for anyone thinking about launching their own fundraising effort on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or any of the other crowdfunding sites:
"It seemed to be really helpful to give as much of a personal story as possible to why I wanted to make the film, instead of talking about the kind of software I would use or more technical things that most people don’t care about. And that’s a trap that I fall into when I try to explain what excites me about animation. I end up getting technical and jargony. Try to make it a personal story about yourself as a filmmaker as much as you can!" 10 CROWD-FUNDING TIPS FROM KICKSTARTER FILMMAKERS | Vance Reeser, The Rooftop Films Blog
"Build a Team. Filmmaking is a collaborative experience, but so is fundraising. It takes a lot of brainstorming and thinking out of the box. It takes multiple skills that one person rarely has all of. Without a team you just can’t get the traction and the reach into the world (see previous post). But also it helps with the fear factor. I don’t know about you, but this kind of public fundraising scares the shit out of me. My team keeps me from losing it... Kickstarter definitely works best when a clear-targeted audience can be identified for the project, classically called “niche audiences.” These audiences are perfect for web based projects because ostensibly you can identify and reach out to every person with similar interest around the world." How MY REINCARNATION Broke All Kickstarter Records Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 | Part 5 | Jennifer Fox, Hope for Film
"Video is the best way to communicate the emotions, motivations, and character of a project, and the sincerity and seriousness of the creator. It’s also more fun. Whenever I click on a project only to see there’s no video, I’m immediately disappointed. The project feels less complete, and it’s easier to question someone’s commitment to their idea. These assumptions are supported by the numbers. Of the nearly 1,000 projects that have completed funding so far, projects with videos have had a success rate of 54% while ones without have had a success rate of 39%." The Importance of Video | Yancey Strickler, The Kickstarter Blog
"Crowdfunding is a full time job. I understood this commitment going in from reading about how others handled their campaign... but I still wasn’t prepared for the realities of it. Working on gaining exposure and new eyes every day was extremely time consuming. Think of it like placing a media ad and having it in heavy rotation — but you’re doing it yourself and not relying on an agency. I spent at least 4-6 hours every day on the campaign — if not more. We all know how powerful FACEBOOK and TWITTER can be — but one key is to promote your campaign at different parts of the day as not everyone is online at the same time. In fact, many people first learned of my Kickstarter undertaking when I was already several weeks into it." Lessons Learned in the Land of Crowdfunding | Gary King
"Begin your campaign on a Monday, End it on a Friday. Most people are on their computers from Monday through Friday and less so on the weekends. You can get the most bang for your buck by beginning your campaign on a Monday. You will reach more people at the beginning of the week. This can help you build momentum at the start of your campaign. Something Karen noticed with our campaign is that we would see a good number of backers on Fridays. Why is that? Because Friday is payday. End your campaign on payday. Also, keep in mind less folks will be on their computers over the weekend." CROWD-FUNDING CHEAT SHEET | David Branin
“We find that the fundraising tends to be more U shaped. In the first few days, the people who love you, your friends and family or people who are your fans are the first ones in, so there is a spike at the beginning. Then, there is a trough and there won’t be much activity. When the deadline is looming, and often some people have a long way to go to their goal, the time limit really ramps up the support. There is an urgency to get it in before the deadline and so it all gets spread around fresh again, people end up reaching their goal. It is amazing. We find over and over that if a project can reach 25% of its funding goal, they have a 90% chance of success to raise the rest." Crowdfunding: What Is It and How Can It Help Microbudget Filmmakers? | Sheri Candler w/ Yancey Strickler, Microfilmmaker Magazine
"What [Joke and Biagio] have done right: They focus on conversions, not big donations. Letting people participate at the very minimum level of one dollar means donors are eased into the psychology of giving, at a price point that feels comfortable and reasonable. Once they’re thinking about giving, perhaps they’ll think about giving more. And if not, just getting that first conversion – even for one dollar – is extraordinarily valuable for the filmmaker. Because now, they’ve opened a dialogue with another supporter, who has a connection to their project. They may tell others, they may Tweet about their donation, they may encourage friends and family to contribute, and because the filmmaker can now nurture that relationship and stay in touch with this qualified lead (nay, existing customer), they can keep them updated and perhaps generate additional support from them as they get closer to their goal." Can Kickstarter Take This Doc To The Oscars? | Chip Street, CineSpin
"It would be wrong to say that Crowdfunding is the golden ticket to funding your business because it isn’t. Crowdsourcing takes a lot of work and it relies on you having a pre-existing audience or being able to build one very quickly. In our case Arin was already a known figure within the indie film world which attracted a small amount of press attention and a flurry of activity on Twitter when we first announced our campaign. However, it took four weeks of tweeting, blogging, answering questions, doing interviews and, quite honestly, pimping the hell out of our campaign page to secure our $10,000." How to Crowdfund your Startup | Kieran Masterson, Think Vitamin
"I wish I could say I received a miracle flood of donations in the 11th hour, or a mysterious backer stumbled on the project and became very interested. But no, it came from a phone call I made asking for an emergency bailout. A few days later I wrote a check repaying this money... On a positive note, that survey I did that graphed behavior patterns of Kickstarter backers was spot on – all the donations I got pretty much matched the graph... $25 is the most popular level. This is usually the “Get a DVD” level. But it’s nice to see that the graph curves, and it doesn’t just start high and go straight down. However, after $25 it doesn’t just go down. More people give $100 than they do $50." My Kickstarter Experience: The Good, Bad, and Ugly and Behavior Patterns of Kickstarter Funders | Joey Daoud
"The idea that most filmmaking is a business is a false notion. We are in the arts. It's an expensive art, but in order for the arts to survive they need patronage. So I think it's almost a false axiom or incorrect concept to accept that arts pay for themselves. Why are the arts invaluable if they don't pay for themselves? Art is society's reflection on itself. Art provides a really important function. It's crucial that we don't talk about "donors," we talk about "patrons," and we don't talk of "give us your money," we talk about "participating in a process," "joining movements," "supporting the arts." With these rewards it's not implied that you give me something, and I give you nothing. I think we're giving a lot back to the people who make contributions." Creator Q&A: Jennifer Fox on How She Raised $150k on Kickstarter | Jennifer Fox, The Kickstarter Blog
Thanks to everyone who shared such helpful information! As we get further into my campaign -- which is off to a great start, thanks to many of you -- I'll be able to add my own observations to the mix. And if you know of good posts that I missed or have advice of your own, please chime in in the comments! And, of course, please consider backing my Kickstarter campaign for my first feature film, Man-child. The only way I'm going to make the goal (and the movie) is with the support of readers like you!
UPDATE: here are ten more posts to read before running your own campaign.