In our final guest post highlighting crowdfunding, Radio Free Albemuth producer Elizabeth Karr explains why success all comes down to preparation. We hope you have enjoyed our month devoted to crowdfunding advice and we plan to release a white paper roundup of the best crowdfunding tips in this series in a few weeks.
People donate to Crowdfunding campaigns for three reasons:
1. The People.
2. The Project.
3. The Premiums.
But maximizing your chance of success depends on the fourth P – Preparation. This is crucial and will be the focus of this article.
It’s incumbent on any of us doing a Crowdfunding campaign to make it an enticing, exciting, and well-thought out project that will attract backers. That’s a given. But having a terrific project isn’t a guarantee of success. You need to get the word out and get your campaign in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Particularly if you are trying to raise a substantial sum like writer/director/producer John Alan Simon and I did with Radio Free Albemuth Theatrical Release Kickstarter.
I’ve seen great projects fail because of a lack of organization and so-so projects succeed because there was a targeted effort to reach out beyond family and friends to people who have an interest in their subject matter. Like Blanche DuBois, crowd-funders depend on the kindness – and interest – of strangers.
So when do you start to prepare? Right now. If you are even thinking about crowdfunding in the future, take the time to do the following steps NOW. You’ll be too busy during your campaign to tackle these tasks. Get a jump on them with the added bonus that up-to-date contact lists put you in good standing for marketing and promoting, in general.
1. Clean up your personal email lists. Make sure contacts are up to date. Organize them by category: Family, Close Friend, Acquaintance, Business, Cast, Crew, Science Fiction, Philip K. Dick, etc. Choose categories that make sense to you and your project. During your campaign, this allows you to tailor pitch emails to the recipient.
2. Use Bulk Email Programs. Sign up for and/or build your subscription list on one of the many mass mail programs. We use Constant Contact. There are a lot of bells and whistles to this and other programs. Take the time to familiarize yourself with them now. Create templates for future use. Organize the contacts by category as above. Add a sign-up button to your website for new subscribers. These contacts are invaluable as they are people who have chosen to be kept abreast of what you are doing.
3. Research bloggers and news outlets that cover your subject. Create a contact list (Email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest) so you are ready to go pre-launch and on Day One when you announce your campaign. And don’t wait for the campaign to contact them. Engage with them now. Become part of their community by commenting and sharing information. Presumably, you are already interested in the topics they are writing about, so you’ll increase your knowledge. Plus you are expanding your circle of friends and acquaintances, and possible backers. Crowdfunding is all about community building.
4. Contribute to other’s campaigns. It’s good karma and you get to see how campaigns work from the donor’s side. It also gives you an idea of how much to charge for premiums and you can pick up tips watching others’ pitch videos. Before launching our Kickstarter for Radio Free Albemuth distribution, John Alan Simon and I contributed to over 100 campaigns. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m more likely to donate to a campaign when I see the person has backed others. What goes around comes around…
5. Write a press release. The old-fashioned 5 W’s – Who, What, Where, When, Why – that you will send out to bloggers and media outlets two weeks before launch, and again on Day One. Be sure the contact person (probably you) is someone who responds quickly to each and every request for photos, interviews, additional information, etc. News outlets move fast. You need to be ready when they are.
6. Build your team and designate ambassadors. Crowd-funding is a full-time job and you will need help. Enlist members of your outreach effort now. Make it easy for them to help you by giving them clear assignments. For example, we engaged the Philip K. Dick community to share with their friends and followers. Our friend Franceska Lynne, researched sites that were interested in Alanis Morissette, Shea Whigham, Kathryn Winnick and Ashley Greene, who are actors in Radio Free Albemuth. Create a list of tasks to do during the campaign that you can delegate amongst your team and ambassadors. Your cast and crew are likely candidates to help you. Don’t assume they will be there. Chat them up. Get them involved.
7. Create email templates that friends, and family, – and people you meet through social media – will send out to their contacts about your project. Again, make it easy for people to help you. Give them the template and they can tailor it/personalize it.
8. Prepare videos, clips and articles for Updates in advance. In the whirlwind of a campaign, you don’t want to be editing clips from your movie. Have them ready to go. The more prep work you can do ahead of time, the more time you have to focus on building concentric circles of connectivity when your campaign is up and running.
9. Build your social media presence. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re not, do so immediately –- both for you and your project. Be social. Engage. Comment. Share. Retweet. Don’t just jump on the scene with a megaphone for your campaign. Your message is more likely to get across if you’ve proven to be a good listener.
10. Face to Face and telephone conversations are still very valuable. There’s nothing like IRL (In Real Life) interaction. Tell people in advance what you are thinking of doing. Not everyone is on social media or makes decisions by email. Friends and relatives who already believe in you are your most likely early supporters and contributors. For many of us, crowdfunding is not a natural fit, and we have to get used to asking people to support with us with donations and/or time. The more comfortable you get with your role as a Crowdfunder, the more effective you will be as an advocate for your project.
11. Ask for Day One support. Now that you’ve organized your contacts by categories, target 50 that you will send a pre-launch email and ensure their support on day one. Follow that up with an email when your campaign goes live. That way, when you announce your campaign to the world, those clicking on your link will see that you already have backers. It’s a reassuring sign to potential backers that others support the project.
12. Never lose sight that Crowdfunding is as much about building community as raising money. Equally important to the funds raised on our successful Kickstarter is the community of 827 supporters, who are now part of Team RFA. Many of them are actively taking part in the film’s journey beyond their financial contribution. John Alan Simon and I agree that this is the best part of the Crowdfunding experience – the people.
Is this Crowdfunding Prep list exhaustive? No, but it’s a good start. Did John Alan Simon and I do each and every one of these to perfection before we launched? No. Will we next time? Yes.
A few parting words. We continued to get queries from people who wanted to back our project after Kickstarter ended, so we created a Slacker Backer site on our website powered by PayPal that will be live for the next few months. Donations and sharers welcome! All rewards will be delivered the same time as the Kickstarter rewards. All funds go towards Radio Free Albemuth’s theatrical release. To reiterate what I said about Crowdfunding being an important builder of community and resources; this site was created by Kickstarter backer Victor Grippi, who we are proud to have as a new Associate Producer.
Follow Elizabeth Karr on Twitter @elizabethkarr and Radio Free Albemuth @rfamovie. Visit the film’s website for more information http://www.radiofreealbemuth.com