Today’s guest blogger, Jan Selby, is in the midst of running her second crowdfunding campaign. Taking the lessons she learned from prior fundraising on Kickstarter, she is using Indiegogo this time. Find out why the switch?
Crowdfunding is not for the faint of heart. It requires months of planning, hard work, and follow-up. It’s worth it if you are prepared and motivated. I’ve launched two campaigns for feature-length documentary films and found them to be powerful strategic tools to help build a community and raise money.
Sheri asked me to summarize what I’ve learned through one successful Kickstarter campaign and a second Indiegogo campaign (currently in progress). I’ve tried to pack as much as I could in this post to share what I’ve learned. I’m not an expert, but I hope my experiences will be helpful to you as you embark on your own crowd-funding journey.
My first bit of advice is to create a team who will work with you for 6 months – 3 months before you launch, then during and after your campaign. I’m a detail-oriented planner by nature. If you’re not, find someone who is and make him/her part of your team. It’s important to avoid launching your campaign until you are fully prepared. Do all you can to be ready before you launch because you’ll be incredibly busy during your campaign.
How long should your campaign be? Most campaigns do best in the first and last week. As one friend told me, “The longer your campaign, the longer your time of suffering in the middle!” I like having a week or so to spread the word about the campaign before the 30-day countdown begins. I also plan to use the first few days to work out the kinks that are inevitable, no matter how hard you planned ahead.
Campaign 1: Kickstarter
My first campaign raised $21,112 to complete my first feature documentary, 9 Pieces of Peace (working title). You can check out the campaign home page at the URL www.9piecesfilm.com/fund. Notice this URL is not the one we were assigned by Kickstarter. Create your own URL that is easy to remember and that you can use after your campaign ends. Research how to redirect your new URL to the Kickstarter URL and then you can choose what to do with it after the campaign ends. I’ve kept it directed to our Kickstarter page, but you could also redirect it to a “Donate” page on your film website.
There are three core elements of a crowdfunding campaign home page. Before you launch, you will need:
1. A pitch video/film trailer
Having both a pitch and film trailer is important if you can swing it. It’s great if the production quality can reflect your capabilities and your vision for the film, but don’t obsess over it if it can’t. Be creative and speak from the heart. Mine weren’t as good as the film will be, but they worked. Consider combining them as I ended up doing in my second campaign.
2. Well-designed rewards
Take the time to research what others have done. Carefully calculate the direct and indirect costs to deliver each reward (including the fees you will pay to the platform and the credit card processor), including shipping and your time. Add 3 to 6 months to when you think you can deliver the reward because everything takes longer than you expect. You can’t change the reward description once someone has given at that level, so be sure to add all the details. Leave room to add new levels. Be thoughtful about the language you use and be consistent. For our Kickstarter campaign, we chose to use the words “backer” and “supporter” plus “rewards” and “pledges”. (For my second campaign on Indiegogo, we are using “donors” and “perks,” but it’s a very different film and campaign.)
3. Well-written text.
Write text that tells your story, builds trust, and motivates the reader to want to be part of the community that makes your film happen. Use subheads to break up the text and add images/graphics to make it more interesting. Remember that MANY people have no idea about how crowdfunding works, so write text for an audience that doesn’t understand it. You can change the text of your page during the campaign, but not once it’s over, so be sure you are happy with the way it looks at the end of your campaign.
Once you have your home page content defined, you might think you are ready to launch. Not yet. Here’s a partial list of what I recommend you and your team do before you launch your campaign.
Network Build up your community of followers on all your social media channels (if you don’t have them, get them), build an email list, network with organizations whose members would want your film to be made, and create a media list to use during the campaign. Meet with anyone who might be interested before and during the campaign.
Develop content and plan promotions Develop your page content, design an e-blast/e-newsletter template, design and print postcards, design a flyer that you and others can post, define your social media messaging calendar and graphics/clips/quotes/images (we used Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+), create a graphic that tracks your fundraising progress and plan to use it to update your Facebook cover image daily, define your online advertising campaign strategy (we created and analyzed Facebook and Google ads), define thank-you surprises for supporter updates, and define incentives that you’ll use to entice prospective supporters (our Kickstarter page highlights the last one we did at the top of it).
Get lots of sleep.
Once you launch your campaign, your priority will be communication. Kickstarter (and other platforms) are designed for social media users. Yet, to maximize your chances of success, you need to reach beyond these boundaries.
I sent private Facebook messages to hundreds of people and this worked incredibly well. I also sent hundreds of email messages out to friends who don’t use Facebook and had never heard of Kickstarter. Each message briefly explained the campaign, the status of it, and a request to either contribute or spread the word. Our team distributed thousands of postcards that directed people to our Kickstarter page and emphasized the purpose of the film and the “all or nothing” aspect of the campaign to create a sense of urgency (which was real!). I set up coffee/lunch/drink meetings with friends, turning them into evangelists and sending them off with stacks of postcards.
Remember to continually thank your growing list of supporters! Most platforms make it easy to send out updates. Your supporters want to hear from you. They are also your best advocates. They are invested in your campaign in more ways than one. If you can keep them energized, they will continue to share it.
Communication is time consuming, whether it is online, by phone, or in person. Your team can help in many ways. Together, your goal is to expand your reach as far as possible to people who will care about your project. You never know where your money will come from. Sure, there will be low hanging fruit, but I was shocked when my largest contribution came in on THE LAST DAY from someone whom I hadn’t seen for a year, but who had been following the campaign the whole time, unbeknownst to me.
Overall, our Kickstarter 9 Pieces of Peace campaign was a resounding success, but I must admit, it was very stressful. It was hard for me to sleep or relax for the entire 39 days (and 936 hours). I kept thinking: How would I forgive myself if I didn’t reach my goal because I hadn’t worked hard enough? (Yes. Very type A. Can’t help it. Born that way.) Was I happy with the results? Definitely! The moment I saw online that I had reached my goal, I unexpectedly burst out crying. I think it was a combination of the joy of reaching my goal and the relief that it was over. It’s important to be honest with yourself about if you and your team are up to the challenge.
Campaign 2: Indiegogo
When it was time to launch my second crowdfunding campaign for a documentary film about the transformative power of Montessori education, Building the Pink Tower (working title), I wanted to try a different approach. To be perfectly honest, I was still burned out on the stress of an all or nothing Kickstarter campaign a year later and didn’t know if I wanted to take on that level of intensity again. But my co-producer/co-director, Vina Kay, and I chose Indiegogo because we felt it was a better match for our film.
If you conduct more than one crowd funding campaign, you may be able to build upon the community of supporters you establish with each one. For me, there wasn’t much overlap between the two audiences (except for a few family and friends).
It’s important to think about niche audiences for your film and use this information to create a strategy for your campaign. For this crowd funding campaign, we have the opportunity to tap into an existing group of supporters. There is an established Montessori network – people who love it because they have had a direct experience with it either as a student, parent, or teacher. Vina and I spent the last two years learning about and connecting with this Montessori infrastructure in the U.S. and beyond. Our fundraising trailer had been viewed more than 15,000 times on You Tube, and a short video we created that reflected the vision for our film had been viewed more than 50,000 times.
Our current goal of $50,000 is high, but we feel we have the potential to reach it with the support of this passionate Montessori community. We had secured challenge grants of $20,000 as an added incentive to help us reach our goal. Most importantly, although we are optimistic, we want to be able to keep the money raised if we fall short of our goal. For these reasons, we felt Indiegogo was the best platform for this campaign.
In addition to what we did for our Kickstarter campaign, here’s a list of a few more tricks we are trying on this campaign:
-We created fewer “perk” levels and designed them to minimize our expenses; we combined our pitch and trailer into one video; we created a digital image that “donors” could use as their Facebook profile photo; we created photo/quote graphics that are popular reposts on Facebook; and we have paid to “boost” posts on Facebook with strong results.
-In addition, we have created opportunities to have our campaign mentioned in Montessori media, at national conferences, and in school newsletters.
-We are also grateful to be working with a public relations expert who is donating her time to help us explore how we can attract the attention of the local and national media.
One last topic that is important to consider for any crowd funding campaign is whether a donation is tax-deductible. Both of my films have a fiscal sponsor (IFP MN). This allows donations made through the fiscal sponsor to be tax deductible. This means that when a donation is made through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, it isn’t tax-deductible. Many people won’t care about this, but a few do. We have handled this by having a brief mention on our Indiegogo home page with a link to our fiscal sponsor donation page. Donations made through this page do not count toward our Indiegogo goal. I have since learned that there is at least one fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas, who has a relationship with two platforms (Indiegogo and RocketHub) that will allow donations to be tax-deductible. It would be worth looking into whether you can gain fiscal sponsorship. [ed. It can take time to qualify, so do this long before you launch a campaign].
Our Building the Pink Tower Indiegogo campaign ends on December 18th. To follow our progress, visit www.donatepinktower.org. If you know anyone who has been touched by Montessori education, please share our campaign with him or her. We are committed to making a film that will change the national education debate. (Thank you!).
I wish you the best of luck in your crowd funding endeavors. I hope sharing what I’ve learned so far will contribute to your future success!
Jan Selby is a multiple regional EMMY© award-winning producer, director, and founder of Quiet Island Films, a full-service video production company with national clients. After 25 years in corporate marketing, Jan followed her heart to become a filmmaker and video producer/director. Follow Building the Pink Tower on Facebook, Twitter and add them to your circle on G+
Sheri Candler November 21st, 2013
Posted In: crowdfunding
Tags: 9 Pieces of Peace, Building the Pink Tower, campaign text, crowdfunding, Facebook, fiscal sponsorship, Google Plus, indiegogo, Jan Selby, Kickstarter, Montessori, network, perks, Pinterest, Pitch video, promotion plan, rewards, Twitter, Vina Kay, YouTube
Today’s guest post is from Gabriel Diani & Etta Devine who are actively campaigning on Kickstarter for their film Diani & Devine Meet The Apocalypse. They have some sobering news for those looking to wade into crowdfunding.
We knew it would be tough. We’re not famous, our project wasn’t based on an existing brand, and only seven percent of Kickstarter campaigns over $100,000 make their goal. Seven percent.
We’ve run two successful campaigns in the past. One publishing campaign for $30k and a film campaign for for $27k . Because of that experience, we knew we couldn’t hit $100k with our current social media/audience reach, perhaps $60k or $70k…but $100k might as well be $1m.
We decided to do something big and bold for our latest Kickstarter to fund our movie Diani & Devine Meet The Apocalypse. Something to expand our audience and get the attention of press outlets who are becoming weary of crowdfunding stories. With that in mind, we planned a massive 30 plus video Kickstarter campaign featuring our friends and fellow cast members.
We’d start with our main campaign video to introduce ourselves, lay out what the project was about, and give people a hint of what we had in store for the rest of the campaign. We’re not fans of the filmmaker-sitting-in-front-of-the-webcam-crying videos because we believe that if you’re asking people for money to make a movie, you need to show you know how to make a movie.
We stopped cutting our hair or shaving and over the course of four months we went to seven different apocalyptic locations (some up to 3 hours drive away) to shoot the different segments of the video, slowly distressing our costumes until they were dirty rags by the end.
While we were doing that, we also shot thirty mini-shorts called “Apocatips” with the intention of releasing one for every day of the campaign. This would give us new content to post to keep backers engaged and give us new things to talk about. We also put a bunch of our talented friends in them so they would be more enthusiastic about sharing them with their circles when they came out…because we’re sneaky like that.
We also have several famous genre actors with active fan communities and we wanted to target those audiences to pull them into our campaign. We made a video with Armin Shimerman and Harry Groener who are both very well known and respected for their work in “Star Trek” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and targeted the video to those audiences.
Barry Bostwick was going to be in Romania while we were prepping the Kickstarter so we gave him a script outline and he shot a bunch of crazy footage while on set for “Scorpion King 4.” We sifted through all that footage and put this together with our editor Chad Meserve.
But our biggest gun was Janet Varney, the voice of the main character in a popular anime show called “The Legend of Korra.” The audience is rabid, active (because the show is on right now), and a younger demographic that is perfect for understanding what crowdfunding is. We shot a funny video with Janet dressed as her character and knew that it had the potential to go viral.
Has it worked?
We know a lot of people in the crowdfunding world and they have all been very complimentary about not only the quality of the videos, but the quality of our rewards (we believe in giving early adopters to our cause more bang for their buck) and the beauty and clarity of our Kickstarter page (thanks to our designer Lee Thompson).
The Apocatips have done the job of keeping our backers engaged and giving them new things to share and talk about each day, as have the supplementary videos. We’ve gotten some great press, but the pledging through those outlets is way down from when we did our previous campaigns and most outlets seem unimpressed by the quality and quantity of the videos and usually only mention it as an aside.
The biggest surprise was the Janet Varney/Korra video, which exceeded our wildest expectations in terms of fan response. As of this writing, it is over 42,000 views on Youtube, gifs people made from it have been reblogged multiple thousands of times on Tumblr, and all of the comments on the Youtube page have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s difficult to tell because the Kickstarter backend tells you the total pledges that came through Youtube or Tumblr, but not which specific video or post. All of those eyes on the video brought us around 13 pledges…maybe 20 if we’re generous…out of over 42,000 people watching. We had planned on a 0.01% conversion rate. We got about 0.0005%. That miscalculation has certainly made things more challenging, but there’s still hope. As of this writing, we’re at 42% with 10 days to go. It’s not where we’d like to be, but we’ve jumped about $15,000 in the past three days so it’s not impossible.
We’re not sure what all of this means for the crowdfunding ecosystem. There’s lots to dissect and many factors at play including diminishing Twitter influence and how the Facebook algorithm for sharing posts has changed drastically to limit the number of friends/followers our posts are shared with since our last campaign. Our first movie has almost 1,000 “Likes” on its fan page. We shared one of our videos on it and Facebook showed it to 38 of those 1,000. This is (of course) to encourage people to pay money to “boost” or “promote” their posts. We’ve been doing this, but our friends and audience who have been sharing aren’t paying to boost their posts so our message isn’t spreading as far or as fast as it could despite the fact that this campaign has been shared more times on Facebook than the last one (136 vs. over 2,000 at the time of this writing).
Our email list is around 2,000 subscribers and we’ve been emailing our backers once or twice a week. All of our previous backers are on that list, but we also sent project updates from those campaigns within Kickstarter in case our email was going to spam. Our number one referrer to our campaign this time is Direct Traffic, which means clickthroughs are coming mostly from this email list. It’s almost twice the traffic from Facebook which is the complete opposite from our last two campaigns.
If you’re thinking of jumping into your first (or next) crowd funding campaign, be more cautious than usual. Ours is an ambitious project to be sure, but we did our homework. We have a track record on both Kickstarter and in the world of independent film and we spent five months writing, shooting, editing, color correcting, and doing VFX on over 30 videos and planning the campaign…and yet we’re still facing a steep uphill climb.
The crowdfunding world is weird and wonderful, but it is constantly changing. It was never easy to raise the type of money we’re aiming for, but as crowdfunding evolves it may be getting harder instead of easier.
Gabriel Diani and Etta Devine are award-winning actors, writers, and comedians who are often compared with classic comedy teams like Nichols and May and Burns and Allen. They have performed at comedy festivals all over the country, raised over $30,000 on Kickstarter to replace the “N-word” with “Robot” in Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and garnered over 1.3 million hits on their web series Mary Olson. Gabe wrote, produced, and starred in the horror comedy feature film THE SELLING which played at over 30 film festivals, was in the Top 10 of About.com’s Best Horror Movies of 2012, and received rave reviews from The Huffington Post, Ain’t It Cool News, and FilmThreat. Co-produced by and co-starring Etta, the film is available on DVD/VOD and just had its television premiere on Fearnet in April. You can see their sizzle reel here.
Sheri Candler November 13th, 2013
Tags: Armin Shimerman, crowdfunding, Diani and Devine Meet The Apocalypse, Etta Devine, Facebook, Gabriel Diani, Harry Groener, Janet Varney, Kickstarter, The Legend of Korra, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube