It is important to remember that Crowdfunding sites are businesses, businesses that want to make money. It is equally important to realize that raising any amount of money via crowdfunding should be approached with a plan. The more money you are hoping to raise, the more important it is to have a solid plan, and a strong team to help you. Like anything you want in life, it takes a lot of hard work.
I’ve helped many fundraisers reach their targets with the following tips and advice. It’s common sense when you read it, but you’d be amazed how many projects don’t use these simple tips, and that’s why they fail to reach even a fraction of their target. The following tips were offered recently to a group of film makers and they followed my adice to the letter. They surpassed their target by OVER THREE TIMES the original amount…!!! I’ll be using the advice I gave them in the post below, so if you’re not trying to fund a film, just change their project idea for your own.
So, if you want to give YOUR campaign the best chance of success, read on…
SPLIT YOUR CAMPAIGN UP
Realistically, you need to split your campaign into multiple sections: prelaunch, launch, mid-launch, and the final push. So many fundraisers simply post up their project and hope for the best. Unless you already have a very large, strong following, your project is almost destined to fail. The larger the amount of money you plan to raise, the earlier you should begin. In the tips below I’ll expand on these different phases of your campaign. The promotional work for your campaign can start up to six months or a year BEFORE you activate your crowdfunding program.
WHICH SITE TO CHOOSE?
There are many sites out their to use for your campaign. Personally I prefer this one: www.crowdfunder.co.uk They have what’s called a ‘stretch target’, which allows you to set a lower, more achievable target, then increase it to a bigger amount. Details on the site. Most people know of ‘Kickstarter’ and ‘Indigogo’, and there are many others now. Research the sites, look at their campaigns. Which site you end up using is entirely up to you, and if one doesn’t work, replan your campaign and launch it on one of the other sites.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
If you have the budget and can create a really good one, invest in your own website for the project. This isn’t essential to success, but it will give you a slightly more professional edge. Especially if you are asking for a large amount of money, the more serious you can show people you are the better.
If not, at the very least, create a FB page and an event page (and preferably a blog also) about the film project and fundraiser. Promote the heck out of it and ask people what rewards they are most interested in (film posters, a chance to be on set, a chance to hold the clapper board, credits on IMdB, etc.) Get as many people as possible involved as early as possible BEFORE you launch your crowdfunding event.Far too many people just jump right in with no planning or preparation, once the campaign launches the clock is ticking down! Make every day count.
GET EARLY PLEDGES
Get some early pledges, then you can judge how much MORE work you’ll need to do to promote the campaign! Remember, you don’t have to have all the rewards printed and ready at this stage, you can do that (and pay for them) with the raised funds, you just need to give an idea of what you can offer (and know your costs, so you’re not losing money)
Nobody wants to back a loser. This is why it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to get some early promises from close friends, family, and people that follow you. Engage them early and let them be ‘insiders’ – they will be the ones to hear news first, they’ll be offered exclusives, etc. Ideally you want to have about 30% of your target pre-pledged. When you start your campaign, follow up with these people and have them activate their promises on the site.
Why is this so vital? Two main reasons: 1) A good early start to your fundraising will show others that people are actively interested in your project. As said, nobody wants to back a loser! 2) The more interest your campaign gets, the more the site will actively push you. As I said at the start, they are in the business of making money, if they think your project has a good chance of reaching its target (and hence THEM getting their fees!) they will promote it.
BLOG OFTEN – KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE ENGAGED
Write blog articles (they can be short) about the project, why are you doing it? What was the inspiration for the script? Who’s involved? Etc. It makes you all seem more REAL that way, and PASSIONATE about what you’re doing. Keep them short and regular, lots of pictures. Blogs allow you to use lots of tags, and the more articles and information you have about your project will not only make it more interesting, but easier to be seen online.
PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE
Don’t just focus online. The more people are becoming Internet dependent, the fewer people are utilizing traditional media. Approach the local papers and radio station with the fact you’re doing a fundraiser. Tell everybody and everyone about your project. Why is it important? Why is it important to you? Who are you? Why are you doing this? Who will it help? Does it have a human interest angle? The media is always after a good story, and if they pick it up, this is fantastic exposure for your project.
Remember: You have to be the most passionate person in the world about your project, if you’re not excited, nobody else is going to get excited about it either! Always be promoting your project, you never know who you are talking to or who they know.
DON’T JUST RELY ON ONLINE CROWDFUNDING
Approach local businesses and ask for a small donation.Although crowdfunding is an online platform, you cannot be shy about your financing goals. How badly do you want or need to raise this money? You have to be prepared to do the uncomfortable (do what others are unwilling to do) and you will succeed. What can you offer them in trade? Can you offer them some promotion on your sites, perhaps give them a credit in the film? In some cases you may find a business owner that would like a role and be prepared to pay for the honour!
People who do the unexpected get noticed. This next tip is another ESSENTIAL to success. It’s not easy to arrange, but much easier than you’d think. Hold a launch party… pick a popular location, a pub or café, and promote the fact you’re doing a DAY ONE campaign launch. Most premises have slow days during the week and an unusual, well-promoted event to bring in warm bodies that may spend money their are always welcome. Have laptops there so people can go straight to the site and pledge. Have the crew take it in shifts if need be, but really push hard on the first day. The more pledges you get as early as possible, the more exposure online it gets!
Be creative for this event. Maybe do a joint venture with the location and offer free or discounted drinks and food. Have some of the actors do a partial script read through – not only is this good promotion for the film, it’s something unique. If you’ve put in the correct amount of work in your prelaunch preparations, have contacted the press, have created a good buzz and got early pledge promises, by the end of your launch day event you may be surprised to find you have between 30 – 50% for your target already! Believe me, it’s happened on more than one occasion.
IT AIN’T OVER TILL IT’S OVER
Keep the pressure on throughout the campaign. If you raise your target, push for more. Keep your pledgers in the loop with progress, keep them engaged. Blog about progress. If you have their details, PERSONALLY thank those that have already made donations. I can’t stress this enough. The more personal and involved you make things, the better people will feel about their pledge. If you can’t do it in person or make it personal, record a short thank you video – let them see the emotion in your eyes!
So many people forget to keep pushing, yet it’s amazing the number of people that will INCREASE their pledge amount, if they know how much you care!
THE LAST MILE
The final push. If you still need to raise funds to hit the target, plan a LAST DAY push – you could even invite people to the event (like the launch) and invite the press along. If you’ve run most of the marathon, why fall at the final mile? Have a back-up plan for the possibility of not hitting your target by the final few days. Hold a final push party. Give people a reason to come and to donate. Again, make sure you have your team there and the laptops.
THE ALL-IMPORTANT FOLLOW-UP
Most importantly, at the end, thank everybody involved and fulfill your promise – send out the rewards. Following up doesn’t have to be left until the end. By making follow-up part of your routine, you won’t have a huge job at the end (which you may forget or overlook!) You may be very pleasantly surprised how many people actually want to be part of your project and want to help, if they are acknowledged and rewarded accordingly.
PLAN TO SUCCEED – A CLOSING COMMENT
I advise people to be ‘realistically optimistic’. What do I mean by this? Plan for success, but realize you are better to lower your target to a figure that’s achievable, rather than be unrealistic about your funding objective. Remember the goal is to reach the target you set (hence I like the sites with a stretch target) Whatever YOU think is achievable, if you don’t have the evidence to back it up (i.e., a huge support pool, early pledges, a previous success story, etc.) you are far better off reevaluating your target, sometimes this can be by 30% or more. Don’t be discouraged by this. Either delay your launch until you have more backing, or face facts, you’ll have to get the rest of the funding from somewhere else!
It’s also VERY WORTHWHILE letting potential backers know how much you have on the line. How much have YOU put in? If the answer is zero, then you might want to rethink. If you aren’t prepared to put YOUR money into YOUR project, don’t expect anybody else to either!
As said, all common sense WHEN YOU KNOW. If raising money was easy, everybody would just post up their campaign and sit back and wait (which is what the failing campaigns do!) But it isn’t easy, it takes work, it takes commitment, and most of all it takes planning. Like all overnight success stories, you don’t hear about all the hard work and effort that goes in BEFORE the success happens.
If you fail to hit your target, analyse what went wrong. Were your incentives off-target? Did you start too soon with not enough pre-pledges? Did you create enough awareness and early support? If you did all the things above, and still failed to reach your target, perhaps your figure was too ambitious, or your project just doesn’t have the right appeal to a crowdfunding audience – ask for feedback.
Good luck with your next funding campaign, and remember: The more effort you put in BEFORE your campaign launches, the more successful you will be! Get creative, get people involved, and have fun with it, it’s a long, hard process, so enjoy the journey!
ANTHONY DONNELLY blogs about all things writing, inspirational, and motivational. He has published a number of books for children and adults. His latest book, a short, inspirational parable THE SHEPHERD is currently climbing up the Amazon charts, and is available in Kindle or paperback. When not sat at his keyboard writing, he can be found in Costa Rica, North America, or somewhere in Europe motivating and coaching individuals and groups in self-development techniques and life-balance. Most recently you can see him back on the sets of films and in front of the modelling camera again.