By Alicia East, Crew Connection
We were too inexperienced to know it was impossible, so we made our first film anyway. In 2015, a team of three filmed, edited, produced and funded our first documentary. Here’s what we learned about fundraising through our experience by crowdfunding the film.
It Takes a Village
Assemble a dedicated team who is passionate about your project and play to each person's strengths (let a young person who is highly active in social media "own" Instagram and TikTok for example). This is HUGE. There is too much work to be done by one person. This team should include people to do the day-to-day work as well as people who will go out and make connections, host parties, etc.
Take Advantage of Existing Networks And Establish New Connections
Use your existing connections and connect with new networks. With your current connections and resources, consider how many eyeballs you can get in front of during your campaign. How many of those would actually donate? Numbers only matter in the context of who you're reaching out to. If you reach the right 5 people, those 5 people could fund your whole campaign! Reach a million of the wrong people and you'll see very little results. So only you know your current resources and connections and whether you've developed those fully enough to launch a campaign.
It also helps to have an established mode of communication for those already engaged in your cause. A newsletter to existing donors and people who have expressed interest in your topic.
Consider your existing contacts who would host a fundraising party (on your campaign’s launch date if possible). This is where people who are engaged in your efforts/the topic host parties and bring people from their own networks to share why they love the cause. We sent "party kits" with prizes and more. These were successful. We had parents host a "real life superhero" party for their 4-year-old. Very fun and effective. They also matched what people gave that night.
Build support in advance. We started building our social media network before we launched. We read that the recommendation is at least two months, but even better when you already have a presence there. Providing content your audience loves (starting now) will be great. We were a little later than that. There are places like Hootsuite or similar sites that allow you to schedule posts. Be careful though because Facebook sometimes gives lower priority to posts that were scheduled through third-party sites. The recommendation is 2-3 posts per day on Facebook.
Twitter was HUGE for us. We had no idea how instrumental it would be. The best thing about Twitter is that it gives you an audience with people you may not have access to otherwise. If you tweet the right person at the right time, they could get you in front of THEIR whole audience. This happened with us on Upworthy and was a HUGE boost to the campaign--both financially and also getting us in front of a lot of like-minded viewers. Engage and respond to other people and organizations rather than just posting your own content.
Press And Other Outreach
Have your press release(s) and a list of news agencies, websites and blogs you think might be interested in your project. For example, we went to our then local press in Denver and pitched the director/videographer/editor as the story ("local filmmaker launches campaign") and press in other relevant places (pitching the doc project as the story).
Get creative about who you can pitch. Can you think of an article you could write for Huffington Post...something with a newsy edge?
Reach out to blogs, reporters, and organizations who will connect with your vision and have a history of publishing content that is similar to yours. If they connect with your mission and put it in front of their readers/viewers, then you reach like-minded people (better to reach 100 people who love your subject than 1000 who don't care about it).
It is very hit and miss. You might reach out to 100 and have only one respond. But it could be the one that makes a big impact and also gets you in front of people who will be engaged not just during your campaign, but with your finished project. This is hugely valuable in itself! Having your contacts reach out to their contacts–personal messages and asking people to give $10 or $20–goes a long way.
Content is King
You already know...no matter how amazing your project is, people (especially those who are unfamiliar with you) won't get engaged unless your trailer and Kickstarter video are polished and clearly communicate what you're doing. Take time to establish your marketing campaigns, including a poster, website, T-shirts, etc.
The Campaign Itself
Have some people lined up to donate the moment the campaign launches. The death of a campaign is having a big ugly goose egg showing up when people visit the campaign in the hours and days after launch. Find an "angel investor" (or a few) who can donate $500- $5,000 in the final hours if you're short of your goal.
Be strategic about awards. There are whole articles on this, but it's good to have stuff that people want and to keep the rewards structure simple. Ours were a little complicated and we learned from that. Have a plan to keep people engaged if you go over! That's a good problem to have!
Even with minimal experience, you can totally do this.
About Crew Connection
Crew Connection connects you with video production crews across the country and around the globe. With more than 25 years of experience and thousands of shoots with film crew pros to our credit, you can trust our expert coordinators to match you with the right freelance video crew and equipment—every time.