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Alternative Funding

Want to Know about Crowdfunding? Follow the Leader

Courtesy of Changeworx

Increasing numbers of filmmakers (and other types of entrepreneurs) are turning to crowdfunding platforms such as IndieGoGo or Kickstarter in an attempt to find funding for their films and some are being extremely successful. For example, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie raised $325,927 on IndieGoGo and Save Blue Like Jazz raised $345,992 on Kickstarter. But for every successful campaign there are many failures (one survey found that 65% of crowdfunding projects fail to raise even one single dollar). So what are the ingredients for a successful crowdfunding campaign?

It’s easy to imagine that putting together a crowdfunding campaign might be easier than pitching a project to a traditional funder such as a TV broadcaster, but that would be to grossly underestimate the amount of sustained effort that a successful campaign requires – it’s not enough just to post your project and hope that people will fund it. They won’t.

Jonathan Goodman Levitt, a NYC-based filmmaker, has been making his documentary, Follow the Leader, for seven years. The film is “a real-life coming-of-age story of three traditional American boys with Presidential dreams. At sixteen-years-old, high school Class Presidents Ben, D.J. & Nick are all conservatives who plan to continue leading their peers as President someday. Over three life-changing years, they split into Republican, Democratic and Independent camps as each reconsiders his lofty ambitions.”

Jonathan has had a hair-raising fundraising journey so far, but managed to secure funding from foreign broadcasters (read a candid interview with Jonathan in Give Me the Money and I’ll Shoot! about all the trials and tribulations). He’s now on the final straight and he needs to raise $27,000 to complete the project and to raise awareness of the film in the USA ahead of the US presidential elections in late 2012.

UPDATE JULY 2012: Jonathan reached his goal with 5 minutes to spare, raising $27,083 from 275 backers.

Jonathan put together a solid Kickstarter campaign page that serves as an excellent template for anyone who is considering launching a crowdfunding campaign. The key elements include:

    1.  A pitch video that:
      •  features the director introducing the project
      • outlines the status of the project
      • explains exactly why funding is needed
      • shows scenes from the film to introduce the characters and their world

2. A funding goal of $27,000 – it’s a substantial amount but it should be achievable. If you need to raise a larger amount, experienced crowdfunders recommend running more than one campaign so you don’t miss out on funding – some platforms will only collect donations if the target amount is reached, leaving you at risk of losing it all if you are even just a few dollars short of your target.  On the other hand, some platforms also allow for donors to keep giving money after the deadline, so you might be in the happy position of raising more than your initial target if the campaign takes off.

3. A campaign length – of four weeks – that gives enough time to build interest and attract donors, without being too long (which risks fatiguing both the team behind the campaign and all their potential fundraising contacts).

4. A range of perks at with different price points to allow for donors of all sizes. Jonathan has 14 different perks ranging from $5 up to $10,000. Each perk has a project appropriate title, which gives the campaign personality and helps people identify with, and feel a part of the project. For example, for $5 you become a Town Crier and get a special image to post to your social media pages to help promote the project;  for $50 you become a State Senator and get an advance copy of the DVD and your name on the film’s website; for $2,500 you become a Cabinet Member and get a Skype chat with the director, a DVD box set of the director’s other works, advance DVD of the film, and a special screening hosted by the director or one of the film’s contributors. Jonathan’s been smart enough to ensure that the perks are meaningful without being too time-consuming or costly to produce (one filmmaker offered a free personalized poem for all donors, which was extremely labour intensive).

STOP PRESS: Sign up for the PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST perk to get a FREE 30-min Skype consultation with TVMole + a copy of Give Me the Money and I’ll Shoot! and digital downloads of the film and exclusive music tracks. Make your pledge here.

5. A comprehensive synopsis of the project illustrated with lots of images that draw the eye down the page. He gives an overview at the top of the page and more details at the bottom for those people who require it. People like to know exactly where their money is going, so there is a breakdown of what the money is needed for, including: “Further sound mixing and color correction; a few outstanding music licenses; required insurances for public release; essential marketing materials, initial publicity costs and booking fees; format conversions to American standards (the film’s only financing has been from foreign broadcasters, so it was originally shot in non-US formats); software and hardware costs related to REALITY CHECK INTERACTIVE; small stipends for REALITY CHECK team members to dedicate time this summer to continuing development; creation and printing of educational guides for colleges and high schools; and travel costs for our film participants to attend screenings and events so that they can engage with audiences directly.”

6. A clear call to action at the end of the video asking people to make a donation by pressing the button and also asking readers to:

  • You can visit our website HERE.
  • “Like” us on Facebook HERE.
  • And “Follow” @changeworxfilms HERE.

Once people have signed up to one or all of the social media pages you can keep them up to date with the campaign’s progress; even if they don’t donate immediately, they might do so nearer the end of the campaign when they can see how it’s going. All funders like to back a winning project, and some particularly get a kick of being the person to push a project over the goal line and will therefore wait until the 11th hour to do so.

Follow the Leader is a great example of an effective crowdfunding page, but the work really starts when the campaign is launched as the most successful campaigns are constantly updated with new information, video clips, calls to action and the filmmaker must work hard to drive people to their crowdfunding page via email, Facebook posts, tweets and blog posts, which can be a full time job in itself.

Still unsure whether crowdfunding is for you? The best way of working out how a crowdfunding campaign works is to take part in one,  so why not donate some money to Follow the Leader before 26th July, 2012 to find out what it’s like to be on the giving end before you commit to being on the receiving end.

You can find more information on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, along with the pros and cons and a comprehensive list of international crowdfunding platforms in Give Me the Money and I’ll Shoot!

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