On Wednesday, October 15, the Rochester Documentary Group held a meeting at RCTV in which a panel of individuals with success in crowdfunding met to share tips, insights and best practices. Panelists included filmmaker and ROCDoc Founder Linda Moroney who ran the crowd funding campaign for the Dalai Lama Film, filmmaker Kate Kressman-Kehoe who collaborated with her partners on the campaign for the film Comfort Zone, and Kelly Cheatle, Artistic Director of Airigami who collaborated with her partner on the campaigns for an illustrated book and for last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk version of Balloon Manor at the Sibley Building.
Kate Kressman-Kehoe and her partners Dave Danesh and Sean P. Donnelly launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund Comfort Zone, setting a goal of $10,000 and a campaign length of 45 days. About 100 donors brought the final amount in at $10,350.
For Comfort Zone, they used a fiscal sponsor, which Kate felt was helpful in getting donations that might not have come in, had the donation not been tax-deductible. The particular fiscal sponsor they used had a partnership with Indiegogo, so they did not lose as high a percentage of the donations as they would have, if they had been required to pay the normal percentage to both Indiegogo and to the fiscal sponsor.
She cautioned to keep WIIFM (what’s in it for me, i.e., the donor) in mind. Often, when people launch a crowdfunding campaign, they focus on what they want to accomplish or what they are building, neglecting to address donor motivation. A good crowdfunding campaign will focus on what will inspire the donor or backer, such as the satisfaction of helping to produce a movie, of seeing something that interests him or her come to fruition, and of being part of something larger than him or herself.
Linda Moroney did intensive crowd funding research prior to launching the kickstarter campaign for the Dalai Lama Film. They chose to seek $54,000, but also outlined what could be achieved on the film if higher levels of donations were achieved. During the month that the campaign ran, a total of $92,076 was raised. Linda noted that once they hit the $54,000 goal, the donations spiked because people like to be part of something successful.
In advance of starting the project, she developed a substantial database of organizations, including Tibetan organizations, and individuals to contact that would engage with the project. They also carefully crafted sample tweets, messages and quotes that these individuals and organizations could use to help spread the word. Once the $54,000 goal was met, the team continued to spread the message, always incorporating #gratitude as part of the message, which helped inspire additional backers.
Linda stated that there were many generous people who donated items such as books, CDs, workshops, retreats and items that would be of interest to those interested in the Dalai Lama’s teachings, so they were able to add additional donor levels and gifts as the campaign progressed.
The promotional video that was used as part of the kickstarter campaign ran between six and seven minutes. In retrospect, Linda felt that a shorter piece would have been better. However, because many who watched the video were already interested in the Dalai Lama and the project, she felt the longer length was not an obstacle.
Kelly Cheatle had the experience of mounting two crowdfunding campaigns. The first, which was to produce a book illustrated with balloon sculptures, did not achieve its funding goal. The second, for the 2014 Balloon Manor, and that was constructed in Rochester’s Sibley Building, did and raised $1,545 above its $6000 goal.
Comparing the results of the two campaigns, she mentioned that the first campaign was launched in the early days of crowdfunding. She felt the video they created did not clearly outline what they would be doing and what the end result would be. By the time they did the “Jack and the Beanstalk” Balloon Manor kickstarter, they had a better sense of what the video messaging needed to be.
One of the advantages they had in crowdfunding the Balloon Manor project was to be able to make participation in the project part of the fulfillment, so that those who donated at certain levels became part of the crew to build the manor. Others were included in the popping party. With the book project, gift fulfillment included prints of images or magnets from the book, so they were not producing anything that would not already be part of the project.
She also suggested to “hit donors in the marketing budget,” especially for larger or corporate sponsors. So, for example, as part of the fulfillment, the project might offer a promotional opportunity to the many people seeing it.
All agreed that the “story” behind the campaign show a history of prior success and the message, “We’ve done a lot, and you can help us be successful on this project.”
Other points that were brought up:
- Use short (2 minute or less) well-done videos that completely spell out the project. It’s okay to use multiple videos, as long as they’re short.
- With Indiegogo, you upload video to Vimeo or Youtube and embed the video on your page. With Kickstarter, you upload the video to Kickstarter, and you cannot take it down once the campaign has been completed, so that it will continually show your project and whether or not it was successful.
- Be aware that, for the entire time the crowd funding campaign is under way, the person running the campaign will be absorbed in its promotion, updating and successful outcome.
- It’s a good idea to have some donors lined up to “prime the pump” so the campaign looks successful right out of the gate.
- A shorter campaign time is best (30 to 45 days) to avoid wearout of both prospects and campaign manager, and to maintain the urgency to donate.
- Include a paragraph about the risks of participation. If the project is running late, be sure to send updates.
- Don’t start or end a campaign on the weekend.
- Use humor when appropriate; originality goes a long way toward securing donations.
- Develop a database for the campaign before launching it; The database should include individuals and organizations who may fund the campaign, as well as those who will help spread the word.
- There’s a fine line between effectively updating prospects and funders, and annoying them with too many communications.
- Although research shows that the most successful campaigns raise between $5K and $7K, but the campaigns presented here were successful in achieving higher donation levels.
- With Kickstarter, you can send only one survey, so it’s important to get all of the information needed for fulfillment, follow up, future communications, etc. ASK if you may include them in future correspondence, newsletters, project followups, etc.
Gifts and Fulfillment
- Numerous levels of awards are important so there is a comfort level for every donor price point.
- You can add donor levels as the campaign progresses; Early-bird levels that have a value-add component are a great idea. (e.g., offer a particular gift at a lower level for a short time to encourage participation, then after a certain date, increase the pricing level on that item).
- Figure in time and money for sending out the gifts following a successful campaign.
- There are now outside vendors that will handle fulfillment.
- The gifts need not be full market value, but they must be meaningful to those donating.
Financial Elements and Other Insights
- Unless the campaign is run through a non-profit organization or fiscal sponsor, be prepared to pay taxes on the funds raised.
- Run the campaign early in the year so the funds are spent on the project before taxes are due.
- Kickstarter sends the money at the end of the campaign; Indigogo sends it two week after the completion of the campaign.
- If you use paypal, you can receive the money “as you go” but there was concern about how the crowdfunding organizations figure the deductions.
- With Kickstarter, you get the funds only if you achieve your goal. With Indiegogo, you get the funding either way, but if you do not achieve your goal, they take a higher percentage of the funds raised.
- Be prepared to be contacted by marketing and other companies once you launch your campaign.
- Consider partnering with other similar projects that are crowdfunding to co-promote each others’ campaigns in order to expand the audience.
- You can follow donors on Kickstarter to see what campaigns they tend to fund.
Many thanks to Kate, Linda and Kelly for sharing their insights, and to those who attended who also shared their experience on both sides of a crowdfunding campaign.
Summarized by Carol White Llewellyn
Featured image photo by Eduardo Schafer, courtesy of Freeimages.com.