How to Bring the Crowd to Your Crowdfunding Campaign

The more the merrier and rewarding when you identify your film’s audience because 98% of your donations will come from your database

by Carole Dean

One of the most important questions to ask yourself before attempting to crowdfund your film is “How do I enlarge my database of contacts?”  It’s crucial as 98% of the donations to your project will come from your contacts. 

Film's Audience

Our fiscally sponsored film “Saving the Rabbits of Ravensbruck” found their audience and surpassed their goal on Kickstarter

 

The first step in growing your database is to define and find the audience for your film.   How do you do that while you trying to make your film?  Here’s information from my book, The Art of Film Funding and Stephen Follows book, How to Crowdfund your Film

Who is Your Audience?

What is it that attracts people to your film?  Start by interviewing some of the people who already love your project.  This does not include family and friends (as the reason they love your project may just be you!). 

Some questions you might ask include:

  • What social media platforms do you hang-out on?
  • Where do you engage with people online?
  • What kind of news do you pay attention to?

Check out my blog, “How to Mine Your Audience for Gold” to get a list of right questions to ask.  Then, use the answers create a profile of your real audience. Remember, your audience needs to be motivated by the subject matter of your film.

Is Your Audience Big Enough?

Is your existing audience big enough to fund your campaign?  Gerry Maravilla, Head of Crowdfunding at Seed&Spark, told me filmmakers can expect to get 20% to 30% of their contact list to donate. 

The most popular donation is $25.  So, if you are lucky enough to have 500 names, that will be at most 150 donations.  Multiply that by $25.  That’s $3,750. Is that enough to reach your campaign goal?

If it is not, then you need to add more names.  This audience will need additional reasons to donate because they don’t know you.  To get their donations, you need to create likability and trust.

Locate Communities or Groups

What is unique about your film? Find that and be able to talk about how special your film is because of this uniqueness.

Start listing the various audiences that your film addresses.  For documentaries, it’s much simpler than features, but let’s just take an example of a documentary on organic food. Go online and start looking for organizations and groups who fit your film like vegetarians, vegans, organic consumers, benefits of organic food, etc.

Find those organizations through Facebook and Google. On Facebook, there are thousands of groups set up around nearly every topic imaginable.   You can find films or subjects that resemble closely resemble yours. 

Log into your Facebook profile. Enter a relevant keyword in the search box at the top left of the page. Then, click the Groups tab to see a list of groups related to your search term. Click on the name of the group to learn more, or click join to become a member of the group.

Make a list from your Facebook and Google results.  You want to find the top 40 organizations and set a goal to connect to at least 20.  Hopefully, they will have a minimum database of 5,000 members each.

Your goal is to get them to support your film. Get them to post about your film on their database, or newsletter, or ask them to tweet about your film.

Twitter and Instagram

Author Stephen Follows in “How to Crowdfund Your Film” suggests doing research and marketing via Twitter.  He advises to search for key people around the theme of your film and use tools like Socialbro or Rival I Q to understand more about that audience.

“Look at who is following these big people”, he writes “and look at who the big people are and find who is the most active with communicating.  Look specifically to see if they recommend other projects because if they do you want to contact them early to get them on board and promote your film as well.”

He recommends to seek tweets which motivate the audience to retweet and comment.  For example, “It might be that people are talking about dogs but it’s only when they get to talk about how to look after dogs that created a lot of people sharing and commenting this will help you understand the language and the sub topics that inspire action.”

Instagram can also be useful with the visuals answering questions like what are the common things with the images on your topic? How professional are they?

Capturing Your Audience

Ok, you’ve got a good idea who the audience is for your film.  You’ve socialized with them on social media, in their communities, and made yourself known.   Many seem really interested in your project and are likely to support it.

Sign up with an email marketing platform such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, etc.  Through them, you will get an opt-in link for others to sign up to get more information on your film in exchange for their email address.  We use Constant Contact at From the Heart Productions.  They have a text to join feature as well.

Don’t ask people to join a mailing list.  Ask them to join your community that revolves around your film as well as its subject.  No wants to be on a list. 

Include this opt-in link on your Facebook page.  Facebook has the call-to-action feature. This button appears near the “Like” button on your cover photo and is another great way to encourage email sign-ups.  Add the “Sign Up” button and link to your online sign-up form so your Facebook visitors can join your mailing list easily.

Add your opt-in link to your Instagram Profile and your website if you have one.  Also, make sure it is in your signature in your emails. 

You can drive them to your website where you can collect their email address is by giving them a nice gift, something they can’t live without.  Create short three-minute trailers.  Then, put them on your YouTube channel to drive people to your website.  Once there, they can’t resist your gift and will sign up to be part of your film community.

Reaching Out to Your Audience

By now you should have the audience profiled.  Try to list them by groups.

I always say when you ask for money you often get advice but when you ask for advice, this can sometimes lead to money.  So, with your first emails don’t ask for a donation.  They may still not be sure who you are yet.  They may not trust you even though they may be interested in your content. 

I’d ask them to give you feedback on your film. You might say, ‘I making a film about dogs and I wonder how you feel about these various topics and what information you would like to see in a film of this nature.” Do you like what I’ve written? If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know.

You might get feedback and it could be very good.  I’ve had a lot of filmmakers say they were impressed with the return information. And, you can find that as this person gets closer to the film through their relationship with you, they may eventually donate.

Remember, You Need a Lot More Than Money

Make a list of the things you need that could be donated other than money. Airline ticket miles, social networking, a PA for the shoot. Craft service on the shoot etc. etc.  Some filmmakers put this information on their website to encourage people to contact them to become part of the film’s community and donate their time.

Identifying, contacting and entertaining your audience is key to crowdfunding.  You want to take your crowd to the crowd funding.  They will follow you and donate and support you if they like and trust you and are interested in the subject matter of your film.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

The Best Film Fundraising Platform?

On the film fundraising platform offered by From the Heart Productions donors get tax deductions for donations. Filmmakers can have all their fees covered.

by Carole Dean

When you are accepted under the fiscal sponsorship program for From the Heart Productions, the benefits go beyond personal guidance and attention.

We give you a free web page for your project on our Network for Good (NFG) fundraising platform.   

Maybe I’m prejudiced as I’m president of From the Heart Productions, but I think it’s one of the best film fundraising platforms available.

Film Fundraising Platform

Short Film “Surrnder Heaven” Hit 119% of It’s Goal

For starters, NFG is a leader in non-profit fundraising.  (They are the company Facebook uses to process donations).  Created with the help of AOL and Yahoo,  NFG designed their program with donor psychology in mind.  They included behavioral economics, the concept around why people make certain decisions.  To date, they’ve helped non-profits and their projects over $2 billion.  

All of there features and technology aid you in raising funds for your film.  As a filmmaker, without From the Heart Productions, NFG would charge you $60.00 a month for this same page.  Its included when you are fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions. 

Other great benefits of our NFG platform include:

Donors Can Pay Your Credit Card Fees

At the time of check out when someone makes a donation to your film, your donor is asked if they want to cover the filmmaker’s fees.  This includes the credit card and fiscal sponsorship fees. 

Over 70% of the donors are paying these fees for the filmmaker.   

You Can Receive Monthly Donations

With this program you can create donation amounts with monthly payments that many more people can afford.

Let’s say that you have a gift on your page of a “Special Thank You Card” for anyone who donates $1,000.00.  That may put the donation out of the reach for a high percentage of your crowdfunding list. With NFG you can allow them to donate $100.00 a month for 10 months and they can get that award.

Simple Process for Donor Sign Up

When we only had a Paypal button for donations to offer filmmakers, we would get phone calls daily asking us for help to complete the checkout.  We’ve not received one call in 3 years working with NFG.  Their sign up is much easier and especially for older donors. 

Easy Set Up and Design

NFG has set up their platform with easy to use templates and great design tools.  You can quickly create a wonderful looking and appealing page.   You can add a trailer,  productions shots, filmmaker bios, and pie charts. 

I always say, “Touch my heart and I open my pocketbook.” NFG also knows that funding is all about telling a good story.  NFG says that fund raising is about giving your donors visuals and a trailer with a heart-felt story that connects with another person. 

Once you get that on your page,  it will lead to stronger and higher donations. 

Suggested Donation Amounts to Maximize Giving

NFG offers guidance some suggested giving amounts for you to consider.   It’s important to set up amounts that are comfortable for your list of donors.  

Everyone has a “comfort level” of giving.  Think about this, when you get ready to donate to your favorite charity, I bet you give the same amount most of the time.  That is your “comfort level.” Knowing that comfort level for your donors can benefit you when choosing these amounts.

People Can Leave Messages and Tributes After Donating

Potential donors when visting your page can see others who’ve donated along with the supporting messages they left.  That makes future donors more likely to donate.  This gets back to the behavioral economics.  NFG incorporated this ability to leave a message because it can increase your donations.

From the Heart Productions assisted filmmakers in raising over $10 million for their films through fiscal sponsorship for over 10 years.  We are always looking for new and better ways for filmmakers to increase their funding opportunities.

NFG is an exceptional fundraising platform.  The best we’ve found to date.

If you are interested in fiscal sponsorship with From the Heart Productions.   Please check out our Fiscal Sponsorship Page or email  us at

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Surviving the Stress and Succeeding on Kickstarter

How our Fiscally Sponsored Filmmaker Got Help from a Kickstarter Expert for Her Crowdfunding Campaign and Hit Her Fundraising Goal

by Carole Dean

Our fiscally sponsored filmmaker, diane estelle Vicari, feared her fundraising campaign was set to fail.   diane (both her first and middle names begin with lower case letters) is the founder of Dites-Moi and winner of the Pare Lorentz Grant for her film Sugihara, Conspiracy of Kindness.  

Kickstarter Expert

“SHADOW MAN: The story of Sammy Nestico”

Her new film, Shadow Man: The Story of Sammy Nestico, needed to raise money to finish her edit.  It had a great story.  It is a feature-length documentary film that explores the music, art, humanity, impact, and life of Sammy Nestico.  He helped mold the careers of many jazz greats.  Sammy recently turned 94 years young. His most recent Grammy nomination came only a year ago, at the age of 93!

But, she only had 3,000 names on Facebook.  You should only expect to get about 1% of your social media followers to donate.  So, obviously, that was not going to get her to her goal.  And, with Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your goal, you get zero.

Her non-profit fiscal sponsor From the Heart Productions came to her rescue.  We hooked her up with our Kickstarter expert.  Working with him as a team, she grew her social media followers, reached a larger audience, and surpassed her funding goal.  She asked for $61,500 and got over $75,000!

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast, she shared with me her experience and what she had learned.

Realizing You Need Help and Accepting It 

diane had 3,000 names on Facebook and knew she needed help to reach her funding goal.  She took the leap of faith to do a crowdfunding campaign with From the Heart Productions and our Kickstarter specialist.  

After speaking with the expert, diane realized he was right for the task as “he knew money and how to get it.”  To make this campaign work, she realized she was the artist and he was the money man. 

She began to feed him stories every day about the film and introduced him to the subject in the film.  He met Sammy and saw his loving, generous energy.  After that, the Kickstarter expert was able to help diane build the Facebook numbers up to 6,000 followers by the end of the campaign.

Facebook to the Rescue

Once she got Sammy on Facebook with the heightened energy from the campaign it was a magical time.  Sammy had never heard of Facebook.   diane had to drive hours to his home and do the postings for him.

Getting him involved on social media attracted lots of followers.   Sammy talked to people all over the world who love music and even some who had read his music books written for schools.  

This participation was the key to their last days where they raised over $10,000.00.   People are more likely to support you when they can chat with you online. 

diane posted a video of Sammy watching his trailer on Kickstarter and seeing the funds come in on the campaign.  People loved it.  She thinks he was the oldest person on Kickstarter.

Choosing the Right Amount for the Goal…Even If It’s Less Than You Need

diane knew from her Kickstarter adviser that she could not raise the full amount she needed for her final edit with her data base.  They set a goal they thought they could reach.  She did not get enough for the full edit. 

She thought she could get at least a few months of editing with these Kickstarter funds.  But after consulting with D-Word’s Doug Block, she realized that was not a good idea.  Hiring someone for 2 months and then terminating them to look for more money might mean you could not get that same editor again. 

He suggested she view all of the footage for the last 16 years and hire an assistant editor.  Then, raise the balance needed, hire the editor, and do the edit all at once.

However, now she has a successful campaign behind her.  She has lots of new donors and followers on which to build her next campaign.  Her trailer was the most watched on Kickstarter and a copy of it is on our crowdfunding page. 

Sammy was the oldest person on Kickstarter and people loved him.  There were featured by Kickstarter.  diane had 511 rewards to fulfill and she had to handle all that herself.

After 44 days of working 10 hours a Day on Her Campaign, I Asked Her “Would You Do This Again…Is It Worth the Stress?” 

Looking back over the ups and downs of the campaign, diane says “Yes, I will do this again, even with the craziness and the stress.”

“Look at the benefits we received.  We found and connected to our audience with Kickstarter.  We now have people all over the world who want to see this film made.   They stayed with us to the very end to see we hit both of our goals.  People are still finding us even weeks after the campaign and they want to donate.”

She and Sammy are dedicated to keeping their audience.  They are continuing to work on Facebook.  They are keeping their fans up-to-date on the progress of the film and Sammy is personally talking directly to his audience. 

This experience took him into a new world. He is writing again.  He has found how much people love and appreciate him. 

I believe this magic of connecting with people personally will insure another successful campaign.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

How Does Seed&Spark Get an 80% Success Rate with Crowdfunding Campaigns?

No Other Crowdfunding Platform, Not Kickstarter or Indiegogo, Can Claim This. What is The Secret to Seed&Spark’s Success?

by Carole Dean

Seed&Spark

Web Series “One True Loves”

The films that get fiscal sponsorship at From the Heart Productions have consistently received the “green light” on Seed&Spark.  This means they hit their crowdfunding goal and get the funding they raised.  This occurs more often at Seed&Spark than other crowdfunding platforms.

Recently, I welcomed Gerry Maravilla, Head of Crowdfunding at Seed&Spark, to my The Art of Film Funding Podcast.  He revealed the advice they give to filmmakers on how to have a successful crowdfunding campaign. 

Goal Setting on Seed&Spark

This is a crucial part of the entire crowdfunding campaign.  Getting this right is a one of the keys to success.

It begins with a surprising statistic and comes down to simple math.

“There’s traditionally a 1% conversion rate from social media share to a donation.”Gerry states.   This means, if you have 1,000 Facebook followers, you can expect only 1% of them to donate! 

He says that you can get 20 to 30% from your email lists.  This must be a personal email to each person, not an email blast that would bring you much less.  Personalization is the key to getting the highest percentage rate from your list.

 

 

Gerry suggests you ask your crew for their email lists.  Ask your family too for any names they will let you use to crowdfund.  Put all your names together.      

So, how much can you can raise?  The most popular donation amount is $25.00.  So, consider that 30% of the list will give you $25.00 each.  Multiply the number of names on your list by 30% and then by $25.00.  This is a goal you know you can hit.

“But this is nowhere near my budget,” you say?  Yes, but setting a goal at $100,000 when you can only expect to raise $1,000 will result in a failed campaign and no money. 

Take what you can get from this campaign.  Use the money move forward with the film and begin expanding your email list for your second campaign.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make an “Ask.”

Seed & Spark recommends that you reach out early to your list long before you start crowdfunding.  Let them know that you are planning a campaign to fund your film and give them the start date.  Say you need them to commit to make a donation for you in the first few days as that is the critical time.   

“Once you hit that 30% in the first week you can easily hit 60% in the second week,” Gerry says. 

Get your list excited and committed.  Ask them, “Can I count on your support?”  Let them know how much you need them. 

Be sure that each email you send is full of gratitude.  Gratitude is a key word in crowdfunding.  Donors appreciate this and the energy in that email will be totally different with your heart on the page.

Creating interesting emails is key to keeping people motivate.  Even if they have donated, you want them to be involved and you want them to read every email because you want them to donate again.  Use creative titles in your subject line, that will get you a higher opening rate.

Seed&Spark

Our Fiscally Sponsored Film “Two Weeks” Hit Their Goal and Were Able to Start Filmming

Campaign Preproduction is a Key to Success

Sounds crazy?  Right?  Yes, you have to treat a crowdfunding campaign just like a film.  Gerry believes this preproduction work is another important key to their 80% success rate.

You need to prepare by building your email list and putting it on a mailing platform.  (We like Constant Contact at From the Heart Productions, but there are other good ones as well).   

Find the “uniqueness” about your film.  What makes it special?  Start marketing it with that in mind.  Send links to the film or your campaign video to your list.  Let them know you will be crowdfunding soon and ask if they can share this on social media to support you.

Contact Seed&Spark early and discuss your film with them.  They’ve got great instructional videos on their website.  Learn how to build your audience.  Get your social networks and your email list ready for your campaign. 

Give yourself several months.  Study successful campaigns and learn from other filmmakers.  Don’t rush into this, plan the campaign and it will bring you a greater return.

Give Your Donors an Immediate Tax Write-Off with From the Heart Productions

Our non-profit works closely with Seed&Spark.   We are a partner with them and offer the lowest fees of any fiscal sponsor when using their platformHaving fiscal sponsorship allows donors to the campaign to get tax deductions for their donations.   That creates a powerful incentive to donate.

Gerry says you want to be sure to mention your nonprofit name on your page.  This shows your donor that a nonprofit has reviewed your film and accepted it. 

Many donors like the fact that a nonprofit is involved to see that you use the funds for the film.  They feel that you will finish the film.  We believe that sponsorship gives you more credibility with donors. 

Gerry Maravilla is available for more information at .  Anyone wanting information on crowdfunding can email

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Creating a 2nd Successful Kickstarter Campaign for Your Film

Director Robyn Symon’s first Kickstarter campaign for her documentary “Do No Harm” reached it’s goal.  Could she make it happen again?

by Richard Kaufman

Documentary filmmaker Robyn Symon was told it was impossible for a film to have two successful Kickstarter campaigns.   Her Roy W. Dean Grant winning film “Do No Harm” raised over $100,000 on the first Kickstarter effort.   She needed to raise at least that much again to help get her film finished.

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast , she she shared with host Carole Dean tips on how she defied the naysayers and reached her goal the second time around.

Put Together a Team With Connections

“Do No Harm”, fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions,  reveals the sad shocking truth about physician suicides.  While their jobs are to serve as our healers , they have the highest rate of suicide among any profession.    

She knew on her second Kickstarter campaign she would need to reach new supporters and expand her followers to be successful.  To do that, she wanted to build a team who could connect with those in medical field.

She sought out those “who had vlogs, podcasts and they had like tens of thousands of followers.”  She didn’t want anyone just because they loved the film.  She selected 5 or 6 people  after “I looked at their backgrounds carefully to know that these people knew how to connect with other people.”

One of them, Dr. Pamela Wible, Roybn called her “secret weapon”.   She’s considered “the guardian angel to physicians and medical student suseptible to suicide.”  Her vlogs get 50,000 views and a Ted talk she did seen by over 380,000 views. 

With a team in place, they were getting word out about the film even before the campaign began.   

Have Money in Kickstarter Campaign Before it Starts

“You should have a few thousand dollars already committed.” Robyn suggested.   So, as soon as you pull the switch on the campaign, the money is already tallied for all to see.

“No one wants to be the first money in.”

Everyone on her team agreed to contribute $1,000 before the campaign went live. So, right at the start they already had momentum.

Robyn Raised $131,313 on Second Kickstarter Campaign

Don’t Have a Goal That’s Too High…Or Too Low

“If your goal is too high, you’re not going to be sucessful”, she said.  Conversely, you don’t want to have a goal that is too low and easily attainable.  

“Once you reach your goal its very difficult to raise more money.”   She suggests not to go for all the funding at once in one campaign.  Break it up into smaller asks. 

“You have to make it very clear what the money is being allocated for” such as pre-production.  So, when you go back for more funding, you’re not rejected by those who think you’ve already raised enough to make your film.

Consider Using a Kickstarter Campaign Expert

Because she was concerned about raising money a second time on Kickstarter and finding new supporters, she hired an Kickstarter expert.

From the Heart Productions has one expert they work with who has a fantastic track record of crowdfunding success with their fiscally sponsored films.   They hooked him up with Robyn to help her with her campaign.

“I think it was really helpful.”, explained Robyn.   “He has done so many of these campaigns that he really made the page look fantastic.”

She regretted not setting her goal higher as she reached it in a week!  Her goal was $60K, but she really needed $100k and thinks she could have raised $200k. 

“It’s tough, really tough, to go back and say “Yes, we reached our goal and we have 3 weeks left.’” 

Fortunately, she was able to refocus her campaign on raising funds for marketing and was able to get an additional $60,000. 

 

Richard Kaufman is a board member of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship and the Roy W. Dean Grant for independent filmmakers.  Richard has over 25 years experience in supplying filmmakers with discounted film stock and hard drives.  He is currently a Senior Account Executive with Filmtools

An Invitation is at the Heart of Crowdfunding

Don’t think of crowdfunding as asking for money.  Think of it as inviting people to join your community.  You’ll be a lot more successful 

by Carole Dean

Inviting

“Invite People to Join Your Community” When Crowdfunding

When you are crowdfunding, you may think you are just asking friends, relatives, your dentist, for donations.  But, you are inviting others to join together to support you in the making of a film.  

Asking people to “join your community to make a film” is a totally different energy than asking people for donations.

This is the energy of inviting.

When Creating Your Crowdfunding Page Write it Like an Invitation.

People love films.  And hopefully, they will love yours enough to join accept your invitation. 

Every film has something remarkable about it. What is remarkable about your film?  What is it about it that will make people join together and make it happen?

Use the concept of a “sticky story” (make this a link to the article) so that people can remember what you tell them.  Create a story with something emotional, something shocking, something concrete and something very credible so they can remember and pitch your film to their friends and earn social currency.

Make a List of What You Need People To Bring

You need more than money to make a film.  The benefit of bringing a community together is gathering together those with different talents and skills.   Talents and skills you need to make your film.

You should list exactly what you need.  That might be people to help you with social networking, a personal assistant, a driver, or someone to help with food on the production, etc.  Think of the things that you want and ask for them on your page.

How to Answer “What’s In It For Me?”

You can’t invite someone to join in making your film without expecting to give them something in return.  Donors always want to know “what’s in it for me? “   

This is where you can get off the charts creative with your gifts for supporting your film.  You could have standard gifts like t-shirts, mugs and social media shout outs, but I really, find these are boring gifts.  

Think of something unusual and exciting.

Gifts That Donors Share With Others

Here’s one great example.  One person on a crowdfunding campaign was very talented with the Photoshop.   He asked people who donated “where do you want to be?” Then,  he took a photo of them and photo shopped them to that dream location. 

One person was put on the moon and another in the South Seas.  Another was place on an expensive yacht.  Of course, the donors loved these photos and they quickly posted them on Facebook, twitter, all over social media.  They also and drove new people to the filmmaker’s campaign and this created new donors.  This is what you want. You want your donors promoting you.

Recently, I had a filmmaker offer a hand-drawn portrait for $100 on her network for good campaign.  I couldn’t resist!  So I donated and she sent me a precious hand-drawn photo.   It was well worth the hundred dollars and the fun of seeing a personal rendering of a photo.

Use Your Creativity

Use that brilliant creativity of yours for your crowdfunding.  Don’t just focus on how you can get money out of someone.  Think about how you can get them to accept your invitation to help you and others make your film a reality.  

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

6 Tips on Crowdfunding Your Film

 

From the Heart Productions has helped indie filmmakers crowdfund over $3 million for their films.  Here are some key tips on crowdfunding your film to help you successfully raise money. 

6 Tips for Crowdfunding Your Film

Don’t let crowds scare you. Get them to help you raise money for your film.

1. Emotions Fuel Donations

Among the most important of the tips on crowdfunding your film is one you won’t find on the internet.  But, I can promise you that it is most effective when raising money to use emotions.

Let’s go back to some of the earliest Indiegogo campaigns that were quite successful.

First, there was the campaign for a bus monitor named Karen, who asked for $3,000 to go on a vacation. She was responsible for the children on the bus going to school. 

Someone took a camera inside the bus and recorded the vicious, demeaning, bullying statements made to her by students. She was in tears. When we saw this, we felt embarrassed and ashamed that she was being so poorly treated. 

We were touched and moved and glad to donate as a way to apologize to her.  Soon she had over $100,000 and then $200,000.  She ended up with over $700,000.  Nice vacation. 

My second favorite campaign for eliciting emotion is one that did not have a trailer. That’s right, just copy on a page. However, it was professionally done with various font types and a great choice of words.

The campaigner was an admitted geek and he said that we had forgotten Tesla, the greatest geek that ever lived. He wanted to buy back the Wardenclyffe tower, Tesla’s old laboratory, and make it a museum for Tesla.  He also used emotion in his campaign.

“Let’s build a Goddamn museum for Tesla.”, he wrote “We overlooked him and we owe it to him!”

He raised close to $1,300,000  That’s using only written words and the right attitude.  He was demanding that we make up for our lack of attention and respect to Tesla.  It made people feel sad and remiss that we’ve overlooked such a great man. 

“Touch my heart and I’ll open my pocket book.” is one of my favorite expressions for fundraising. I think that people communicate through the heart chakra.  

What’s unique about your film? How can you elicit an emotion with your words and your trailer? That emotion could be joy, happiness or guilt, shame, or any strong emotion that you believe will create an action from your audience. Hopefully, that action is a donation.

2. Setting the Right Campaign Goal 

Finding the right dollar amount to ask for is a key to a good campaign. After running many campaigns, I can say that this is the most important part of the campaign.  You need to get the goal amount right so that you can have 30% to the goal within three days of the start of the campaign.  This is a must for a successful campaign.

It’s very important to create a special group of funders that can help you reach that 30%.  Give them a name, like your “founding Indiegogo or Kickstarter sponsors.”  You will build your crowdfunding page and send the link to only this founding sponsor group first in what we call a soft launch.  You have already spoken to these people and you know exactly how much money you will raise. 

Now, you launch your campaign to your entire mailing list.  Post and chat on social media about the benefits of your film, why people should donate, and thanking those that do.

Sometimes you set your goal based on the amount you know you can raise in three days.  Example, you talk to your family, friends, and staunch supporters and realize that you can get $6,000 in the first three days. Then, set your goal at $20,000 because 30% of $20,000 is $6,000.

Now, you know you have a very good chance of hitting that goal.  That is,  assuming that you have done the work needed to create a large database of people interested in the subject matter of your film.

3. Finding Your Audience for Crowdfunding

What is unique about your film? Find that and be able to talk about how special your film is because of this uniqueness.

Start listing the various audiences that your film addresses.  For documentaries, it’s much simpler than features, but let’s just take an example of a documentary on organic food. Go online and start looking for organizations and groups who fit your film like vegetarians, vegans, organic consumers, benefits of organic food, etc.

Find those organizations through Facebook and Google. Make a list.  You want to find the top 40 organizations and set a goal to connect to at least 20.  Hopefully, they will have a minimum database of 5,000 members each. Your goal is to get them to support your film. Get them to post about your film on their database, or newsletter, or ask them to tweet about your film.

You can drive them to your website where you can collect their email address is by giving them a nice gift, something they can’t live without. Create short three minute trailers.  Then, put them on your YouTube channel to drive people to your website.  Once there, they can’t resist your gift and will sign up to be part of your film community.

4. You Need Connectors

Connectors are people who will help you increase your audience. Your audiences will fund your film and then come back and buy the download. You can find your audience online in groups and organizations.

Take the key words that describe your audience and search those on Facebook and Google. Then, contact the top 20 largest groups and organizations. You want to create “strategic partners ” by contacting organizations and groups that are interested in the subject matter of your film. Connecting to them is most important.

You must take your crowd to the crowdfunding. They don’t find you, you find them. My statistics show that on Indiegogo 99% of the donations come from the people who you have in your database or on your social network. In my opinion, Indiegogo does very little to bring you new donors.

Kickstarter campaigns do increase your data base.  We work with a crowdfunding expert on Kickstarter campaigns who really understands how Kickstarter works and does quite well raising funds for our filmmakers. As a result, he helped raised $120,000 for a film on sound, $64,000 on a film about a music composer, and over $100,000 for another film. I highly recommend him.  If you are interested, email me and I can introduce you to him.

5. Give Them a Sticky Story

A Sticky Story is one that has the elements of surprise, emotion, and it has something credible and something concrete.  Give your audience a sticky story, one they can remember and repeat.  One that will allow your donors to pitch to people for you and expand your data base.  

6. Stay in Touch with Donors

Set up a community with your crowdfunding audience after the crowdfunding. It’s very important for you to keep them engaged and attached like family to you and the film.  You’ve probably just raised money for a part of your film, maybe just pre-production or part of post-production, so you want to keep them close by to raise more money.

One woman I was mentoring said that she was writing her Kickstarter group to give them an update.   She said “I don’t know what to say because I am behind on my production schedule. I told them I would be much further along at this date.”

I said why not tell them the truth? Quote Orson Welles by saying “I spend 95% of my time raising money and 5% making the film.“ She did just that and someone called and ask her how much money she needed.  She told him, $120,000 and he sent her a check!

You never know how much money is available to you from this group of new people that you get through Kickstarter. Taking good care of them is paramount to future donations.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Plan of Attack: Starting to Raise Money for Your Film

by Carole Dean

Ok, you’ve got a great idea for a film.  You’ve created a fantastic proposal and you’ve perfected your pitch.  You’re next move should be to create a captivating trailer.

Now, you need a plan of attack because now you need to start raising money.

Your Mission to Get a Great Trailer Needs a Plan of Attack to Get Funding

As I mention in my book, The Art of Film Funding, 2nd edition: Alternative Financing Concepts, there are so many things to do when you start to make a film.  You need to know the order of your priorities because they come at you from every direction.  When you just work with these immediate items you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

You must have a fantastic trailer to make money.  So, how much is that going to cost you?  For a doc your budget should be around $10,000 and for a feature about $20,000.  This must be your first and foremost goal, especially for a documentary, after you get your proposal and pitch to a brilliant level.

Alright, Now How Do I Get The Money?

Fiscal sponsorship is a great foundation to build your fundraising.  I know because my non-profit, From the Heart Productions , specializes in fiscal sponsorship for filmmakers.  We’ve helped them raise millions for their films.

Under fiscal sponsorship, you will align your project with a non-profit that will give your donors a tax deduction for the money they donate to your film.  That means more and perhaps larger donations.

When filmmakers apply to From the Heart Productions for fiscal sponsorship, they’ve got a choice on how to get paid.   We tell them that if their checks are to be made to them personally we must issue a 1099 at the end of the year for miscellaneous income. Or, they can get an LLC.

The LLC filing at www.ehow.com is inexpensive.  You can get one online under $300.00.  You can also get a DBA (Doing Business As) from the city you live in.  It’s even less money. Both of these take about 4 to 6 weeks to complete.

You Mentioned Something About a Plan? Right?

1. Start by getting your bank account.  Where’s the money to open the account? Try your mother or grandmother and tell them you need this to become an entrepreneur.

2. Now, you’ve got a film bank account and/or an LLC or your DBA, so you are a real company.  Find a fiscal sponsor that you like, that supports filmmakers, will give you help, and be available to answer any questions you may have.

Did I mention that From the Heart is a great fiscal sponsor for filmmakers?  Ok, maybe I’m prejudiced.  But, it does fit perfectly the necessary criteria I just listed because From the Heart Productions was created specifically to help filmmakers get funded.  We’ve done a really good job of that too for the last 11 years.

We are constantly putting information on our web site to help you raise money. We also review your proposal and your trailer and tell you the honest truth about your chance for success and we give ideas to improve what you have.

You really need this. You are out there in a vacuum and you need people who see hundreds of proposals and know what grantors want. This is where a thick skin is required.

I know from talking to hundreds of sensitive artists that we’ve fiscally sponsored or who’ve applied for our Roy W. Dean Film Grant that when you start telling them that their favorite scene in the trailer doesn’t work; most of them just grin and bear it. They don’t have to take my advice, but many do.

In fact many people just apply for the grant to find out what we think of their materials. That’s a very good thing to do. I recommend you apply for lots of grants and get feedback, that’s how you learn to improve your work.

When looking for a fiscal sponsor, say to yourself, “What’s in it for me?” Make sure you feel you are getting something for your 5 to 7% fee.

3. Time to start building an audience and network of potential donors.  Facebook is a must to fund your film. Create a fan page for your film.  Use their landing page to advertise your film and collect fans.  Start a dialogue.  Try out artwork, ads, and even ask for advice.

Use Google to search for organizations, website, bloggers, and forums on your subject matter.  Post on these forums and reach out to the bloggers.  Get information out about your project and send people to your Facebook page and web site. Try to get as many people that are interested in your subject to join your page.

Read my blog, Mining Your Audience for Gold as another way to discover who your audience really is.

4. Create a budget for the trailer. See the chapter on film budgets by award winner Norman Berns that I’ve reprinted on our website.  Check out Norman’s site www.reelgrok.com and Maureen Ryan’s www.producertoproducer.com site for sample budgets for features and documentaries.  Stay focused to get that brilliant money-making trailer made.

5. Set up your email names on an email marketing site.  You want to stay in touch with your donors every other month by always giving them the latest and greatest news on your film.  I use www.constantcontact.com.  They are very helpful. (work with a fiscal sponsor that already uses Constant Contact and you’ll get a discount).

Don’t think its way above your level to create a fantastic newsletter, it’s actually easy.

6. Decide how best to use your time. Morrie Warshawski, author of “Shaking the Money Tree” draws a circle and says you usually get 60% of your money for docs from people. So, how much time do you want to put into people?

If you decide to put 50%, then cut the pie in half and write PEOPLE. Next how much time to you want to spend on grants? Is your film a good fit for a lot of grants? If so, put 20% GRANTS. How about Corporate donations? What amount of time do you want to give that? Put it on the chart.

Letter writing is a brilliant way to get money.  Funding parties can bring you people to support your film and money. Chart it out and tell yourself what you will do with your time. If you are making a feature then you know it’s 100% from people.  I don’t always recommend a trailer for features for many reasons.

7. “What’s in it for me?” Crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo have shown us how much people will give if they get something back. We always knew it was all about, “what’s in it for me” and they are using that gift to the donors to raise tons of money.  So, think about what you can give back to your donors and put it on your web site and your Facebook page.

Example; an Indian man I know was making a film called Bollywood to Hollywood.  In our brainstorming session, he revealed that his mother and brother are excellent cooks. So we set up a price for him to come to your house and cook an authentic Indian dinner for 6 people.  Use the idea of your film as much as possible and create gifts around it to make people want to gi ve you the larger checks.

8. Now you need to collect some sponsors and partners for your film. This means you look for nonprofits that are supporting your same issue. Kitty Farmer was making a film on the healthcare, or lack of, that the US Government promised the American Indians. She calls it her circle of partners. She focused on this for several weeks and each day got on the phone and pitched her film to like-minded organizations and she came up with 20 organizations who want to support her film.

How does this help you? Well, if each organization has 2000 members or more multiply that by 20 and now you have a large data base of people who care about your issue following you. Your job is to keep them informed with your newsletter or email blasts of the status of the film while you are making it.  Your real support will come when they can see some of the content of the film and fully support you.   Always list these names on your grant applications and on your web site as strategic partners.

Finding these people is easy. Start with some of these nonprofit web sites like www.guidestar.org and www.councilofnonprofits.org for the subject matter of your film. Each organization has instructions on site to help you. Then, get on the phone and pitch that brilliant money making pitch you created.

You want them to know you are making this film and usually the first contact is to introduce yourself and tell them about your film.

Remember, they don’t know you from Adam and this is your first contact.  They don’t need you, you need them.  At this point only ask if you can keep them informed about your film as you make it.  Once you have a trailer to show them then send that and keep your contact going until they learn more about you and trust you.  Then they will put you on their web site and mention you in the newsletters, etc

9. Now you need the money to make the trailer. Your platform is set, you have a bank account, a pitch and proposal, sponsors, web site, Facebook page, perhaps a blog and you have people connected to you and your film. That’s perfect.

Review your time table telling you how much time you want to put into each area of fund raising. You may want to focus on the PEOPLE section first. Decide if you want to call people to donate to a yard sale, create a funding party or a dinner funding party or do a letter campaign.   Make plans, set dates for these events and start your first funding adventure.

10. You may want to listen to my online information on Manifesting and creating your future at www.fromtheheartproductions.com it’s very important at this phase to be able to receive. You want to be sure that you are functioning at the highest level possible and as Dr. Chopra would say that you must know there are “infinite possibilities” waiting for you.

11. Before you shoot anything for your trailer, I recommend you have a consultation with a trailer editor and find out just what he/she advises you to do to get what you need before you go out to shoot. Read Bill Woolery’s information on preparing to shoot. www.billwoolery.com to see some great doc trailers.

12. When you shoot your trailer you will have an outline of just what you want before you shoot. After your trailer editor is finished, add this trailer to your web site and post daily about producing the trailer in your blog.

Consider creating a 90 second trailer for sponsors to put on their web site to send people to your site. Now you are really networking.  Remember the people reading your web site and blog don’t know that filmmaking is 90% hard work and 10% filmmaking. So dazzle them with production information so they keep coming back to your site or Facebook  page. Then tell them where you are now in the funding process and make another “ask” as you need more money.

13. Look for development money from places like www.sundance.org or http://www.thefledglingfund.org or  www.chickeneggpics.org and go to the back of the book for a list of funding organizations.

14. Celebrate you have just reached your first milestone. The rest can be a piece of cake.

Remember, it’s the journey not the destination. Enjoy every moment.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Don’t Myth Up Your Crowdfunding Campaign

Let Go of These 5 Myths to Raise Money for Your Film

by Carole Dean

The reward for crowdfunding your film comes not just in money, but knowing that others support you and your work. 

At From the Heart Productions, Carole Joyce and I work with filmmakers to help them create their own unique crowdfunding campaign.  We provide lots of crowdfunding resources to engineer a successful campaign as well as fiscal sponsorship that allows tax free donations.

But, the campaigns we help only succeed when we’re able to get filmmakers to let go of these crowdfunding myths:

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

Myth 1 – You build it and they will come. 

Nonsense.  No matter how fantastic a campaign page you create, how important the cause, or how great the concept, you need to bring your crowd to the crowdfunding campaign.  You will probably get 98% of your funds from you own email list.  Not from Facebook, Twitter, or any of your social networks.  Just from people you know. 

Getting your crowd to send your emails to their friends is paramount to success.  Focus on how to ask ahead of time for this favor and find ways to reward people for sending your emails to their lists.  

Myth 2 – My film’s budget is $85,000 so that is where I need to set my campaign goal. 

Your film’s budget has nothing to do with where you should set your campaign goal. Raising money is not easy so why set your goal for an amount you will have trouble getting.  Break it up into achievable segments.

How to know what you can raise?   Use the number of names in your data base and multiply by 5% for the number of donations you will get.  Example: Let’s say you’ve got 1,000 names.  1,000 x 5% = 50.  So, you can expect 50 people will give you money.

At From the Heart, we have an average of $100 per donation.  That means for 50 donors you can raise $5,000.00 (per those 1,000 names).  

Don’t plan on getting much from your name on your social networks.  Only about 2% of your social media contacts who will donate.  Still, you want to be on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to bring attention to the project

The money is in your close friends, family and your data base.  Focus on your data base where you can send emails every 5 days.  These are your prime donors.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

You may have a 45 day campaign, but it’s critical to hit 30% in first 72 hours.  If you hit that, your campaign has an 80% chance of succeeding.   

What amount can you raise in 3 days?  $3,000.00?  You may want to work backwards and use this calculation to set your ultimate goal.  If you think you can raise $3,000 in first 3 days, then you ask for $9,000 and you can probably hit it.

Lots of work?  Yes, but the payoff is more in marketing than you would ever imagine.

Myth 4 – If I don’t hit goal, I still get money so that’s ok, right?

Hitting your goal is essential.  The record of how your campaign performed and how it was accepted by others will be out there forever.  While not necessarily an accurate judgement on how successful your project will ultimately be, it will be seen by some that way.

Distributors want to know you understand social networking.  They think crowdfunding is an example of how good you are at marketing so they judge you by your success.  Be prepared for this.

Myth 5 – T-Shirts make great perks.

I like gifts that are personal and I like you to be part of the gift.  Send me something personal.  One filmmaker crowdfunding wrote a poem for those who donated to his campaign and he was very successful.

Make your gift something that sets your project apart and makes other take notice.  One crowdfunder asked his potential donors, “Where is your dream vacation?”  Then, he took a picture of you and put you in that location.  He did very well because people posted these items on Facebook.  That got him new leads who eventually donated because of the extraordinary gifts.

Need a Consultation?

Tailoring your campaign to your film is essential.  We can do that in a consultation.  If you are fiscally sponsored by us, you have a free campaign consultation.  

If not, arrange a consultation with me.  I will read all of the materials of your film.  Then, we spend 40 minutes discussing your campaign with you.

Whatever you do on your campaign, let go of the myths and you will be much more successful.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers.   She is also the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing ConceptsHer Intentional Filmmaking Class teaches filmmakers on how to get their films funded.  

From the Heart Partners with Seed&Spark

Expanded Crowdfunding Opportunities for Fiscally Sponsored Filmmakers Through New Partnership

Oxnard, CA From the Heart Productions, a 5.01(c)3 non-profit which has helped filmmakers raise millions of dollars for their projects through their fiscal sponsorship program and in partnership with Indiegogo, is now partnering with crowdfunding platform Seed&Spark to give filmmakers another great option where they can crowdfund and benefit from being fiscally sponsored by From the Heart.

Seed&Spark Logo 2

“We had many of our filmmakers inquire about crowdfunding with Seed&Spark which focuses exclusively on helping filmmakers raise money.” said Carole Dean, president and founder of From the Heart Productions.  “Since we share the same focus at From the Heart, this partnership is an excellent match.”

By being fiscally sponsored by From the Heart, a filmmaker is able to use their non-profit status for their project.  This gives donors a tax deduction for donations which is a powerful incentive for them to contribute to the project.  Working with From the Heart as a fiscal sponsor and crowdfunding with Seed&Spark, affords filmmakers many other advantages to help get their films made:

  • Guidance and planning in creating a crowdfunding campaign from both From the Heart and Seed&Spark.
  • In addition to financial contributions, a project’s supporters can also loan or gift the items a filmmaker has listed on their Seed&Spark WishList.
  • Discounts on marketing services, production insurance, hard drives and more from From the Heart fiscal sponsorship program donors.

Seed&Spark has added From the Heart Productions to their partner page. From the Heart has two projects already working with Seed & Spark.  Once they have three projects that are raising or have raised funds with them, Seed & Spark will create a curated crowdfunding page for From the Heart.

Fees are a flat 3% credit card fee and Seed&Spark’s fee is 5%- however supporters are automatically offered the opportunity to cover Seed&Spark’s fee at checkout and the majority of people keep that box checked which means platform fees are usually less than 2%.  From the Heart’s fee is 3%.  Filmmakers get funded when they reach 80% of their goal and get paid after the end of the campaign.

For more information on working with From the Heart, please email

About From the Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects made.  Besides working with filmmakers to crowdfund and raise money for their projects, From the Heart also offers a film grant 3 times each year.  For over 23 years, the Roy W. Dean Film Grant has given away to filmmakers $2,000,000 in a combination of cash and donated services.  The grant is awarded to films that are unique and make a contribution to society.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of “The Art of Film Funding” which is now in its second edition.