7 THINGS WE DID TO ENSURE A SUCCESFUL CROWD-FUNDING EXPERIENCE PART III
December 2, the Mulligan team launched a project on Kickstarter to raise $10,000 for post-production costs (color-correction, sound, and festival submissions chiefly). 10 days later, they reached that goal, and the project will be funded on December 31.
Meanwhile, donations are still coming in to the Mulligan Kickstarter page. True, Kickstarter is all-or-nothing and if you don’t raise your goal amount you don’t receive any funding. However, there is no cap on how much you can raise and projects can continue to accept pledges until time runs out. According to Kickstarter, 94% of successful projects raise more than their funding goal.
Thing 5: Nag, and Help
The toughest thing about crowdfunding is, well, the funding part. You have to be direct, and you have to be persistent. It’s best to give people a heads-up that you’ll be launching, just so that they see it coming down the pipe. We were emailing folks weeks if not months before the Mulligan page launched – partly because we thought we were going to launch a lot sooner, and partly because we wanted to prepare people for it, “build buzz” if you will.
We changed our email signatures from silly Lao Tzu quotes to a poster or still from the movie and a “Coming Soon… the Mulligan Kickstarter!” Once it launches, you’ll want to change that so it includes a link to the Kickstarter page and a politely phrased “Please give to this.”
Will and Graham have been working on a web series called Reception for the past year, and they have a list they email once a week when a new episode goes live. These people knew well in advance about the Mulligan Kickstarter project, and got reminders once a week when they got their Reception email. You’re probably already on a few mailing lists, and if you actively participate in communities – be they online or the brick-and-mortar kind – you should ask them to promote your campaign.
Phrasing’s important here – you should be asking people to give what they can, and obviously it’s good to have a $1-10 donation level. There’s a bit of a recession going on these days.
Don’t be afraid to nag, either. If I’ve emailed people once and don’t see their name on the ‘Backers’ list, I’ll email again within a week. If they still haven’t, and I don’t think that they secretly hate me, I call. Calling can be more personal or more annoying, depending on how you look at it. But there’s always the chance you’ll catch them as they’re about to sit at their computer, and you can actually sit there and listen to them donate over the phone. It can be very awkward if it turns out they do secretly hate you, and you only realize that when they fake donating over the phone and you don’t see it pop up on the ‘Backers’ page.
Another big thing to keep in mind is that although Kickstarter is incredibly well laid out and easy to use, you’re still going to have people who are confused or concerned about donating. I spent several hours on a Saturday talking an elderly friend through the donation process.
Kickstarter uses Amazon, which is genius because almost everyone has used it at some point. In this case, the person had forgotten their Amazon password and needed to update their account info, etc. Be available, and be helpful. Having worked at a non-profit arts organization, I can tell you there are a lot of donors out there who are prepared to open their checkbooks but don’t know how the internet works – not very well, anyway.
If you do wind up with a donor who is frustrated by the Kickstarter process, come up with an alternative solution that works for everyone. In one case, we had a relative write a check to his internet-savvy son, who made a donation to the Kickstarter page with his Amazon account. It’s important – especially when you’re struggling to reach that funding goal amount – to make sure Kickstarter receives the pledge. It’s all-or-nothing, so checks do you no good if you don’t reach the amount you set before the deadline.
Thing 6: Use Facebook, Twitter. Communicate.
This is going to be pretty hypocritical, because I’m not on Facebook or Twitter. Fun side note: this drives Will crazy.
Despite my personal issues concerning Facebook and social media in general, they have demonstrable results. Will was able to reach out to people through it, and there was a certain ‘viralness’ to the whole thing. And if you happen to have a lot of friends who can’t afford to give money, asking for a ‘Like’ on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter is a nice compromise. Maybe they have friends or followers who discover the project and do donate – that definitely happened to us several times. Mulligan’s Kickstarter page currently has over 240 Likes, almost twice as many as the pledges we received.
Kickstarter recently made some incredible improvements to their ‘Dashboard’ section – what you as a project creator can see about the details of your project and its backers. It has a great tracking system that lets you know where donors came from, and what portion of your overall donation pool they make up. We’ve had 26 pledges (out of 120 total) come from Facebook so far, and 1 from Twitter. We’ve also had 20 find us just by browsing on Kickstarter and looking at other projects. Which is yet another way in which Kickstarter is awesome.
Nowadays, every movie has a Facebook page in addition to a website, and most are gravitating towards using their Facebook page as their hub for news, updates and media for the movie. So bringing people to a Facebook page early on means they’ll be with you down the road, and can receive updates on your progress (remember to update!) and feel connected to you. I don’t know how frequently people ‘Un-Friend/Un-Like’ things, but my guess is once you start collecting Friends on Facebook, that number will only grow.
Whenever a new donation came in, we made sure that the three of us all received the email. Then we’d ask each other, “Who is this?” If it was a friend or family member, we made sure the appropriate one of us wrote them back ASAP. If it we didn’t recognize the name, Will would send them a message via Kickstarter saying “Thanks! How did you hear about the project?” We made connections with strangers and learned a lot about what or who drew them to the project, and made sure they felt appreciated.
Thing 7: Have Fun, Stay Positive.
I’ve heard that for many filmmakers, Kickstarter is an unpleasant experience. They spend all their time worrying about whether they’re going to make their money and then when it’s not going well, they panic and start to badger people on Facebook. We had quite a few panic moments – most of them occurred before the project launched because we spent so much time thinking and strategizing.
First off, make sure you set a realistic fundraising goal. We spent a lot of time thinking about how much money we needed for specific things, and whether our goal was realistic. Seriously, I have about 20 email conversations on this topic alone between the 3 of us. Remember that you want to focus on reaching that first 30% as quickly as possible. There will be a plateau afterwards, but that’s when instead of panicking you get creative.
More importantly though, is to stay positive and be inviting. Folks are more likely to jive with your project if they sense that amidst all the work and craziness, you’re enjoying that transcendent overworked joy from being neck-deep in this thing you love. I realize it’s easy to act fun and easygoing when your project’s a comedy, and that it might be a bit trickier if it’s a doc about, say, a wrongly accused death-row inmate. But your enthusiasm for your project should be infectious. It’s a key part of being a filmmaker, getting people sucked into your vision and your dream.
We also approached Kickstarter as being as much about PR as it is about money. If you spend ALL your time worried about not making your money, I think that defeats (at least half) the purpose of Kickstarter. Yes, money is obviously very, very important. But so is getting the word out. And Kickstarter is great at that.
We were lucky in that we were doing this for a movie that had already been funded and made, and so not only did we have great footage to show potential donors, but we could show those who had already invested in the movie, and some of them came back and donated on top of their investment. And so you should recognize those people who have helped you with your project long before you decided to go on Kickstarter. If you were good to them (of course you were!), they’re going to be your champions, your core, your proselytizers. And if you’re starting from zero, Kickstarter is an amazing way to find those people.
—by David Mandel for Film Independent
David Mandel is the co-producer of Mulligan, a low-budget feature comedy directed by Will Slocombe and produced by Graham Ballou. The film was shot in Chicago in the summer of 2010, and follows the story of two former best friends who reunite to find $500,000 of stolen cash buried on a golf course in Wisconsin.
January 11th, 2012 • No Comments