By Erikka Yancy / Documentary Producer / @yanseepants


Over the last thirty or more days I’ve had several talented filmmaker friends venture into the big scary world of crowdfunding, using a variety of platforms. There’s the “Kleenex” of platforms, Kickstarter. Then there’s its gentler, more forgiving cousin, Indiegogo. Others, like USA Artists, are even curated. 

While they all seem different, they’re all very much the same in one very basic way: the success stories they generate make it seem as easy as rolling out of bed in the morning, but the reality is that crowdfunding is fundraising and fundraising ain’t easy.

Sheri Candler, online marketing strategist extraordinaire, lists these five ways to have a sure-fire crowdfunding fail on your hands:

  • You do not already a have a support network online.
  • Your goal is unrealistic.
  • You don’t know who your audience is.
  • Your campaign length is too long
  • Your perks are unimaginative or not meaningful.

But guess what? Film Independent has written numerous blog posts to help you with crowdfunding.  So you don’t have to waste time digging through the archives, I did your homework for you because I care about you and your fundraising success! Take a look at some of these highlights from previous crowdfunding pieces and think twice before you jump into your next fundraising campaign.


Formula for Success
The most common Kickstarter pledge is $25. The average pledge amount is $71. For successful Kickstarter projects, the average fundraising goal is $4,500. Using these numbers, here is a basic formula that can help guide you:

86 (potential # of backers)  x 71 (avg. pledge amount) = $6,106 (goal)

If your resulting total is much lower than what you need, you may want to think about what forms of communication would be most advantageous, as well as reconsider the scope of what you’re trying to raise.

Email vs. Facebook
According to Laura, “Whenever we sent direct emails to fund-raise, there was a huge spike in donations. Facebook blasts… not so much. I think that people who rely on Facebook completely often fail. Almost 70% of people who backed our project were from email. I can’t stress emailing people directly and making a personal connection enough.” Also, people need to be reminded. Some want to donate but just forget, so don’t be shy about following up. (read the full post here)


Have a strategy.
Ok, this one seems obvious, but all the really successful crowdfunding campaigns had a very detailed strategy that took at least a month to plan out. What is your fundraising goal, what will be your rewards structure, who will you target first? Second? Third? How will you keep your donors engaged throughout the campaign? What is your website going to look like (Yes, you definitely need to make a separate website for your film). If you can plan it out and execute it smartly, you’re much more likely to reach your crowdfunding goal.

Doing a documentary about Tibetan Monks but your online community is mainly made up of classic rock enthusiasts? You may want to rethink your plan.

Who is your audience?
This is, of course, part of your strategy, but it’s a huge one. Nick Lewis had a fairly easy time of identifying his audience – soccer fans! The producers of the film needed over $215,000 for their film (for licensing, rights, etc) and they raised around $223,000! You’d be right if you said a lot of their donors were European soccer fans.

Be smart about who your audience is and market to them. Marketing is part of the whole strategy-thing, after all. (read the full post here)


Thing 4: Think Rewards, Think Updates
Kickstarter is pretty great in encouraging the project creators to come up with ‘rewards’ for their donors. I think there’s a valuable lesson for all indie filmmakers/creators/entrepreneurs in that: don’t expect people to part with their money for just a ‘thank you.’ We spent a lot of time thinking about the rewards we could give, and looked to other projects for inspiration.  There are always obvious things like the DVD (a digital download in our case) and poster of the movie.

It’s a lot harder to come up with things that you can create that are worth $1,000. We figured people who were going to donate at that level are more than likely going to be friends and family, and so those rewards are definitely catered towards them – having our cast and crew write and record a song about you, a screening party. (read the full post here)

Remember, just because it’s on the internet does not mean it will be fast or easy! Crowdfunding is just like any fundraising. It will take time, energy and planning. But hopefully in the end you’ll come away with enough funds for your project!

Good luck!


April 24th, 2012 • 3 Comments


  1. May 16, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Recently heard a speaker from Fractured Atlas speak about this. She mentioned that the average may be $71 but in actuality the average is lower. Tends to be in $20/$25 range. Typically there are a couple large donators and that skews the average. People may want to figure average donations closer to $25. Cheers.

  2. July 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    THANK YOU for putting this together. I have been working on an IndieGogo campaign for myself, hoping to get my little business off the ground. Having these tips (and pitfalls) will definitely come in handy.

  3. April 30, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    tons of helpful info. Thanks so much. I’m excited to take on crowdfunding later down the line for our movie. and the website is already up : ) Check it out: janeymakesaplay(dot)com

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