This past Saturday, I had the awesome privilege of speaking on a panel called How to Fund Your Project on IndieGoGo at the Apple Store in SoHo which was all about sharing thoughts and insights on successful crowdfunding. In case you missed the event, here’s a recap of some of the things I mentioned at the panel, which was part of Internet Week NY, based on questions asked by panel moderator and IndieGoGo co-founder Danae Ringelmann.
Why IndieGoGo? This question frequently comes up. Here are the two most important reasons why I recommend crowdfunding with IndieGoGo over any other site. First, there’s no strict “all-or-nothing” deadline. So, if I want to raise $10K but end up raising only $6K, I still get the $6K, which means I’ll still be able to make a great film.
Second, during the campaign, I was able to not only reach out to IndieGoGo (via email, Facebook, and Twitter) when I had a question or comment or if I just wanted some advice, but also Slava Rubin and Danae as well. There are two faces to the frontispiece, and it’s great to know they are sending tweets and updating their statuses alongside IndieGoGo proper. I found this both helpful and human.
A third reason to do it with IndieGoGo is its recent addition of a unique kind of deadline, the “All-or-More” deadline. If you raise all your funds before your deadline, IndieGoGo gives you a 5% cash bonus; if you don’t make it by your deadline, you don’t get the 5% from IndieGoGo, but you still continue fundraising and collect what you earn. This is a wonderful incentive!
A Personal Touch The theme of the panel discussion quickly became clear: Make sure your IndieGoGo campaign is as personal as it can be. I went into detail on some of Cerise’s more unique, personalized perks (like crafting a poem for each and every backer, for instance) and stressed the idea that crowdfunding is not a one-way street. Sure, you want to make your movie, but what do your backers want (besides the promise of good content?)
I posed an admittedly awkward metaphor about how I didn’t just give Cerise’s backers mass-manufactured McDonald’s fries, but 100% real potatoes (the silence that followed this metaphor was suffocating!) I explained that my team and I made sure we showed our backers some genuine attention, and they showed us some in return, most memorably in the form of the “I supported Cerise” collage.
Crowdfunding’s a Full-Time Job If you’re trying to rewrite your script, edit a DVD, draw up some storyboards, or produce the film while you’re crowdfunding––and you don’t have a kick-ass marketing sidekick like…oh, say Marinell Montales––you probably won’t get all your funds in by your deadline or at all. If normally I’d spend five hours tweeting and updating my FB status, during Cerise’s crowdfunding campaign I must have been online between 15–18 hours a day.
One of the tactics I used that took up a fair amount of time but proved successful both fiscally and personally was what I’ve termed “FB Friend Fawning.” Basically, I’d post a personal message to each of my FB friends’ walls (back then I had 300-something friends) when I saw their chat window had the green. I’d start with a quick “What’s up, Jack?” followed by something personal usually based on one of their status updates, and then hit ‘em up with the pitch. Simple, but time-consuming.
Early on I found out that mass messaging doesn’t initiate action; you can simply delete those. But if it’s posted on a person’s wall, you’re now initiating a dialog with that person, and that action will naturally have a reaction, either in the form of a contribution or at the very least, a response.
By committing to this tactic, I received a chunk of our contributions. But I also found myself genuinely enjoying being in touch with some FB friends I added simply because they had sent me a request. It’s very humbling, and now I’ve almost 600 friends with whom I more actively engage on a much more regular basis than I had done before.
No Passion = No Profit This I promise. Me? I just can’t hide the fact that I love Cerise! It’s the best script I’ve written to date, and it’s gradually turning into the best short film I’ve shot thus far. And yes, the exclamation point is my best friend at times like these, and I’m not afraid to use them because I mean every single one of ‘em!
That said, you’ve gotta show your passion. Most importantly, though, you can’t be afraid to be yourself.
The Three Ps of Your Pitch Video A great pitch video needs three things, which I’ve labeled as the Three Ps: Personal Introduction, Perk Descriptions, and Prior Work.
A personal introduction orients your potential backers as to who you are, why your raising these funds, and what you plan to do with them. Perk descriptions should be an integral part of your pitch video. Yes, they’re listed nice and neatly in the green bar on your IndieGoGo page, but people will not read everything in that green bar if it’s too long. So say it in your pitch. And if you can show it like I did in Cerise’s pitch, even better. Prior work should conclude your pitch video, like trailer clips to show people that you know your way around a camera, ’cause let’s face it, unless you’re Martin Scorsese or are related to Ivan Reitman, you need to build up your credibility for your potential backers so they won’t remain potential.
Most importantly, you need to appear in your pitch video. Think about it: You’re asking random strangers for money. You owe it to them to ask them to their faces. In this way, you can also showcase not only the three Ps, but the fourth one (which should go without saying): Passion!
What I’d Have Done Differently Upped my goal slightly. Being that I was a newbie to the whole crowdfunding phenomenon, I wasn’t sure if it would really work. During the first week of fund-raising, my team and I raised a sweet chunk of money. Then there was a three-day dark age where no contributions came in. I hit the panic button! I started coming up with ideas for physical events (who knows where I was gonna get the money for them!) Then, just as I was ready to start selling off the rest of my comic book collection on Craigslist, BAM! A slew of high-roller contributions came in. That’s when I kicked into crowdfunding full-time for two months.
The Bottom Line Crowdfunding is partly about you, mostly about your film, but all about your backers. Show them your project and your passion and they will help make it happen. And keep them engaged even after the credit cards have cleared and the perks have all been mailed away.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert at this. There are no experts, only experimenters. Everything my team and I did to raise funds for Cerise was done with a simple premise: Treat others how you would want to be treated. Once you do that, you’re on the road to a successful IndieGoGo campaign.