Unlocking Your Crowdfunding Campaign's True Purpose

Guest blog: We as filmmakers must strive to create something more experiential than another movie campaign

Everywhere you turn, it's as though everyone, and I mean everyone — from indie film pioneers to Hollywood's household names — is raising funds online for a new film or video project.

A mere three years ago, crowdfunding was in its infancy and just learning how to walk. Now, it's on its feet, running and moving faster month after month affording artists, entrepreneurs and conscientious individuals and institutions the ability to more easily fund the things that matter most to them.

More easily, but by no means easy, of course.

Because of crowdfunding's rapid growth and popularity, it's no longer sufficient to simply run another crowdfunding campaign that seeks to presell a finished film. Transactions are particles of the past reassembling to form the relationships of the future.

We as filmmakers must strive to create something more experiential than another movie campaign; we must become more than just another content creator hoping to get his or her passion project off the ground through crowdfunding, and more and more of us are pulling a page from the book of transmedia and crafting campaign experiences to further engage their audience in creative ways.

In my book "Crowdfunding for Filmmakers," I write in detail about the “three Ps” of crowdfunding — Pitch, Perks and Promotion. But there's a fourth one that's most important of all, which enhances any campaign, and that's Personalization.

The pitch serves as the opening act of your crowdfunding campaign, and you probably have at most three minutes to affect the audience and convince them that your project is worth their hard-earned $5 or $50. But more than impact, you need to connect your project to your audience.

Everybody's got a project; so instead of selling us on your film, encourage us to support you, the filmmaker. Therefore, I suggest you …

Pitch the Person, not the project: Make a brief introduction to who you are as a person before you start talking about your film project. One thing to keep in mind is this: People give to people, not to projects. It's also important that you never ask for money, but rather invite your potential funders to join you on the journey of making a great film.

Treat those who fund your project the same way you would investors who are seeking a return on their investment. The $1 funder deserves the same praise as the $1,000 ones. That's how you'll get more of each.

That, and offering exciting perks, or rewards. It's not enough anymore to offer a digital download, signed posters and scripts, and T-shirts. We need to get creative with our perks and give to your funders something they wouldn't be able to get any other way except by contributing to your crowdfunding campaign. So be sure to …

Perk up your funders: I frequently suggest creating a $5 or $10 perk that's a digital, one-of-a-kind poster personalized for each and every funder. It could read something like “Thank you, John Trigonis, for fearing the Cure.” Or it could be a meme, each with a different saying and picture.

Once out of Photoshop, you can post it directly onto each individual funder's walls. What'll happen? You'll definitely get a “Like,” you might even get a comment, and if it's a cool-enough a perk, you may even get them to make it their profile picture for a day or a week. All of their friends will see this and want one for themselves, and how convenient is it that you've included your Indiegogo link on their friend's wonderfully personalized perk that shows support for your film?

A simple, yet just as effective example of this can be found in the current Indiegogo campaign for "Hybrid Vigor," in which an artsy poster of this horror film by a local Latvian artist is offered at a contribution of $100.

Where would any crowdfunding campaign be without social media? Let's face it — without it, crowdfunding probably wouldn't even exist in its present state. But there's a difference between promotion and spam-motion. The days of going viral are over; today, it's all about …

Going social: Crowdfunding means community engagement; if you're in it with the sole intention of raising money, then you're doing something wrong. You should want to show your potential funders you're in this for the right reason, and that reason is to connect with your audience, fellow filmmakers, and future fan base.

That said, keep everything you do transparent and out in the open so the public can actively interact with you and engage with your campaign. Ask them questions on your film's Facebook page. Invite answers in an AMA on Reddit. Tweet useful links and advice on Twitter in between promoting your Indiegogo campaign.

This can have a considerable effect on how the audience perceives you and your crowdfunding efforts. If your Tweets are worded in such a way that they stand out the way Achilles’ ship does from the hundreds of other Greek ships sailing across the Aegean in "Troy," then you just might attract influencers who will then craft their own creative messages for particularly socially active campaigns, the way I do.

Aside from reaching out to all the potential funders out there, it's equally as important to …

Always remember the folks who've funded you. They are the most important people, and they should be treated as such as frequently as possible. Offer them some additional incentives to get them supporting your campaign even more than they already have.

I frequently recommend Indiegogo campaigners to run a referral competition midway through their campaigns. Since Indiegogo bases everything on merit, we don't allow contests or raffles, but you can always offer a special perk to the funder who racks up the most referrals or, even better, he or she who brings in the most money from those referrals.

Again, the end result shouldn't be measured by the amount of money these referrals bring in but by how many of your current funders have been reinvigorated enough to step up to the plate for you and your film campaign.

And perhaps the ultimate culmination of creative participation throughout your film community can be achieved by allowing your community to …

Create their own perks. This recently shook the film community as a “Name Your Perk” Party hosted by talented folks behind Indiegogo's most funded film campaign to date — Shemar Moore's "The Bounce Back." For a limited time, and as a video chat that anyone could participate in, Shemar and his team opened the floor to their funders, followers, and film lovers and invited suggestions and price points for perks that the crowd wanted. This shot "The Bounce Back" far beyond its goal of $500,000.

Now, will all of these methods of creative participation necessarily convert Facebook “Likes” and retweets into dollars and cents? No. But it's like I mentioned earlier — if you're crowdfunding to try and raise money, you're doing it wrong. Seek first to raise your community's interest and active participation in your project through engagement in a crowdfunding experience, and the funding will more naturally follow.

  • Prince Adams

    Great article, John,

    All the best with your ebook, I've already added a link to your ebook at (http://fundmefundyou.com/tools-for-crowd-funding) on my new crowdfunding site
    FundMeFundyou.com. We are offering free to half price crowdfunding for a
    few well put together project to showcase for our upcoming launch.

    There is no such thing as overnight success. As you stated, to have a good chance for success via crowdfunding you need to first cover the basic, the ‘three Ps’ of Crowdfunding — a great Pitch, relevant, yet uniquely awesome Perks, targeted ongoing Promotion to attract the right backers… and yes these things are an absolute must for all crowdfunding campaigns–the ordinary and exceptional
    ones. But what truly set apart the ordinary from the ones that succeed is the
    extra effort… extra effort in all aspect, and especially to personalize the
    project.

    As you stated “People give to people, not to projects.”

    -Prince Adams,

    Founder of FundMefundYou.com