How to Create Your Crowdfunding Campaign

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If you’ve read my article 5 reasons you’re not ready to crowdfund and you’ve come to the point in the process where you’ve done all the stuff I said and stopped hating me, then you are finally ready to make your campaign. Congratulations! It just gets harder from here.

Now of course you don’t have to follow all this advice. You’ll find examples of people doing the opposite and being successful. There is no magic formula for any of this. However following these recommendations will make it much more likely that you’ll be successful, and running a campaign is so hard that you might as well do it right so you get the money at the end.

So here are some things to consider.

1. What platform are you going to use? There are pros and cons for all of them. I have a strong pro Kickstarter bias but it really comes down to what kind of campaign you want to run.

If you are willing to dedicate considerable time and effort to your campaign and spend your social capitol then choose Kickstarter. It has a wider base, is more known and I personally prefer it’s all or nothing model because it helps to build momentum and instill a sense of urgency in your backers.

If you are simply looking for a way to take in a more passive money stream or you are not willing to spend your social capitol or you think you might not make your goal then choose Indiegogo. If you are raising money for a series of things such as individual episodes of a web series or something that has multiple stretch goals, then the flexible nature of Indiegogo might fit your project better.

There are also smaller platforms like Seed and Spark, Go Fund Me, Rocket Hub etc.

2. Consider your goal carefully. You need enough money to make your thing. You need enough money to make and deliver your incentives. You need enough money to take the platform’s fee and related credit card fees into account as well as possible rejected backer credit cards and a little wiggle room for unforeseen expenses. However you shouldn’t ask for more than you can raise based on your personal reach. There is no magic formula to determine this but if you do enough research you should be able to cobble together a number that sounds right for you. Vastly overreaching your possible funding range isn’t going to do you any good, but underestimating your financial needs doesn’t help you either. If you have a very large project like a film or a web series you could consider breaking the funding up into pieces. This is difficult though because you are going back to the same group of people (your people) more than once and you have to run more than one campaign. It’s a tough decision.

3. Make a good video.  Make a video. Even if it’s just you sitting there talking, make it the really good version of you sitting there talking. If you’re asking for a lot of money consider spending some on your video. Have someone clever edit it, or direct it. There are a lot of examples of great easy videos and you can find them yourself just browsing. I’m in this one, and we shot it in a short evening. My video for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn {Robotic Edition} was shot in an hour. Granted, film professionals made both of these, but they are still very simple.

4. Make your incentives fun and desirable.   There are really two philosophies for incentives. First you have people who view donating as a preorder. Then there are people who just want to give money to a cool thing. I fall in the first category. A nice thank you out in the ether is nice… but is it? Your incentives should be something that you would actually want yourself. A preorder isn’t possible with every kind of project but if you can you should actually be giving a finished copy of your thing. I also feel strongly that your backers should be getting a deal for supporting you early. If your movie is going to be selling for $20 out of the trunk of your car for the next ten years don’t charge your backers $50 for a DVD. Projects with a thing that people want are the one’s that go significantly over their funding goals. Make your stuff cool and you will find raising money to be a whole lot easier.

Cool stuff doesn’t necessarily have to mean physical stuff. The more you can do digitally the better. Mailing 1000 of something is hard and expensive.  Speaking of expensive, fulfilling your incentives is going to be a significant cost. Make sure you take everything like postage, envelopes, shipping to you and stuff like that into account.

5. Be as sharable as possible. My Huck Finn project went viral because it was something that people wanted to share. Pledging to the Kickstarter was something secondary that sometimes happened but what people really wanted to do was share the idea. “Replacing the N-word with Robot in Huck Finn” accompanied by the amazing frontispiece (at the bottom of this article) altered by my super talented mother to include Robot Jim is something that begs to be further explored. People thought, “What are these weirdoes talking about? Oh, it’s a joke. I like Robots and I want people to think I’ve read Huck Finn, I’ll share this with everybody!” Not everyone can piggyback on one of the most beloved writers and moustache havers of all time but if you can make your project title and picture something that is likely to invite excitement and interest you’ll do better than if you didn’t.

6. Promote yourself. If you don’t do it nobody else will either. You can’t expect to put a project out there and just let it ride. Momentum doesn’t build itself. You need to come out of the gate running. This means doing whatever you can before you launch and in the first two days or so to get attention on your campaign.

Press is one of the most important aspects that needs to be tackled. Your friends and family and the natural reach of your own personal social network needs to start the momentum for your project and make it seem popular (seeming IS where popular is concerned if those movies where the ugly girl takes off her glasses are to be believed), but new eyes from press are how a lot of your reach is going to be achieved. Contact everyone relevant that you can. None of them will respond to you, but just maybe someone will take pity on you and post your project. Ask your Facebook network if they know bloggers you can bother. The more attention the better.

Contact your friends with high Klout scores personally.  Ask them to share the project. Give them sample tweets. People are more likely to copy and paste something than write it themselves.

Explain to your friends and family that it would be great if they could share the project with their networks. Give them sample posts too. Also explain to them that if they are going to give money doing so in the first day or two of the campaign is very important. People want to wait and be the one’s to push you over your goal but making you look popular at the beginning and getting as much momentum going as early as possible is the best way to help you out.

7. Maintain your momentum. It’s hard to keep asking friends and backers to share unless you have something new and if they don’t keep sharing you’re dead in the water. One thing we did on our second kickstarter that I’ve seen work well for other people is to add new videos as the campaign goes along. This gives people (including you) something new to share. Here’s one for the campaign for my movie The Selling with Barry Bostwick. This one with Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne obviously took some work but Janet Varney’s is just her talking on her webcam.  They don’t have to be complicated they just have to be more. More sharing of the exciting thing the backers are joining you in creating. Buzz, buzz, buzz around your campaign.

7. Make sure you didn’t screw up.  Show your campaign to some people BEFORE you launch it. You can send a code for your finished page to people before you launch. If you have a friend who’s done some crowdfunding ask them to look at your page. Is anything important missing? Are your incentive costs too high? Are you coming off as likable or does your joke about Holocaust Denial come off as real?

I understand if after reading all this you are overwhelmed. I am too. So if anyone would just like to Medici up and give me a pile of money so I don’t have to crowdfund my next feature that would be totally great.  But crowdfunding allows artists to make things without a Medici.

New Frontispiece2

Etta Devine

About Etta Devine

Etta Devine is an actor and content creator. Along with her partner, Gabriel Diani, she is responsible for "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn {Robotic Edition}" the web series "Mary Olson" (1.3 million hits on YouTube), and the comedy team Diani & Devine. Their feature film "The Selling" is currently out on DVD and they are hoping to shoot their second feature this year. Want to invest?

  • Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Etta for sharing this advice with the world. I’m hanging on your every word! 🙂

  • This is awesome! I am literally printing out your articles for future reference. thnx!

  • These articles are great Etta, thank you 🙂

  • Great resource! Two things:
    1. Our data shows people stop watching pitch videos at 2:20. So say the most important stuff within two minutes.

    2. We would HIGHLY recommend reading these articles, too.
    “8 Ways to Crowdfund Hard” (by previously unknown indie filmmakers who raised $80K on Kickstarter)
    http://www.seedandspark.com/content/campaign-you-mean-it-8-ways-crowdfund-hard

    “Going Viral With Your Crowdfunding Campaign” (it’s simple math. It’s needed.)
    http://www.seedandspark.com/content/going-viral-your-crowdfunding-campaign

    “Social Media Handbook.” You NEED to be good at twitter and FB to crowdfund. Here’s how. (From Tribeca Film’s Webby award-winning Kristin McCracken)
    http://www.seedandspark.com/content/introducing-seed-spark-social-media-handbook

    GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!

  • Thanks guys! What use is hard won information if you don’t share it.

  • Came here via Cindy Marie Jenkins. This is very, very good advice Etta–I remember when The Adventures of Huck Finn (robot edition) popped onto my radar. About to release my own first season of a web series and am a bit nervous–it’s very good work but publicizing it is time-consuming (thank goodness for Cindy).

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