Seven Must-Do Steps To Get All That Crowdfunding Money... and Then Some

In this new era of filmmaking, crowdfunding has surely been a blessing for filmmakers.  It is a blessing for two important reasons; it allows filmmakers to make films and videos that they would have been unable to make before and, more importantly, it helps filmmakers find an audience of loyal fans for their films and videos.  However, crowdfunding is not easy and the sad truth is that very few film and video projects on kickstarter and indiegogo get fully funded.  However, if you follow the following steps, your project can be one of those few.
  1. A Stellar Story. It all starts with the story or concept.  Create a project with an interesting and engaging subject or theme and a touch (or a ton of) of artistry and design.  It should also have enough commercial potential to attract an audience.  Although you will not know how much of an audience you can attract until you reach your goal, there are some things you can do to better your odds of gaining funds and attention from a large audience; casting an actor/actress with a large following (i.e. a famous celebrity or an actor with a 40-50k twitter following) in your picture, adapting a published novel or graphic novel as a source and producing a genre project like horror, etc.
  2. Know Your Needs. Before kicking off the crowdfunding campaign, you must decide whether you need the full amount or if raising just a portion will be enough to at least get some of your project started.  Knowing that will help you determine whether you should use Kickstarter (where you need to raise the full amount to keep the money) or Indiegogo (where you keep whatever you raise).  
  3. Excessive Use of Social Media. Spread the message about your campaign through Facebook and Twitter, tirelessly. You need to update your funders and potential funders constantly with proven, as well as, innovative techniques.
    1. Exciting Rewards. Give your contributors generous rewards that shows you really appreciate their contribution.  Although the main reason people are giving money is because they believe in your project, the amount of money will  be determined by their income (which you can't control) and what reward or perks they get (which you can control).  The more creative, generous, unique and intriguing each reward is up the scale of contributions, the better chance you have of gaining more funds.  One last thing... make sure that at least one of your rewards can promote  your project to the outside world once your contributor receives them (ex. Project T-shirt).
    2. Do Your Homework.  Research crowdfunding campaigns for about 2 months before starting your own.  During this research phase:
      1. Look for projects similar to yours and track 4-6 projects that are just starting out.  You will want to study each crowdfunding site page (how it's written; the design; the uniqueness; the rewards; etc.) and note them. Your end goal is to see which ones reach their fundraising goal and which ones do not.  
      2. Once you have finished following the completed projects, create a criteria list for the successful projects.  This criteria list will be like your template for what you will use for your project.  You can choose what your criteria list is composed of but, at a minimum, your criteria list should assess for the following:
        1. Did the project have a purposeful and enticing presentation?  Was it well written, showing a clear vision, a demonstration of capability? Did the campaign have good photos, illustrations and videos on display?
        2. Did the contribution rewards list truly reward things of clear value?
        3. Did the project manager deliver dedicated and constant updates?
      3. Study the successful projects (i.e. completed or exceeded their goal) and the ones that failed.  Use them all as models for your project, based on your criteria list, of what to do and not do.
    3. Short Fundraising Period.  Keep your fundraising period short, preferably, no more than 60 days. An intriguing and enticing project that has a realistic chance of getting made should be able to raise all or almost all of the funds it needs within 30 days.  Within 30 days, it is easy to determine the viability of a project and whether or not the project stands a good chance of meeting the goal.  Thus, you do not need a long fundraising period.  If anything, the lengthy period will only serve to highlight the problems or lack of interest in your project. Nothing looks worse for a crowdfunding project than the one where you are trying to raise $5000 in 120 days and by Day 51 all you have is $760.  A project like that looks extremely helpless and will most likely turn off any potential contributors.
    4. Show your Best Video and Graphics.  The first signs a potential contributor will have about your capability to, not only complete the project, but make it a visually stunning and unique project are the video, illustrations and photos that you put on your campaign page.  Show your best stuff. Nothing makes a potential contributor leave a project page faster than a substandard, poorly shot and uncreative video.  Aim for high quality production values and be as creative with your campaign video, illustrations and photos as you would with the project you are raising funds for.
    Never rush through the planning phase of your crowdfunding campaign.  Do your homework, think outside-the-box and prepare to track what you are doing (You have a production diary, anyway, right?).  Then DO IT!  All the planning will be for naught if you don't give it a go.

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