So you’ve got a great idea for a short film, web series or music video, but you soon realize the budget necessary is bigger than what you can do out of pocket. Many creative projects get their funding through crowdfunding platforms. Within the last six years or so, Kickstarter and similar crowdfunding platforms have allowed for tons of creative projects to be seen through to completion.
Let’s look at the best practices to see your project get the funding it needs.
Before you even launch your Kickstarter there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to insure a successful campaign.
The first step to any creative process, should be to craft/draft your idea. Come up with a pitch that you can tell someone in one to two sentences (this is known as a logline). If you can’t do this, your idea may be too complicated and may not receive funding if you can’t properly explain it.
Before you launch your campaign you’ll want to create a video to help sell your campaign to backers. This is your forte – the video must look good. People will be expecting to see similar quality in your pitch video as in your final piece. In the video you should mention the following:
- Who you are
- The logline for the project, and what you have to offer (perks)
- Showcase (show off some video work you’ve done)
- Call to action – what you need to make your video project come to life
A video will be key in the success of your project. 43.5% of all projects on Kickstarter since it’s inception have achieved funding. While 50% of projects with videos are funded, only 30% of campaigns without a video reach their goal. Your video should not be too long, people are more likely to watch a three minute video to completion rather than a six minute video.
Throughout the video, you want to make an emotional appeal to your backers. Why does the project mean so much to you? Why are you asking for their money to help make it happen? You’ll need to tell a story in the video and not just present facts. Although your video may be short, people enjoy lots of data like facts, long descriptions, and even photos can help a potential backer become an actual backer.
You’ll also want to complete all your pre production work either after or before the campaign. This will give you adequate time to work on your campaign, and it will be just that – work. For successful campaigns asking for $10,000 or more, on average you spend 9.9 hours per day on the campaign (source). Unsuccessful campaigns asking for $10k or more spent on average 5.2 hours per day. Your campaign will take all your time, everyday, throughout the length of the campaign. This means you’ll need to come prepared. It can also be extremely helpful to have a team of people working with you to help your kickstarter come to life. Running a crowdfunding campaign by yourself would be near impossible.
Also prior to launching you’ll want to think about marketing your campaign. You’ll want to connect with anyone who you think will be interested in the project you are pitching. Is your project about a soccer team? Try and connect with local people who play soccer. Getting the word out about your project will accomplish much more in the long run, than a few donations from friends. Successfully marketing your project means that you’re getting strangers talking about it. Typically for video project you have three types of backers:
- People close to you (family, friends, etc)
- People who are fans of your past work, or fans of the actors, etc
- Strangers who like the idea you are pitching
You should aim to have the strangers as your biggest market. If you can get these people to spread the word through their own communities, you can have a successful campaign. Also think about contacting various blogs, and communities, that relate to your film.
You’ll want to setup perks that your backers can identify with, and that they will want. You want to make these incentives as personal as possible. Crowdfunding is all about this – you give me money and I’ll give you something in return.
For perks let’s break them into three categories:
- These are the perks you have to have for video projects: digital downloads, physical copies of the media, and social media shout outs.
- These are the perks for someone who’s looking to donate a bit more to the project: producer credits, special thanks, dinner with cast and crew, skype calls, personalized videos, invitations to the premiere, etc
- These are the most expensive perks, but also the most personalized. You want these to bring backers deeper into your film, what can you do to get them to donate more? Is your film about fishing? Take them on a fishing trip. Be creative here.
Note: People won’t actually spend any more than what they are comfortable with. With the exception of hardware, people will only spend what they can, regardless of each perks level.
The most common donation level on Kickstarter is $25. This is something to keep in mind, as you come up with your own perks for your own project. Your first perk or reward should be the primary one. This will mean most people will want it, and you’ll be marketing them towards that. Also, make your rewards manageable, only promise what you can actually deliver.
Physical rewards often take more time to hand out, and are usually more expensive than digital perks. This is something to keep in mind when coming up with rewards for your projects.
Also international shipping is actually really pricy. If you think you’ll be shipping any physical items internationally, you should keep that in mind for the cost of the reward.
Prior to launching your own Kickstarter, look into other successful projects you like, and see what information you can gather to help make yours a success. Also look at campaigns you know you would never donate to. Ask yourself why not? This research is quite important and can be the difference between a successful campaign and one that fails.
Campaigns can fail for a number of reasons, but the most common are:
- You have no online presence or network
- Your goal is unrealistic
- You have no clue who your audience is
- Your campaign length is too long
- Your perks are not meaningful
Campaign length is something I’ve done a lot of research on. I’ve found that for video projects, typically a thirty day run time is the sweet spot. It’s also a good idea to start your project on a Monday and end on a Friday. On Monday, people are getting back to work, checking up on the news, their emails, etc. They are on their computers and using the Internet. Ending your campaign on a Friday is a good idea for two reasons. One is because Friday is payday and people who are invested in your project will wait until payday to back it. The other is because Friday is the day before the weekend. Typically, people use their computers more during the week than on the weekend. You’ll want to match this process as well to get the most out of your campaign.
As for the price you’re asking for, be realistic. Come up with an actual budget for the project and figure out how much you need. Skim this down as much as you can, by begging, borrowing or stealing.
Plan on an extra 8.5-10% buffer because that’s what Kickstarter will take. If you need $5k and get $5k, you actually be getting less than what you actually need, so you’ll want to account for this in your budget. You’ll also want to account for any rewards you may have to purchase after the campaign. Typically 1-2% of funds just don’t go through. This is something to think about and plan for as well. If you are in the US, the money you raise for the project is actually taxable. You’ll want to talk to accountant so you can do your taxes correctly and get the most back.
Stretch goals are a great thing to think about prior to launch as well. In case your project goes beyond it’s initial goal, these will incentivize people to continue to back your project even after it’s reached its full funding.
You’ll also want to think about the time of year you launch your project. If you launch on Christmas you won’t do as well as someone who launches in mid April. This should be pretty obvious, but you should also think about your prizes and when they will go out. For example, do you want your rewards to be out to backers by Christmas? Think ahead and plan for both when your project will end, and when your rewards will deliver.
You want your backers to feel like they are supporting a person and not a project. People give to people, so be real with your backers.
Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to back other projects. While not 100% necessary, crowdfunding is as much about funding as it is about the community that helps make creative projects come to life. If you help support other projects then those people can help support you.
Here’s a great video that has some more great information about crowdfunding.
Back when I was was in school for video production, we worked on a kickstarter and discovered our own pitfalls and also our own successes. It was an eye opening experience to say the least.
Take a look at our kickstarter project here.
I was in charge of conceptualization and direction of the skit video. Our goal was to produce a short a film and we utilized humour in our pitch video to showcase our skills. This was our “proof”- if you will – that we could achieve our end goal.
In part two, I’ll talk about success for your kickstarter campaign while it’s live. Stay tuned!
Dorian Heller is a Motion Designer working out of Seattle, WA. You can see some of his work here, and follow him on Twitter.