Last week, I led you through the essential criteria to consider when choosing a platform for crowdfunding a project. Now that you’ve done your research and made your choice, how do you bring home the win when the clock is ticking and you’re one of thousands and thousands of projects listed on the site? Fear not! Follow the five guidelines below, and you’ll soon be making those big dreams of yours a reality. I’ve compiled tips from a top industry insider as well as examples from all kinds of successful campaigns, and I’m passing this pile of wisdom on to you! Here’s how you raise the funds you need:
Be Smiling, Specific, Psyched, and Sympathetic. And Do it on Video.
–Slava Rubin, co-founder of IndieGoGo, shared a fascinating statistic with me: crowdfunding pitcheswith video content raise 112% more than pitches without videos. Let that sink in, and then go hook up your webcam. If you are a filmmaker, or know an A/V nerd who owes you a favor, then feel free to think big with your video pitch- just know that it’s not necessary to have a ton of bells and whistles if you can’t swing them. All of the projects mentioned below have fantastic pitch videos with a wide range of production values. You’ll see that what they all have in common is a clear and concise message. Not convinced yet? Here’s one more.
-In case we haven’t properly emphasized the importance of your message, this is another one of those “must-haves”, according to Slava. Any potential donor should get a very clear idea of the parameters of your project and what their money would be going towards. Clear and concise goals are the only way, other than your dynamic, from-the-heart pitch video, to inspire confidence in your potential donors.
-If at all possible, show rather than tell. Whether it’s examples of your past work or sketches, rough cuts, or other prototypes, you want your audience to be able to visualize your finished product. ESPECIALLY if you’re offering that product as part f the rewards program, you’re going to make people want it. Or at least, a piece of it.
Friends, Indeed (AKA, Cast a Wide Net)
-Slava has confirmed that the best strategy for crowdfunding a project is to reach out to your inner circle first. Establish validation to boost your product’s visibility, and then try to get your pitch out to every corner of the net! Are your friends and/or relatives avid bloggers or social media addicts? Enlist them! Get them to tweet and retweet, post links on their wall, and plug, plug, plug. It will only them take a minute or two, and they could open up whole new audiences and donation possibilities! Plus, it will momentarily distract your mother from tagging photos of your awkward stage.
– Network! With any luck, you have a built-in professional community around you, and while they, like you, need more money than they have to give away, they can give you exposure, both through social media and their various professional affiliations. All artists worth their salt look out for each other, so chances are, somebody’s going to look out for you.
“My newsletter was the single most important part of letting people know about the campaign.”
There’s No Free Money (AKA, Give Great Perks)
-Name your donation levels in a clever and tied-in way (like The Loving Story, a documentary about the deeply personal side of the Civil Rights Movement that just reached funding on Kickstarter).
-Give the people what they want. Hint: It’s your product! If you’re using Kickstarter or another all-or-nothing crowdfunding site, then it is perfectly acceptable to offer samples of the finished product, ESPECIALLY if you offer them to backers before their official release, like Katie Zaffrann did with her debut EP! If you’re using IndieGoGo or another site that may not net you your total funds, then offering finished product is a bit riskier. However, you can always offer samples of your other work, or something equally personally invested. Stickers, 1” buttons, posters, autographed anything, even t-shirts with your project’s branding are all great ideas, like 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience and The Noun Project.
-Don’t JUST offer great rewards, put your donation levels in concrete terms, like Stephanie Inagaki did when she funded her jewelry line on Kickstarter. She asked for people to donate the equivalent of cab fare, their daily latte, a manicure, etc.! Ex: “For the price of a pack of cigarettes, you could_______! I will thank you. Your LUNGS will thank you!
Get Into It (AKA, Always Be Hustlin’)
-As we discussed in last week post, being proactive pays off- especially with the GoGo Effect, which affects your project’s visibility and reach. Again, there’s no free money, and in addition to your rewards, you’ll also have to give of your time. Independent filmmaker Gary King, who successfully funded his musical How Do You Write a Joel Schermann Song on Kickstarter, wrote the following in his blog “Lessons Learned in the Land of Crowdfunding”, which is actually a fantastic resource in its entirety:
“I understood this commitment going in from reading about how others handled their campaign…but I still wasn’t prepared for the realities of it. Working on gaining exposure and new eyes every day was extremely time consuming. Think of it like placing a media ad and having it in heavy rotation — but you’re doing it yourself and not relying on an agency. I spent at least 4-6 hours every day on the campaign — if not more.”
Space that time out throughout the day, both to reach different waves of online users and to avoid getting burned out on your own project. Believe it or not, exhaustion can be read between the lines.
-Keep your donors updated! Most crowdfunding sites allow you to write updates, and you can use this as a means to both drive visibility and make potential donors feel a tangible involvement in the process. The Heavy Meta Tour used the updates as a way to document the international speaking tour, screening, and documentary filming that their donors made possible. If you’re to raise some, but not all, of your funding, then keep your donors posted! Let them know if you pursue other fundraising opportunities, make something work with what you have, or start a new campaign. If you don’t give up on them, they won’t give up on you.
-Adapt. If donations go from a stream to a trickle, try something new. Up the ante with your rewards, record a video update that creatively re-iterates your pitch, and capitalize on, or even create, a sense of urgency. Which brings us to our final tip:
Use Your Time Wisely (Also, Your Lack Thereof)
-Folk singer/songwriter Tyler Stenson moved from Portland, Oregon to Nashville, Tennesee, and successfully funded his folk EP “Long Before the Wheel” on Kickstarter. When we asked him to comment on his experience, he wrote:
“My most successful day of fundraising (where I raised about 33% of my funds in 24 hours) was when I did a digital push that simply said: ‘I need $27 more dollars to clear the $2,000 mark. Anyone who donates $27 or more in the next 24 hours will get a free download for ALL of my previous albums.’ By naming a SPECIFIC AMOUNT, in a SPECIFIC TIME-FRAME, with a SPECIFIC REWARD, tons and tons of people stepped up then and there. Like I said, 33% of my total was raised in that 24 hours.”
It might be worth noting here that because IndieGoGo doesn’t hold back funding until the end of the campaign, offering this kind of instant gratification might be a bit more doable.
-Remember that many campaigns reach their goal in the eleventh hour. Plan ahead, and play both the long and short game! Diligent use of your inner circle, professional contacts and influencers, and existing fan base to build momentum throughout the duration of the campaign will pay off in the home stretch. The more people are involved, the more people will want to see it succeed, the more they will try to make it happen. You can even offer rewards to donors who refer new donors! It’s not over ‘til it’s over.
Well there you have it: This, for now, concludes our Crowdfunding Guide for Artists. Do you feel riled-up and ready to take on crowdfunding? Do you have other questions or concerns? Reach out! Make your voice heard, and I’ll consult my crowdfunder all-stars. That’s what I’m here for.
Hannah Piper Burns is a video and multimedia artist, art writer, and curator who walks her puppy in Portland, Oregon. She currently serves as Communications Director for the Museum of Pocket Art and Research Club, and as Social Media Outreach Coordinator for artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson. You can see her artist statement at hannahpiperburns.com