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Film Crowdfunding
15 Tips for Creating Rewarding Crowdfunding Incentives

October 22, 2020

• Bri Castellini

You’ve made an eye-opening pitch video, a wishlist primed for financial contributions and in-kind loans alike, and a story section that excites and delights. It’s time for incentives! And because this is the internet, we figured the easiest way to offer advice is to do so in a listicle.

 

1: Ask your audience before you ask us what to offer

 

We love helping creators develop their campaign pages during our feedback process, but no one knows your audience and what they want better than you. So if you’re stuck on what to offer, ask!

 

2: Don’t overthink it- 5-7 is all you need

 

At first, that is. Always be sure to have 1-2 you can hold back and release on weeks 2-4 to help maintain momentum. But truly, 5-7 is all the incentives you need. Decision fatigue is real, so don’t exhaust folks you want to excite! The most common and typical levels are: $15, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, and $1,000.

 

3: Steer clear of manufactured goods offered below $100

 

Manufactured goods cost money to create and deliver which cut into your crowdfunding bottom line. Plus, buying merchandise is a behavior of fandom, which doesn’t exist (yet!) for your project.

 

Think about it like this: why would you put a poster up in your room (let alone purchase it for money) for a property you haven’t seen, filled with actors you don’t recognize and created by a writer/director you’ve never heard of? Not to mention that an 11x17 poster, even from a fairly cheap printer, costs between $9-11. A poster tube (to ship the poster to the supporter) costs $5.99 for that size poster. Then shipping the tube can cost between $4-9 depending on distance. That’s a lot right out the gate you’re giving up of your profits just to ship a single poster, without even getting into the logistical nightmare of it. As someone who once held up a UPS line for an hour individually shipping crowdfunding posters, trust me; it’s not worth it. We’ve spoken before about this phenomenon, and what else you can offer instead, so check it out!

 

Also, on DVD/Blu Ray copies: if you’re making a series or short, absolutely no one needs or wants a hard copy. For features, consider that most laptops don’t come with DVD slots anymore, and many people are transitioning their media consumption entirely to streaming. So before getting DVDs printed, again, talk to your audience about how they prefer to watch movies.

 

4: There should be a reason more than 1 person would claim them

 

This is largely advice for all of you who look at Tip 3 and think… well fine, I’ll offer a digital poster instead! Before you think you’ve pulled one over on me, consider this: once one person claims a digital poster and shares it, everyone they share it with already has it, so there's no need for more than one person to purchase it. Try to design incentives so the sharing of them entices other people to contribute, rather than freeing them of the need to. Think of ways you can personalize each level (even lightly) so it's clear why someone would contribute at that level on their own.

 

5: Remember to make your $25 personal, shareable, visual, and instant

 

We’ve got a whole dang other post to help with the $25 incentive specifically, so check it out! It also includes a bunch of previous campaign examples as inspiration.

 

6: Permanent credit should cost more than instant credit

 

Basically, a social media shout out should cost far less than special thanks in your credits (and far far less than producer credit). Speaking of producer credit: you should never give away a producer credit for less than $500 (and even at that level, you should only give away an Associate Producer credit). An Executive Producer credit is a big deal! Generally speaking, an EP credit should cost at least 25% of your total budget.

 

7: Not all your supporters will be filmmakers

 

It’s tempting to offer your filmmaking expertise as an incentive, and in some cases that makes total sense! But not all your supporters will be filmmakers; ideally, only a small percentage will be, with the greater percentage being fans. Make sure at least every other leveled incentive can appeal to someone who’s a fan of your work/your theme/your genre who isn’t interested in making their own project.

 

8: Incentives need to appeal to people who’ve never heard of you

 

Along that line, don’t forget that crowdfunding should be audience building first, fundraising second, meaning your page as a whole should appeal to folks who aren’t personally familiar with you. As with everything else on your page, ask yourself: if I was sent this list of incentives and didn't know the creator, what would convince me to give money? What would encourage me to give MORE money?

 

9: Incentives don’t have to be funny

 

A lot of advice about crowdfunding incentives tends to be alienating for folks making documentary and dramatic narrative works, which is a valid criticism! There’s definitely a way to translate the best practices for more serious topics, utilizing education, activism, and community.

 

10: Supporters want to feel special

 

In terms of the psychology of crowdfunding supporters, even from totally disparate fan communities, you can boil down what they want from an incentive in four main ways. The first is that they want to feel special and high status, so offering things like premiere invites, exclusive early access, and producer credit tend to go over well. Be sure to price appropriately because this can work against you too- if you value specialness too low, they will assume it’s actually not all that special.

 

11: Supporters want to be recognized

 

To accommodate this, in addition to making special thanks and/or producer credit an option, be sure to thank them publicly- share the incentives you give to them on your own feeds and tag them when you can. If you include a link to your campaign as well in the post, when they share it on their own feeds, they aren’t just spreading awareness, but literally spreading the link as well.

 

12: Supporters are lazy

 

Don’t make people work for their incentives; if it takes more than a sentence to describe the offering, and more than a single email to get what you need to deliver, that’s too complicated, and will work against you/dissuade people from choosing that level. 

 

13: Supporters want to feel like a part of something

 

The more you can include incentives that include your audience in what you’re making, the more responsible they’ll feel for your project’s success (in crowdfunding and beyond!). So make sure you continue to include them after the campaign closes; don’t ghost them, because they’re now part of your team, and living up to that will encourage them to get involved in future campaigns and projects as well.

 

14: There’s no perfect pricing template

 

As with everything, based on your particular audience the best practices for your campaign may differ. However, as a place to start, this is how we recommend laying out the pricing tiers:

 

  • $5-20

Social media shout outs, templatized personal graphic, basic thank you video, doodles

  • $25-50

A visual-personal-shareable-instant $25 incentive, advanced copy of the work, advanced access to BTS content, small physical items (stickers, pins, postcards)

  • $75-100

Digital art commissions/portraits, IMDb credit, special thanks at end of film, partner offering

  • $150+

IRL incentives (or their virtual counterparts), producer credits, name a character

 

15: Have fun with them

 

Great, specific incentives make projects stand out and create lasting relationships with your audience. It's the most clear cut opportunity to tell a story- to make this not just a fundraising campaign, but an audience-building one. Because the ultimate goal with this is not just to fund production, right? It's also to get viewers for the eventual product, and the best way to do that is make the campaign itself a marketing-focused one. The more on-brand, the better, because when folks share what they received, this becomes part of your marketing for the project that will bring even more folks in.

 

If you’re having fun, so will your supporters. Crowdfunding is hard, and it’s also incredibly rewarding; you’re doing this so you can make a cool project that as many people as possible will fall in love with, and that starts far ahead of actually making the thing.

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Bri Castellini

Bri Castellini is the Film Community Manager for Seed&Spark, a graduate-level adjunct professor for digital media, an award-winning independent filmmaker, and, regrettably, a podcaster. She's known for the web series Brains (creator/star), Sam and Pat Are Depressed (creator/star), Relativity (executive producer), and Better With You (director), as well as the short films Ace and Anxious and Buy In (writer/director for both), and for her podcasts Burn, Noticed and Breaking Out of Breaking in, covering the USA television show Burn Notice and practical filmmaking advice, respectively. She has been described by collaborators as a "human bulldozer" and is honestly kind of flattered.

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