Film CrowdfundingAnswering Every Single Common Crowdfunding Question
September 15, 2020
There’s no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to crowdfunding. It’s a weird thing to do! It brings up anxieties and self doubt and seems totally impossible when you first consider it. But we promise, it’s a lot simpler (and a lot more fun- no, really) once you wrap your head around it.
If you’re curious about Seed&Spark or the more logistical sides of crowdfunding, we recommend checking out our comprehensive FAQ. The things you’re probably most curious about are if we accept non-US campaigns, what our fees are, and if crowdfunding money is taxable. And if you’re curious about our feedback process and what you should do to make sure you can launch as quickly as possible, these are the 7 things we look at when we review campaign drafts.
Want to know best practices for the different sections of your campaign? Here’s a master list of those as well:
- Great pitch videos (and examples from 2019 campaigns we loved)
- Great story sections
- Great incentives
- Great updates
- Great wishlists
As new questions are asked, we’ll update this blog, so… ask!
Q: When in my process should I crowdfund?
A: Depends on when you’re ready to start regularly talking about your work (regularly can mean once a month at first)! As a reminder: crowdfunding should prioritize audience building first, fundraising second, so crowdfunding normally exists somewhere in the early phase but should rarely be the FIRST phase, because ideally at least some folks have heard about this awesome project before you ask them for money to make it.
Q: How early should I start talking about my crowdfunding campaign ahead of launching it?
A: I'd start posting about the launch date (and maybe even including the preview link) on social media a few weeks ahead, and only email your MVPs- the people on your email list who you're absolutely certain will give money. Emphasize to them that their support within the first 24-48 hours may make the difference between success and failure, and prime them to get in on the ground floor so by the time you start emailing everyone else, the page is already off to the races. Also, don't email all 500 people on the first day- as I mention in this post, try to space it out a bit. Maybe 50-100 a day per person (or if you're all sending emails from one account, stick closer to 50-75), starting with those MVPs, then the almost MVPs, and on and on so that by the time you're emailing the folks you aren't sure about at all, they're seeing the page for the first time at its most successful.
Q: How much money should I ask for/is realistic?
A: How much money do you need to move forward with this project? Make a budget, then use our formula here to determine how realistic it is to raise for it all at once or in stages. All options are valid, and the answer will be different for everyone. The number you pick shouldn’t be arbitrary- it should be an amount you have a realistic chance of raising that also genuinely allows you to move forward with this project, even if it doesn’t get you all the way to the finish line.
Q: How long should I crowdfund for?
A: We generally recommend 30 days. It’s long enough to get the word out and not feel rushed, but not so much time that you run out of new things to say. 60 days is an option on Seed&Spark (as is 45 days), but it’s also a really long time to be campaigning, to keep people interested (both supporters and teammates), and to maintain momentum. It can ultimately be exhausting and more challenging to hit your goals unless you have a large team and are planning several live events.
Q: Should I pay for targeted ads?
A: The point at which targeted ads are worth the money is the point at which you probably are rich enough to not need crowdfunding. YouTuber Danny Gonzalez once made a video about how he spent $20,000 on YouTube advertising as a stunt, and his results were staggering. For context: he has 4 million subscribers. His highest performing targeted ad (out of three options) got a .39% clickthrough. All in, he estimates he gained 40 subscribers from this experiment. My point is that advertising (like selling merchandise) only makes a difference at scale (so when you can invest a lot of time/money), and that’s likely not possible/realistic during crowdfunding. Organic outreach takes more time, but is far more effective.
Q: What’s the best social media platform for crowdfunding?
A: Depends on where your audience is! You could run the greatest Twitter account in the world and it won’t matter if your audience doesn’t use Twitter. So how do you find this out? Ask. And also watch our Lunch&Learn livestream on the subject.
Q: Where should I promote my campaign- on personal or project-specific accounts?
A: It will probably be a mix. For more advice, check out this resource.
Q: Do I need a fiscal sponsor?
A: Probably not. A fiscal sponsor makes all contributions to your campaign tax deductible, a fact that is only useful if you have at least 2 or 3 supporters who want to contribute large amounts but can’t/won’t if they can’t write it off their taxes. For most folks who contribute the average ($25-$100) to your campaign, this won’t make a difference, and then you’ll have the added fee that most fiscal sponsors take in addition to the credit card and platform fees you already have to deduct from your total raised. The only other reasons you may want to work with a fiscal sponsor is if you have a concern about how you’ll be taxed for the contributions, if the fiscal sponsor is also offering to help promote your project because it’s thematically aligned with their mission, or you don’t have a US or Canadian teammate with a bank account to attach to your project to accept the payout.
Q: Is there a time of year better or worse for crowdfunding?
A: There isn’t really a better time, but there is a worse. Generally speaking, try not to crowdfund between mid November and mid January as folks are traveling and away from their computers more often, spending money on gifts and travel, and generally not really paying attention to what’s going on online.
Q: Is there a better time of day/ day of the week to launch a campaign?
A: Typically, during the week day in the morning or afternoon are strong days to launch a campaign, with Tuesday often being the most preferred. However, it's really about launching when you know your audience will be by their computers and ready to support you. While the Tuesday metric can be a general rule, audiences to all films are different, so it's best to make the decision based on your audience and less on standard practices.
Q: How do I get my teammates to help with the campaign?
A: First, make sure you know what each teammate is willing to help with- honestly. Not ideally. Next, try to align the various tasks of crowdfunding with your teammates’ skills and interests and schedules. This resource may be of use here.
Q: Can I crowdfund multiple times for the same project? ...should I?
A: If you need more than just one campaign to make up your budget, sure! Refer to the question about how much money is realistic above. Worth a note: on Seed&Spark we’re literally built for raising money in stages! Hawk's Ridge is an example of a filmmaker who chose to use the same page for both of his campaigns. WBCN is an example of a filmmaker who chose to have three separate pages for his campaigns. With the former, you get to keep the followers you built during your previous campaign. With the latter, you get to show people how much each campaign successfully raised rather than all of the money being combined.
Q: Can I raise more than 100% of my goal?
A: Yes! In fact, many of our campaigners end up raising beyond their initial goal. The best way to ensure and support a campaign raising over 100% is by incorporating stretch goals early.
Q: How do I get people to pay attention to my campaign?
A: A bomb outreach plan. Having great materials is only step one- step two is figuring out what combination of words, images, frequency, and platform will get the right audience to see them.
Once more with feeling, as new questions are asked, we’ll update this blog, so… ask!