The Seed&Spark Blog

Film Crowdfunding
Building Your Email List for Your Crowdfunding Campaign...and Career

April 8, 2020

• Bri Castellini

A statistic that bears repeating: only 1% of folks who see your social media posts about your crowdfunding campaign will actually contribute to it, while 25-30% of your email list will. But if you’re like most people, you don’t have an email list. You’re also stuck inside for the foreseeable future, so now’s a great moment to build it for all future marketing and crowdfunding campaigns.


Step 1: The Set Up

There are a couple of different ways you can set up an email list, but my favorite is making a spreadsheet, because I can easily transition that into a mail merge to send out hundreds of emails at a time that still appear to be sent one at a time. If you want to try this, I recommend the Yet Another Mail Merge plugin for Google Sheets.


The columns I find most useful on my email list spreadsheet are:


  • NAME: first and last
  • FIRST NAME: for mail merge purposes (“Hi {{First Name}}!”)
  • EMAIL: duh
  • RELATIONSHIP: I try to keep this pretty consistent so I can easily “sort” my email list via relationship (since emails to my family will differ from emails to coworkers). My relationship categories are usually: Friend, Family, Coworker, Boss, Professor, Collaborator (someone I’ve worked with on film stuff specifically before), Filmmaker (someone I’ve met at a networking event or festival), Fan, and Former Pledge (ie- someone who’s given money to a crowdfunding campaign of mine before)
  • NOTES: This column isn’t applicable to everyone, but is particularly helpful for “Filmmaker” and “Former Pledge” rows so I can add additional context- where I met this person/ what they last pledged to. The more information I can collect about these people, the easier it is to personalize my email outreach, even if we haven’t spoken for a while.


I like to keep everyone in one spreadsheet so I can easily count, but I know others prefer to have a sheet per category. Whatever works! Just make sure it’s usable and you have a way to easily add to it. This is a dynamic, ever-growing document.


Step 2: Fill ‘er up

Before you start your outreach to folks you don’t know as well, actually fill in the spreadsheet you’ve built to the best of your ability. Look through your Facebook friends, your inbox and your other social feeds for people to add. Check your calendar to remind yourself of film festivals and networking events you’ve attended to jog your memory — any of those business cards you collected still hanging around?


You may remember people you’d feel comfortable reaching out to without having an email address for them- add them too! You can find their contact info in the next step.


Step 3: Outreach Step 1: Who You Already Know

This header organization isn’t confusing at all! Now it’s time to start filling in the blanks. Send out texts and DMs to folks who’re in your contacts but not by email, and ask if they’d be comfortable being added to your mailing list. If you’re doing this for the purpose of a specific project, maybe even give them a tease, or if you’re building a list for a broad number of reasons, let them know what their contact will be used for.


Sample message template:

Hey {{First Name}}! It’s {{Your Name}} from {{where you know them from}}. I’m working on a film about {{logline}} and I’d love to keep you in the loop about it. Could I get your email address to add to my list? I promise not to spam you!


Step 4: Outreach Step 2: Define An Audience

Now it’s time to start thinking about who you should start attempting to reach who are outside your personal networks. We actually already did a post about that, so click here!


Step 5: Outreach Step 3: Build That Audience

Once you’ve defined who you’re going to be reaching out to, start spending time in their communities, even if you yourself wouldn’t naturally be a member. To overcome the awkwardness and the temptation to linkspam (e.g. find an ideologically-aligned Reddit group, drop a link to your mailing list/crowdfund, then leave and never return), try these strategies instead to cook up a conversation:

  • Curate. Share content that isn’t yours that this community would enjoy. Become a thought-leader in this kind of content, so that once you start introducing your own work into the feed/mix, it doesn’t feel out of place or all about you.
  • Ask questions. If you’re early in your process, and are writing from a perspective that isn’t your own, turn your potential audience members into sensitivity consultants. If you’re further along in the process, ask discussion questions to get people talking (and seeing you as a leader interested in their thoughts, not just their money).
  • Go slow. Your film wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your audience be. Buying an email list or social media followers is a great way to show off an arbitrary number, but you’re unlikely to build a strong connection with those people (if they’re even real people).
  • Get out. I’ll acknowledge that at the time of writing this, we’re all quarantined during a global pandemic. But ordinarily, and in the future, attending festivals (especially if your project is featured/screened), networking nights, and other IRL events are great ways to build your network. In person is always more effective, so have a way to capture emails while you’re out and about in the world. Our head of education Christina Raia has added emails to her list while in line for tickets at the cinema!



A strong connection with your audience is built on trust, credibility and mutual respect, and is more likely to be the beginning of a relationship rather than a single transaction. And if you want a sustainable creative career, the strategy of all this outreach should be for ongoing purposes, so each time you crowdfund or premiere new content you can build on the work you’ve done before rather than starting from scratch over and over again.

Check out Christina Raia and I's livestream about this very topic:


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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