The Seed&Spark Blog

Film Crowdfunding
Incorporating Activism and Education Into Your Incentives

August 25, 2020

• Bri Castellini

Coming up with incentives that work well with your campaign is often more work than delivering them, which is why we’ve already written two articles for you outlining some brainstorming tips; one about the elusive yet vital $25 incentive, and one about matching your incentives to your career level. The examples in those posts are a great place to spark inspiration, but many rely on humor and bright colors, which isn’t relevant or appropriate for every project, especially if you’re working on an impact documentary or a more dramatic subject matter.


When designing a great incentive for a serious subject matter, the base principals are the same; it should be digital (and thus quick to deliver while you’re still campaigning), personal (everyone should get a unique version- if it can be personalized, even better!), shareable (so they can spread the word to their friends easily), and visual (so it catches their friends’ eyes upon sharing). Better yet if it can also be on-brand for your project, and so unique it could only be offered by you.  You don’t need to have all four principles for every incentive, but using them as a starting point will help design not just great incentives, but powerful ones that allow you to build your budget and a ravenous audience.


So how can we apply these to more serious stories?




Have you done research for your project? Is it a period piece, or a documentary with a lot of archival footage and anecdotes? Chances are, you’ve become (or you already were) a total nerd for this subject matter, and there are probably a ton of other people who would love to learn more ahead of the project being released. 


Using education as an incentive:


  • Flash cards (shareable, digital, visual, on-brand). Can you design basic but visually appealing flash cards with facts and trivia about your subject matter, perhaps leaning on the content and images you’ve used in a pitch deck or your story section? If you design enough options, most folks who claim this incentive will get a totally unique one, making it feel more special rather than everyone getting and sharing the exact same information. This will also double as fantastic social media marketing, especially if you format the flashcards for Twitter or Instagram sharing sizes.


  • PowerPoint party (digital, visual, on-brand). If you haven’t heard of this trend before, essentially it’s a party (that can easily be done virtually as well as in-person) where guests each give a short presentation on a particular subject matter they care about. The topics range from silly things like the craziest deep sea creatures to deep dives into the Fourth Crusade. Circle up with your production team and assign everyone a small presentation of their own, perhaps all centering around the topics and themes of your project, or perhaps related to their particular piece of the production puzzle (your cinematographer can do a tight 5 on her favorite camera angles from her last film, for example). The incentive here then would be a ticket to the event, and perhaps a higher level incentive would allow the supporter to participate with their own presentation
  • Long-form lecture (digital, visual, on-brand). If you’d rather just stick to one subject, design a full Ted Talk/college lecture to offer tickets to for interested folk. If there’s a local college that teaches a class on a similar topic, or has a program related to your subject, you could always reach out to the professors to see if they’d promote the event to their students (perhaps a student discount could be in order if you made the discount limited stock and sent it to them first?).
  • Cooking class/recipe cards (digital, visual, on-brand). If food is central to your story, particularly if it’s attached to a particular culture or geographic place, you can either design individual recipe cards (collecting them into a full cookbook at a higher price point) or offer tickets to a virtual cooking class, sending out the ingredient list ahead of time to all who claimed it.
  • eBook (digital, on-brand). If you have enough information and supplemental materials (archival imagery, quotes, scanned primary source documents), turn what’s likely already in your pitch deck into an educational eBook on the subject. This should probably be a higher-level incentive (perhaps capturing all of your flash card information into a single place), and will definitely establish you as a thought leader in the subject.
  • Resource guide (digital, on-brand). A slightly more involved incentive that collects further readings, videos, audio, and actions your audience can take to support the cause. You could even break this into a few incentives- one level for folks who want to read more (collect a book list, article list, etc), one for folks who want to watch (viewing list of films, shorts, series, and explainers), and one for folks who want to listen (audio books and podcasts).




If one of the goals of your project, be it narrative or non-fiction, is to change the world, activism incentives are a natural fit. Further the goals of your project while also building an audience and budget; win, win, win!


Using activism as an incentive:


  • Action cards (digital, visual, on-brand). Frequently, people believe in a cause, but feel utterly powerless to meaningfully support it. If your cause has a series of small, medium, and large actions individuals can take to make a difference, design cards (branded with your project’s colors and logos, of course) with simple actions on them to give your supporters a nudge and a place to start.


  • Sign-building class (digital, on-brand). Whether your project is immediately relevant to protests happening or is about protests in general, a chill crafting class where you show off sign-building best practices (statement length, color choice, font type, etc) and build protest signs/lawn signs with your audience might be just what the doctor ordered. This is another selling tickets to an event idea, and you can also encourage people to come in with questions about protesting and civil disobedience.
  • Call your rep (digital, personal, on-brand). A lot of issues have a portion of individual action asking supporters to call their representatives, and it’s been proved that having talking points helps a lot. When contributors support your campaign, you can send each a unique list of representatives and talking points (many will overlap, but that’s the point of a lot of people calling) depending on the person’s location and, if they wish to share, their particular interest in the cause. They’re supporting the arts and the cause all at once! At a higher price, you could offer a full 4 weeks of action, like a short term newsletter where every morning for a month they’d get a simple task to take to support the cause.




Other than content (things to do), people right now are desperate for community and shared experiences. I would list some more ideas here, but lucky for both of us, I’ve already done that! Here’s a whole post about designing events for crowdfunding, and here are posts with even more ideas if you are a filmmaker, musician, thespian, podcaster, or writer.


Plus, catch our writer’s room style Lunch&Learn livestream where myself and three fellow Seed&Spark coworkers help our audience design specific kinds of events based on their loglines.


Bottom line: be a conversation starter


What's going to compel a supporter to share the incentive they got (so that their own networks see it and want their own) or the benefit they got from your campaign? Word of mouth is powerful in crowdfunding, so plan ahead to make it easier on supporters. So don’t skimp on this facet of your fundraising; get specific with what’s special about you, your team, and your story, and share it with the world.




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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