The Seed&Spark Blog

Film Crowdfunding
Drop "donate" from your crowdfunding vocabulary

April 8, 2020

• Bri Castellini

There are a lot of things that set Seed&Spark apart from other crowdfunding platforms. The one that changed my fundraising trajectory the most, however, was dropping the word “donate” from my crowdfunding vocabulary.


Words to use instead of

  • Donate/donation: pledge, contribute, join
  • Donor: contributor, supporter, pledge, community member


But why?

First of all, people aren’t really “donating” to a crowdfunding campaign for an artistic project. A donation is defined as giving money or items “for a good cause,” but in creative crowdfunding, people are getting a finished project (your film, or album or painting, etc) plus potentially one of your awesome incentives


Donation implies a one-way, one-time transaction, and a well-run crowdfunding campaign should be anything but transactional. It should be inclusive and collaborative, which is why my favorite swerve away from “donate” is “join.”

“Join” implies that there’s more to this interaction than a transfer of funds — my supporters are now my teammates on this creative journey, and I take that seriously. If someone donates to my campaign, our interaction is over after I say thank you. There’s no emotional attachment outside of that interaction, they forget about me and my project, and our relationship ends there. But when someone “joins” my campaign, they’re along for the ride. They get insider knowledge about what it takes to create the project, they get to watch decisions get made, and sometimes they can even contribute to those decisions. 


When someone joins a campaign, they have a level of emotional ownership now. They’re in it with us, and they feel more empowered to want to see it succeed. Plus, they’re more connected to the finished product because they were a driving force in getting it made, and they saw every step of the process. So when the project is ready to share, they’re first in line. They don’t just remember hearing that your project is coming out — they were expecting it. Waiting for it, even.


New crowdfunders are most concerned with being annoying to their friends and families, and either avoid crowdfunding altogether or try to focus solely on those they don’t already know. The latter is a fine strategy, eventually, and we’ve got resources to back you up there, but it’s a misconception that you can start out entirely without the support of your immediate network. Everyone starts somewhere, so start on the right foot — don’t ask for donations, offer an opportunity to join you on this journey! Don’t just convince your friends, family and eventually strangers that you’re making something special by posting about it incessantly on social media and joking that you’ll shut up if they just donate already, give them a reason to care about it, a reason to get emotionally invested.


But how?

What makes your story, and your process, unique? Why does this project matter, to your creative career and to the world beyond? And how can you use crowdfunding as a way to communicate and celebrate that? How can the process of following and joining your crowdfunding campaign be, in and of itself, worth getting involved with? How can you make the story of your crowdfunding campaign, and the opportunities around being a part of it, be as compelling and entertaining as the final product?


These answers will be different for everyone. Dig deep here, and remember: crowdfunding is just storytelling with a financial reward at the end. So tell us a story, bring us along for the ride, and invite us to join you on your — no, our — journey.


Crowdfunding is all about psychology, and that goes both ways. It’s a much healthier relationship to be teammates with your supporters versus a charitable cause they throw money at when you’re working on something new. There’s no incentive there to develop a true connection, to learn from people, and for them to truly fall in love with your work and your process.


If you’re in this together, wholeheartedly, everyone wins.




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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