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The Seed&Spark Blog

9 tips to break crowdfunding records.

July 26, 2015

• Lucas McNelly

As you may or may not have heard, Money & Violence (a campaign I worked on) recently broke the record for most money raised on Seed&Spark. Breaking crowdfunding records is a great feeling. Take it from me, I’ve broken 9 of them. So in honor of the final day of the Money & Violence campaign, here’s 9 tips that, with a little luck, may help you break your own crowdfunding record.

1. Research

I do a lot of research before I even start working on a campaign. Like, a lot. And that research can tell you a lot about whether or not a campaign will be successful. You want to know as much as possible about something before you even start building the campaign. You want to know how many followers everyone on your team has on Twitter. And then you want to make sure those are real followers. Those 30K people following your actor? Yeah, those might be fake accounts purchased by their agent. It happens.

2. Where’s Your Audience?

On Money & Violence, they had already built a big audience through season 1 of their web series, and that audience was clustered mainly in 3 places: Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. But they were most active on Instagram. So rather than try to shoehorn it into a pre-conceived idea of what a campaign should be, we built the campaign primarily around Instagram and YouTube. For example, we created custom images to share on Instagram and shot new videos for YouTube like this one.

Then, since the cast all lives in NYC, we did live events all over the city that brought in cash. One of the cast members spent the entire campaign going around with a bucket, grabbing cash and posting videos of people on Instagram. If your film’s audience is tech-heavy, then you want to be active on Reddit. If you’re making a film about knitting, you want to be all over Pinterest. If you’re making a film about cowboys, you want to be at the rodeo.

3. Seth Godin’s Cheat

When Seth Godin wanted to raise money on Kickstarter for a book, he left nothing to chance. He made sure he was funded before the campaign even started. You probably can’t do that, but you should have at least 10% of lined up ahead of time. Have those people ready to go on minute 1 of the campaign. But more importantly than that, have people lined up ahead of time to be your advocates throughout the campaign. That’s worth more than money.

4. The Beer Test

In politics, they talk about a candidate passing the beer test. Basically, would you want to sit down and have a beer with this person? If not, you probably won’t vote for them. Ultimately, that’s what you’re trying to accomplish with your pitch video. You want to convince people that you’re the sort of person they’d want to hang out with. A lot of campaigns have failed because the filmmaker came off as a smug asshole in the pitch video. Smile! Show off some of your winning personality. And this. A thousand times, this.

5. Make It Easy

Imagine you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and you see something that piques your interest. So you click on it and it takes you to a page and there’s a pop-up ad and a video plays and then there’s another ad and then it takes you to a slideshow and then you just say “fuck it” and do something else. Well that’s kind of what it’s like when you don’t make it easy for people to back your campaign. Every action between your message and your campaign will cost you backers and money. I can’t tell your how many times I’ve seen someone post on Twitter about their crowdfunding campaign without including a link to the actual campaign. If people have to search for it, they aren’t going to back it. I’ll make it easier: PUT THE LINK TO YOUR CAMPAIGN WHERE PEOPLE CAN CLICK ON IT.

6. Say Thank You

Thanking someone is not a perk. Repeat after me: saying thank you is not a perk. It’s an obligation. Someone just gave your money. Real, actual money. Money they worked a soul-sucking day job to make. The absolute least you can do is say “thank you”. Seed&Spark has a great feature where you can thank someone in your dashboard. Use it. But you should also take 5 minutes out of your day and if you don’t know who they are, look them up on Google. I discovered once that one of my backers was a multiple Jeopardy! winner. Find their Twitter account. Then thank them publicly. Here’s a template: “Thanks to [handle] for backing [project]! You’re amazing! Who’s next? [link]” Customize that with some of the information you found on Google and you’re all set. Not only is your backer happy that you thanked them, but everyone else can see that, gee, you weren’t raised in a barn and have some common decency.

7. Crowd > Funding

This has become something of a cliche in crowdfunding circles, but since I came up with it, I get to keep using it. In your campaign, the crowd is more important than the money. When I’m working on a campaign, I generally focus on total backers rather than dollars. It takes the same effort to get a $1 backer as it does to get a $100 backer. Only, there’s no way to know ahead of time which is which. But if you keep getting backers, the money will follow. People will give what they feel comfortable giving. And there’s a thousand different factors that dictate how much they give. If someone just got a bonus in their paycheck, then they may give more. But if their car is in the shop or the kid needs braces or whatever, then it’ll be less. And for the love of God, don’t get angry at your cousin if he doesn’t give you as much as you think he should. Don’t be that person. So you go for backers. Because those are the people who are going to tell their friends about your movie when it’s done. Sometimes the person who gives you $1 is worth more than the person who gives $100. Jesus said that. Sort of.

8. Keep Talking

Here’s a story. A couple of years ago, my first feature got a week-long run in the multiplex in my home town. I promoted the fuck out of it. I did radio. I bought Facebook ads. I plastered social media. I had posters everywhere. There were signs on local businesses. You name it. I was certain that everyone I had ever met was sick to death of hearing about it. I know I was. One day in the middle of the week, a friend of mine walks into the lobby of the theater. I’ve known this guy since I was 10. I watch football games at his house. “Hey, you came to see my movie!” “You made a movie?” It’s going to feel like you’ve exhausted every single avenue and talked to every single person. You haven’t. Keep going. The flip side of that is you’ll inevitably hear from someone who’s tired of you talking about your campaign and wants you to shut up. That person is not your friend.

9. Then We Can Do a Stretch Goal

Here’s the thing about crowdfunding. If you’re raising money for a product, there’s a very good chance you can raise a lot more than your goal. It happens all the time. I had a campaign raise 38x the goal once. It was a lot of fun. But film campaigns don’t tend to do that. More often than not, they get to the goal and more or less stop. It’s a very, very rare campaign that raises even twice the goal. So if you need $10,000, go for that much. Don’t go for $5,000 to be safe, expecting that if you hit your goal right away, you can go for $10K. Chances are you’ll end up raising about $5,500. And, hey, that’s still a lot of money. Just make sure you can make your film for that much. If not, you’re better off going for the full amount you need. Finally, don’t go at this alone. You need a team to raise any sort of significant money. Build a good one. 

Read more by

Lucas McNelly

Lucas McNelly consults on crowdfunding campaigns when he isn’t training for a marathon or trying to get the puppy to stop chewing on shoes. He used to write a crowdfunding column for Turnstyle News and keeps meaning to start a podcast. You can follow him

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