So you have a great idea but you don’t have funding? Aside from begging your parents, skipping meals, and buying a Mega Millions ticket, crowdfunding is the most accessible way to fundraise. I’ve recently completed a Kickstarter campaign and thankfully, we successfully raised over $30k. It was a tremendous learning experience, and I've compiled a few tips on how to stand out from the crowd while crowdfunding.
1. Pick a Platform
Everyone is familiar with Kickstarter, but there are a variety of crowdfunding websites available. It’s crucial that you find the site that aligns with your project and its needs. Some platforms only allow you to collect funds if you reach your goal. Others allow for flexible funding. So whether you raise 100% or 20% of your ask, you’ll walk away having benefitted. Among the top crowdfunding sites are: Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, WeFunder, Startup Addict, Piggybackr and Quirky. Each aims at assisting different types of projects. Startup Addict targets fundraisers for up-and-coming businesses, Piggybackr is for youth fundraisers, and Quirky aims to help inventors.
So once you have your idea, identify which platform will help you reach your intended support group.
2. Determine Your Core
This part should be easy, because if you’re creating something, be it a business, film, or product, you’ve already determined who’s going to be interested in your creation. Those with an immediate connection to your project are going to be first money in and will likely encourage others to contribute. Figure out who and where they are and start contacting them!
3. Inform Without Exhausting
Crowdfunding isn’t new. By now, most people have probably gotten an email or Facebook message informing them of a Kickstarter campaign. It will be important to let people know about your campaign without exhausting them. No one wants a million emails about your project. Be tasteful and timely when making contact with donors. And remember, all help is good! Sometimes people won’t be able to make a monetary donation but they’ll be willing to spread the word. Take advantage of this offer! It is equally important.
4. Contact Social Media Tastemakers
Social media will be crucial to spreading the word outside of your immediate family and friends. Blogs and online magazines are constantly looking for content. Contact outlets that will be interested in your project. When I was in the midst of my own campaign, a blog helped us reach our goal within 12 hours of posting about our film.
5. Show Gratitude
Whether you’ve reached your goal or not, give thanks to those that have supported your cause. Not only is it important to show how people have impacted your project, saying thanks for each contribution will also help you stay encouraged. You will have tangible proof of how much your circle believes in your vision. Plus, once people know that you’re grateful for every penny you drum up, they’ll be more willing to help, financially or via word of mouth.
As children, our parents read to us and immersed us in fantastical worlds to lull us to sleep. My mother would read “Where the Wild Things Are” to me. Growing up, we learn that stories can take on many forms, and that sometimes, the most inspirational and uplifting stories are true.
A year ago, fellow USC film grad and friend, Arthur Musah, approached me about partnering on a documentary, One Day I Too Go Fly. Arthur, a Ghanaian, came to America to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After years of working at Texas Instruments, his desire to share stories with the world brought him to USC. One Day I Too Go Fly, originated out of his need to show the world a new Africa and how foreign students, like himself, adapt to a new culture and find ways to contribute back home. The film would document the lives of 5 African students pursuing their undergraduate degrees at MIT.
I’m not African or an engineer, but this story definitely resonated with me. Unfortunately, I was sure that if I asked any of my friends what they knew about Africa, they’d definitely make a comment about the turmoil and hardships. I wasn’t sure, however, what they could tell me about youth in Africa, what their educational needs were, or what the future of Africa would look like with a booming young population looking to have influence. One Day I Too Go Fly struck me as an opportunity to tell a small part of this story.
This documentary is not going to be a rags to riches tale. Each of the students we are following has a varied background. They hail from Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Tanzania. For some, they are the first in their families to pursue higher education. Others are continuing in the footsteps of relatives before them. The one goal they do share is the desire to make a difference in their communities.
One Day I Too Go Fly is a living, breathing story. It continues to change as the undergrads grow in Boston and take what they’ve learned back home. In our first year of production, we’ve seen our students struggle through new classes, make new friends, and we’ve even had the opportunity to go back to Nigeria with one freshman, Phillip. Our project is unique in that it spans the students’ entire undergraduate careers. We won’t complete production for 4 years. As a producer, that’s an obstacle. Our costs are relatively low, but we have to be prepared to fund our project through post-production, which could make this a 5 year endeavor. We may not be able to secure firm partnerships until our story is more flushed out—at the two year mark.
On top of all of this, both Arthur and I have full-time jobs. We’re forced to balance the needs of this project with other responsibilities. Thankfully, we have a wonderful team of advisors: Mark J. Harris, an Academy Award winning documentarian, Helen Elaine Lee, a Professor of Fiction Writing at MIT, and Kate Amend, a Sundance Lab Editing Advisor. Our advisors have provided a tremendous amount of knowledge.
As independent producers, we’re tasked with finding funds for our project. We’ve managed to raise over $22,000 on a crowdfunding site thus far. We’ve applied to countless grants and will continue to do so. Festivals have been kind enough to show our teaser, we’ve reached out to the press in an effort to share our story, and when the time comes, we’ll follow through with our outreach plan, seek distribution, and submit to our finished film to festivals. For now, we are growing as filmmakers while we witness our students pursue their dreams.
For more info about One Day I Too Go Fly:
KICKSTARTER LINK: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1820684617/one-day-i-too-go-fly-documentary-production