9 Practical Tips Filmmaker Heidi Saman Learned During Her Successful Campaign to Fund Her First Feature Film
I know, I know, we are all tired of reading posts about crowdfunding. But before you change tab, let me tell you in two words why you should read this guest post by Heidi Saman: practical tips.
I have probably read close to a hundred articles about crowdfunding by now, and this one might be one of my favorites. I actually almost wish it wasn’t on my site, so it would be easier for me to praise it as much as I want to.
Let me back up a little bit, in a ‘full disclosure’ fashion: few months ago, the eccellente @eanieves #FF-ed Heidi on Twitter, and I started following her. When she launched her campaign, I checked it out planning not to spend any money, but was seduced (against my will!) and ended up not only backing Namour but also offering Heidi to write about it. We couldn’t make it work during the campaign, but Heidi offered to write about what she had learned raising 26k for her first feature film.
I just thought: even better.
I hope you will enjoy this post as much as I did and if so, don’t hesitate to connect with Heidi and share her wisdom around:
A Post-Kickstarter Analysis: Tips for Launching a Successful Campaign
- I did a 28-day campaign. The shorter the better. I believe Kickstarter endorses this as well. This also forces you to be very strategic in how you manage every week of your campaign.
- Time of year does matter but not entirely. One thing I knew was that I didn’t want the campaign to go too far into the holiday shopping period when people are overwhelmed with gift purchases. My campaign was going to end just after Thanksgiving and I was super hesitant about having the campaign occur during a time when people are typically with family and away from their devices. I was totally wrong about this. I think people are actually using their mobile devices more intensely during the holidays…maybe to distract themselves from family? I reached my goal two days after Thanksgiving.
- The more rewards the better. Let people from all income brackets feel like they can support you at a level that is comfortable for them.
- Your rewards should feel functional yet personal to your project I’m particularly proud of my partnerships with Perri Dotson for the embossed leather keychain and Son of a Sailor Supply for the wooden flash drive.
- Think long and hard about how much you can plausibly raise. My budget for Namour far exceeds the amount I raised via Kickstarter ($25,000) but I set my goal there because that was how much I plausibly thought I could raise. I sat down and wrote how many people I thought would actually donate to my campaign and how much I thought they would give me and that was the number I calculated.
- Cheerleaders are key. A good friend of mine who is a social media wizard suggested that I designate ten people who would be my ‘cheerleaders.’ These people had strong networks that were separate from my own, care about the arts and knew the type of film I wanted to make, and would really go to bat for me. Their cheer leading consisted of sending out personalized emails to their networks, using social media, and one-on-one phone calls. Think 2008 Obama style. That’s how hard these people worked for me.
- Have funds to throw into the campaign in case you see yourself not meeting your goal. This whole thing is a smart gamble, so be smart about it.
- Notify media outlets with audiences similar to you and your product that you will be doing a Kickstarter campaign and reach out to them about writing a piece, doing a blog post, podcast. My goal was to have one media publication or featured podcast go out each week — that way I had something to officially announce to my backers each week and to new potential backers. I did not do this ahead of time, but I was in the very fortunate position to have some of these media outlets approach me (which was awesome, btw). A nice thing about reaching out to media outlets while in the midst of the campaign instead of prior to it, is that they became interested because the project was live and saw it gaining financial momentum.
- Reach out to potential corporate sponsors and give them a heads up on who you are and what you’re doing. Something I didn’t do that I would have liked to have done is get a challenge sponsor — which is when a corporation backs you for a certain amount if you raise that certain amount in a xx amount of time. It’s great for the companies because they get advertising through your tweets, Facebook posts, or blog posts and you get some extra cash. I reached out to corporations once my campaign was launched, which didn’t give them a lot of lead time. I’m still figuring out the positives and negatives of this as sponsors are now showing an interest in Namour because of the successful Kickstarter campaign.
The most important thing before anticipating anything related to crowd funding is to have a strong social media presence. This is a no-brainer to most of you, but I cannot emphasize it enough. I have a tumblr, a twitter account, and a Facebook account. I don’t have a bajillion people following me on any of those formats, but I do have a humble and tight following — and for the past two years, I’ve been consistent in connecting with those followers. I should also say that I follow many of these followers as well. Like any good relationship, there is reciprocity, so I’ve been reading, liking, and sharing their content in as much as I’ve been providing my own.
When it comes time to crowd source, gear your readers up for the campaign. Prepare tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts for each week or day of the campaign. Months before I launched, I compiled photographs that were visually interesting that related to my campaign and matched the look and style of Namour, but also relayed a message about the status of the campaign. That kind of preparation really helped me, especially while I was in the rush of things.
All these things said, I had no idea if my campaign would succeed. But I’ve tried to delineate the things that may have helped it succeed. I hope this helps and good luck!
Heidi Saman is a filmmaker and associate producer for National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
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