How to Have a SUCCESSFUL Crowdfunding Campaign
Hey, it’s So! As you may or may not know, I recently did a crowdfunding campaign via Kickstarter to raise $30k for my feature length documentary, LIQUOR STORE DREAMS. I’m going to break it down exactly how I was able to raise the money and what I would recommend in order to have a successful campaign. You have one crowdfunding chance so pick your ride or die project.
It’s not going to be easy and as someone who honestly hates asking for money, this was a bit out of my comfort zone but also I’m pretty shameless. Most of these things I’ve done like networking, e-mailing a trillion people, and doing social media comes naturally to me so I did the bulk of the work. If you’re not good at this, get someone on your team that is good at it! And of course, you don’t need to do all this but I did because I’m not a celebrity and I knew this was my only chance to do this so I went HAM! With that said, let’s begin.
BEFORE YOU LAUNCH:
Create a Pitch Deck. Do the whole shebang and write out your log line, synopsis, who your audience is, why you want to make it, and why it’s relevant now. These are a lot of the questions that grant orgs ask you and it’s a great exercise and one sheet to have because this process is going to be long and you have to know exactly why you’re creating this film!!
Which Crowdfunding Website is Best for You? There are so many at the moment like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Seed and Spark, and more. I only picked Kickstarter because of brand recognition, it’s clean layout aesthetics and because I knew the all-or-nothing aspect would scare me and everyone else. Even with that, consider all the other factors like the 5% pay cut, success rates for the individual websites, and what is the best for your project.
How Much Should You Raise? I picked a number that was scary but achievable. I had initially set out to crowdfund $20k but at the advice of Andrew Ahn who told me, “You’re going to work just as hard, might as well do more,” I increased my amount to $30k. I would normally not recommend that, I truly took an incredible leap of faith and it worked out in my case.
a) How Big is Your Network? Factor in all your communities from your personal to professional friends. Most times you’re only going to get 10% of those people. I have about 1,500 facebook friends and these are all people I’ve met and known for many years.
When you publicly crowdfund, most people are going to pick the small sum option and give $10 or $25 dollars. Calculate how many people you can realistically get to donate and go off of that number. At the end of it all, I got 349 backers for my project and 25% of them were outside of my network.
b) Have a Back Up Plan. Especially if you’re using Kickstarter to crowdfund, which is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding website, it’s a gamble. If you raise only x amount, do you have an investor or own personal saving that can come in and be your own closer for the campaign?
c) Factor in the Cut. Most of these websites take a 5% cut or less so consider that when you pick your number.
Create a Compelling Pitch Video. Most of these websites require a pitch video that explains what your project is about. So in 3 minutes or less, someone should explain the project or show a glimpse of what the film entails. It’s always great to have already shot footage so people can get a sense of what the film project will look or feel like.
Some people start their video with a teaser then go into their pitch but I decided to start with me as I am the face to this project and please make sure the first 5 seconds of the video is attention-grabbing and engaging.
Pick Incentives that People ACTUALLY Want. Do you really think people are going to want a painting from some obscure artist? No thank you, next! Pick incentives that you personally would want and want to provide for others. I value items that are part of the experience of the project like getting inside access, a photo book of personal stories, or a coffee date that is also a personal tour of Koreatown.
a) Show Me the Incentives! If possible, have the incentive already made and put a photo of that so people can see what they’re going to get. That’s something I should’ve done with my project.
b) Hype it Up! It’s always good to create special incentives if they donate in the first 3 days or last 3 days to create more momentum.
Build a Marketing Plan. You have one month to raise x amount! You better be prepared for the ebbs and flows of crowdfunding! Create all your social media accounts and assets beforehand and have them planned so you don’t scramble during the campaign. Figure out the language you want to use for the posts that would work best for that platform. I made a bunch of gifs and videos that could be released every single day and week to keep people engaged and informed.
a) Find Your Aesthetics. Create assets that are aesthetically pleasing and obviously, related to your project. I finally learned Photoshop and I’m so glad that I did because it helped a lot for this process. I used the color yellow because it’s the most commonly used color in liquor stores and it’s vibrant and attention-grabbing when people are scrolling through million other campaigns.
b) What’s your Tagline? I created a tagline that I always used so people could immediately get a sense of what my project is but also it was something quirky that I could always fall back on if I needed a quick post. “Liquor Store Dreams. Open 24/7”
c) New Releases. Every week, I released a new video that was related to my film like my Director’s Commentary for my short or my Dad’s reaction to the short. It all came in handy.
Get Press Involved. Before a week, I launched the campaign, I made a list and emailed a bunch of online publication in the Los Angeles area to see if they would be interested in writing about my short film and Kickstarter campaign. I only got 2 people to respond back to me which is pretty standard but it always helps and doesn’t hurt to try! And follow up with them after you launch!
Have Partnerships! Before you launch or even during your campaign, try to partner up with different orgs and places that could offer certain incentives for a time period to get people more interested! I teamed up with Vidiots, the iconic L.A. video store-turned film non-profit, to give out free tickets to their screening while they promoted my Kickstarter and vice versa!
When Should You Launch? I feel like there is no right time because people will give money if they really want to. People say avoid the holidays because budgets are tight but I think people are always spending money and may feel more generous during the holidays. If there are certain themes in your film that have national holidays or anniversaries, I would take that into consideration.
I launched LSD on May 6 after pushing it back several weeks. I wanted it initially to coincide with the anniversary of the LA Riots on April 29th, in hopes to gain more traction but I felt rushed so I pushed it back. May was a great month because it was still near the anniversary, it was Asian American Heritage Month, and my birthday month! I also specifically launched on a Tuesday because most things are released on Tuesdays (it can work with you or against you in this case) and I wanted to just avoid Mondays and Fridays. I also launched at 6am PST because I knew at least the east coast was awake but ideally, I would launch at 9am PST.
SO YOU LAUNCHED! Now what?
How to Share the Good News?
a) PIN IT! Share your crowdfunding link and pin it to all your socials. Then upload the videos natively to each platform that will route you to the crowdfunding campaign page.
b) BOOST IT! I don’t recommend this for everyone but I tested it out in the first week to see if it was helpful. I boosted my kickstarter video on Facebook and Instagram for $10 dollars for 3 days. The results were that people checked my instagram profile but did not always click through to the Kickstarter page and ultimately, 3 days isn’t enough to see clear results. If you’re going to do this, boost just the Kickstarter page link for a full week and see how well it does.
TELL EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. YOU. KNOW. INDIVIDUALLY! Sure, you’re going to post it on all your socials but tell them individually too. Unless it’s for an event or announcement, I would not recommend emailing everyone in one chain email even if they are BCCed. I emailed every single person I wanted to share the campaign with and changed the language to cater to that specific person. There are days I emailed up to 100 DAILY because I wanted to put that personal touch when individually emailing/messaging on fb/sliding into their dms on ig. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but my whole motto is, Try your best so you don’t live with what ifs. And always follow up with that email if they haven’t responded closer to the end date.
Social Media is Hard but Worth It! SM comes naturally to me because I’ve been doing it for many years but considering this campaign was a different kind of beast, I prepared. Here are some social media tips that are helpful:
a) Post Everyday! I posted every single day thanking people (you don’t have to do this but at least post once a day about something relating to your campaign)
b) Tag Your Friends! I mostly every person who donated because most likely, it will show up on their and other people’s feed.
c) Have Fun with It! Try to have fun quirky things relating to the film that is not all about the campaign because people will fatigue of looking at the same old posts. Any quotes or statistics are always great!
d) What’s the story? As the weeks continued, I posted about my film’s crew, characters, plot points, & so on to inform them further about what the film entails.
e) Document everything! Document your progress. People want to see how the campaign is doing and any progress you made!
f) Look at your data! I realized that most of my backers were directly clicking on the Kickstarter link or coming from Facebook so I doubled down on Facebook posts! Every second counts so don’t waste your time if people aren’t clicking through on wherever!
Outreach! There is a certain point in your campaign where there will be a lull. You will need to find other ways to reach out to people.
a) Facebook Groups. I searched related themes to my film like: Korean Americans, Liquor Stores, Immigrants, Los Angeles. There are a lot of random groups on Facebook so I joined every one of them and posted my Kickstarter there. Because you’re new, always change your language so it’s more welcoming and not aggressive.
b) Mixers + Meet-ups. I went to a lot of Asian American mixers and meet-ups with everyone in the community to let them know that I am doing this. Interacting with people in person is always key and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, get their information and follow up with them with an email. Most people will forget so remind them where and when you met and the project you were talking to them about. Even if they don’t donate, it’s always good to meet other people and keep them in the loop of your projects.
c) Branch out! After you hit your close communities, get creative and see where else your audience may be. I went beyond my usual social media and posted on my two other YouTube channels, Linkedin, Tumblr, and a lot of other websites I normally don’t use but have an audience. Outside of digital, tap into whatever other communities you have. Whether it’s your gym buds, church pals, or even your parents’ friends, you can start to see how big your network can be.
Do You Get Marketing Help? So during this process, I got TONS AND TONS of emails from marketing people that wanted to help boost my campaign for a certain fee. I said no to most of them because I’m trying to raise money, not use it! Even the facebook boost was a reach for me but facebook ads are mostly undervalued so I went for it. But these people who supposedly can help you reach a bigger audience for $30, I don’t know why but I just couldn’t trust them.
With that said, if you want to try it, please do and let me know how it went because I haven’t done enough research or read people’s testimonials to see if it’s worth it.
Say Thank You! This may seem obvious but I messaged most of the people that donated to my campaign to thank them individually. It’s always the personal touch that matters.
I know this is extremely long but this is exactly what my team and I did, day in and day out for 30 days. Also it didn’t hurt that I made dance dedications to certain people who donated a lot that day. This is all I can think of at the moment but will update more if I think of anything!
If you want to schedule a crowdfunding consultation with me, please reach out to me at Sosreelthoughts@gmail.com.
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