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Finance your documentary via crowdfunding

Crowdfunding, it seems easy but only around 40% of projects manage to reach their goals. Here’s how you increase your chances of being amongst them.

With Kickstarter coming to the UK and the number of documentaries that raise funds via already existing platforms such as Indiegogo increasing, we thought you could do with a little bit of extra guidance on how to successfully raise funds via these “democratic financing tools”.

Earlier this week we already published a post which described 6 key tips from Indiegogo, but we’d like to give you a little bit more on that here.

Indiegogo said the key actions were:

1. Having a pitch video
2. Offer three or more perks to potential funders
3. Update your campaign page every few days
4. Post media to your gallery
5. Link to your other pages
6. Campaign less than two months

Recently Collabdocs spoke to one of the co-founders of Indiegogo, Slava Rubin, about how people could get the most out of the platform. He said the points mentioned above are important but alongside a good pitch you should be proactive and find an audience that cares. Setting up the campaign after all is just the first step, it is a tool, not the solution.

For example, we sometimes feature projects on this site that we think are worthy of funding. Only in about 20% of the cases these have been found on the platform itself by me or another member of the DocGeeks team, mostly they have been brought to our attention by someone involved with the project or one of its supporters. After all, you can’t support what you don’t know exists.

Rubin confirms that the most important thing to do is using social media to create awareness of your project and ask people to fund it. He says that personal emails still work the best for this, Facebook is the second most useful tool and Twitter the third. Integrate them with each other, find your own tone of voice and your audience on each platform. plus make sure you update your message daily.

You need to find your niche, think about why various people would be interested in your documentary and then approach them individually, explaining this. Show them you know your subject by publishing or republishing articles and media related to the subject, make it visual, make it a one-stop shop.

The Indiegogo co-founder describes that a good pitch should have five main components:

  1. You need to have a video – Especially if you want to promote a film project, show them the skills you have. A video campaign will raise 114% more money than non-video campaigns. It’s a no-brainer really.
  2. You need to have a realistic goal – If it’s your first ever documentary or film project then people are hardly going to throw money at you. Think about what you would absolutely need to get through to the next stage and ask for that only. Multiple crowdfunding campaigns to finish one film are not uncommon, they are just clever. With a lower target the goal is within reach and people feel they are making a contribution that can really make a difference ensuring they are much more involved.
  3. You need to have a good deadline – As Rubin points out, a longer deadline does not make it better because the “GoGoFactor”, which is based on the level of activity your campaign is showing and determines your place on the platform, won’t increase if you have many days left. On top of that backers will get bored with not being able to see any results (positive or negative).
  4. You need to have interesting perks – Apparently 70% of the campaigns on Indiegogo will have between three to eight perks and 93% of campaigns will have at least some perks to give to backers.
  5. Make sure you have interesting copy which mimics the message in the video.

And now comes the piece de resistance; the GoGofactor. Ever wondered how some projects that feature in newsletters and high on the blogs of Indiegogo and Kickstarter are picked by the platforms out of a possible thousands? Well, Rubin explains it as follows to Collabdocs:

We have thousands of campaigns that sign up every day and everybody wants to be featured. We believe that the reason that IndieGoGo exists and why crowd funding should exist is to democratise crowd funding not to maintain the status quo which allows one person to decide what goes on a home page or whether or not you deserve a bank loan.

So what we did is allow the people to decide based on their own activity who gets to be promoted. So that turned in to the ‘GoGoFactor’ which is a few dozen metrics – everything that’s obvious and many things that are not.

Things like the money velocity of how fast you are raising money, how many comments there have been on your campaign, how many people have promoted it via Twitter or Facebook etc. The things that are more subtle are how many people have actually added their pictures as part of their funder profiles? All of these things go in to the ‘GoGoFactor’ and the higher the ‘GoGoFactor’ the more we promote you.

So there you go. Take into account all of these factors and if you indeed have a great documentary idea your hard work should literally pay off in the end. To finish this post we’ll give you another couple of facts that you might want to think about before getting on the web and creating your own funding page. Do let us know though once you are live!

Useful facts:

– 93% of the campaigns on Indiegogo that reach their funding goal will offer perks. These can be everything from products, experiences or services that you offer backers in return for different levels of funding (remember: make sure you know what your target audience likes).

– The first 30% of your documentary funding via a campaign comes (or should come) from friends and family, then the strangers will follow. Once you get the first 25% of your funding you are five times as likely to reach you target.

– With four or more people on your team you tend to raise 70% more money than if you do it all alone.

– Using social media is the most important thing you can do.

– You can raise more than double the money if you or your team create an update every one to five days.


Good Luck!!!


Written by

Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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