How I raised $3,000 in two weeks

Hello neglected Tumble-bees,

Ok, so the posting title is just SEO junk. No magic formula. :P But I’ve been meaning to blog about my experiences with fundraising for “Orbiting” for some time now. This rambling mess is still quite the draft, but it’s something to kick around until I have time to edit more thoroughly…

So you want to raise funds, eh?!

1. What’s your deadline?
2 weeks works great but you might burn out - it’s an intense process. 1 month is standard. Anything longer and folks lose interest. You’ll probably lose interest too!

2. How much do you want to raise?
You need to find that scrubland between realistic and optimistic. And when doing that, keep in mind that even the most generous donors may be experiencing “compassion fatigue,” i.e. they may have already given time and energy towards your cause. How can you get them to give again?

3. If you don’t reach your fundraising goal, can you still complete the project?
If not, why not? Think about having different checkpoints, e.g. if you raise $X, you do Y, but if youraise $10X, you create a unicorn that shits glitter while filing your taxes! Whut?

4. What exactly are donations going to?
You can’t just go in saying “just film costs” or “just a new album” (or in my case “hairplugs” ><) Provide as much detail as possible, ideally in a clean to read, organized manner. And definitely more pithy than this blog post. Things you might want to include: $___ for filming, $___ for MetroCards,$ ___ for heavy duty extension cables, $___ for mastering, $___ for therapy and zoloft (you think I’m kidding?) Also think if any of these costs can be offset by specific non-monetary donations, e.g. you might not realize that your friend down the road has the perfect tripod. Or your other friend is a pharmacologist. I don’t judge.

6. What kind of “rewards” can you offer donors to thank them?
Don’t waste your funds away on thank you gifts! Think of low cost or free and thoughtful thank yous. Dinner with the filmmakers? A naked ride along the Gowanus? (ew) GET CREATIVE! Just don’t get obscene. Kickstarter has some restrictions, i.e. no sling-heavy orgies involving furries as a reward. Freak… Let’s cuddle?

7. What fundraising model are you going with?
You can go with the panic-inducing all-or-nothing approach of Kickstarter.com - where you get 0% if you don’t raise 100% of your goal. But there’s also the option of getting whatever you raise via a site like indiegogo.com. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, but at least from my experience… it’s easier to raise funds if it you put a bit of urgency into it. And competition. Folks donate for all sorts of reasons - tap into this. Or ask them to tap into you. BOOM! Ok, I keed. Not really.

8. How accurate is your budget?
Although the amounts differ, I think almost all crowdfunding sites keep some of what you make (how else would they stay in business)? So for example - even if you raise $5,000, you’re not gonna see $5,000 in your bank account.

9. How do your donors want to be contacted?
Yes, this sounds like cheesy demographic research but you MUST know who you’re pitching to, especially if you’re trying to get beyond the usual supporters (friends and family). Are your donors web-savy? Do they live in Facebook’s newsfeed? Are they still forwarding you political humor emails? Do they prefer to be called first? You need to reach them in their own environment, not expect them to come to you. And yes, this might mean hanging out at The Boiler Room (face down ass up on the pool table) on a Tuesday night. Such are the sacrifices we make for our art.

10. When?
Chances are, most of your potential donors are like me, stuck in a 9-5 watching paint (or their fingernails) dry. There’s a good chance a 1pm Hump Day (Wednesday) email will be noticed, whereas one sent Monday at 9am will be lost in someone’s hangover eyes. Also, think about when pay day is - most people will blow through a portion of their paycheck on or around the 1st. Yay Amerikuh and credit card debt?

11. Are you talking about the campaign BEFORE it starts?
You want people to know about your campaign before you start trying to collect funds. Build buzz. Blog about it. Facebook post about it. Tweet about it. Call people and let them know about it. Don’t just spring the project on people out of the blue. Ride a unicorn into your office cafeteria while in drag and announce it. Or at least send an fax. Well, in Japan at least. The only place where faxes THRIVE…

12. How much time do YOU have?
Yes, I was able to raise $3,000 during my last Kickstarter, but it almost came at the loss of my (debatable) sanity. If I actually break down the amount raised by hours invested (without ADHD meds so you can only imagine) I wouldn’t be surprised if it fell around $5 an hour. Inefficiency? No. I call it… imagi… SQUIRREL! Between blogging, instagramming, writing individual messages to donors, thanking people on Facebook, organizing my contacts, getting work done, eating, sleeping, it took forever. I posted at least 4 incentive videos with new music, previews, etc.

13. Some thoughts about using Facebook as your campaign promotion headquarters…

  • For reasons I still can’t figure out, my Facebook fan page is pretty much dead, whereas my personal page is a jumpin. Maybe it’s the references I often post to Hello Kitty. Shrug. Something to think about when you’re promoting. And my Twitter? It’s active, but not for me. Nicky Minaj posts quite a bit (yes, I follow her!)
  • I tried posting re Kickstarter on my personal Facebook page 1-2 times a day, ideally around 12pm NYC time) as I figured most people would see it during that time. When posting, I thanked donors with the @tag while including a link to my most recent Kickstarter update video. This means that Facebook friends connected to anyone who pledged would see the campaign - and possibly trigger Facebook’s ever quirky algorithmic whatevers so that the Kickstarter campaign gets more prominent placement in everyone’s newsfeed. Yes, it was ridiculously spamtastic (and carpal tunnel inducing) but…
  • I copied each posting either word for word or some variation of it WITHOUT the @tag (but with a link to the Facebook event page promoting the campaign link) on my Facebook FAN page. I also posted identical text in the body of the Facebook event invite.
  • Many of my friends who posted the Kickstarter link to their Facebook walls didn’t @tag me so I wasn’t aware of their support - pay extra attention to what’s showing up in your newsfeed. If you see something, say something (thank you, MTA) or at least “like it,” comment back to them with an @tag thanks.
  • Give your fans reasons to celebrate (“milestones”) are particularly good for Facebook and other social spaces. Mine were $1000, 50%, 75%, 85%, when I gave birth to twins, when the mothership visited me, etc.
  • Beware of the “backlash” that comes with constant posting. In my case, several friends hid me in their newsfeed (honestly, I can’t blame them - I’d do the same). While this isn’t a problem per se, as a result they didn’t see my status updates about my NYC trip and we never met up. There’s a balance between self-promotion and being annoying on Facebook, and I have yet to come close to mastering it. MORE HELLO KITTY!

14. General thoughts in no particular order…

  • While exciting, crowdfunding is also emotionally draining - once you get into that weird space between commerce and art, it takes a lot of effort to not tie your value, worth, etc. to how much money you bring in.
  • My previous fundraising attempts have bordered on begging - HUGE mistake. Emphasizing the TEAM DANNY or some spin on TOGETHER WE CAN DO THIS (thanks, Obama?) works much better, plus you’ll feel better about what you’re doing. No one likes to beg, no one likes a begger. If you want to play the underdog card, at least put a positive spin on it!
  • You may be surprised at your biggest donors - mine were kind folks I don’t speak with that often. One friend, in contrast, responded with a “What is this shit? I’m not donating. But I’ll buy you a beer when you’re back here.” It was tasty :)
  • As much as I liked using Facebook for fundraising, it started to feel like I was back in a high school cafeteria, replete with cliques, infighting, political squabbles, etc. If your fans fall into warring factions or groups, getting them to rally behind you will be tricky. It’s probably worth playing up the “communities” you are already a part of - e.g. filipino, Asian-American, LGBT, corporate, non-profit, etc. or… the things you all share in common. Really depends on your Facebook experiences and connections.
  • Along those lines, if you haven’t yet, definitely join any alumni groups (on Facebook AND LinkedIn) before you start. I’ve gotten some great support from alumni I’ve never even met. And this is from Sarah Lawrence. If you went to a larger, frat-centric school, get your brothers/sisters to pledge.
  • There are folks that scan Kickstarter for projects they want to support. Don’t be surprised if you get funded by people who you don’t recognize. Appreciate it. It’s one of the quirky beauties of crowdfunding.
  • KEEP AT IT NO MATTER WHAT! Update and be involved in the campaign regularly (i.e. if you’re going with the more traditional month long fundraising time period, may post a few times a week rather than daily). Also, keep in mind that funding will be extremely uneven (i.e. big spike in the beginning of your campaign, then leveling off - sometimes to a trickle, with another spike towards the end).
  • Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated - I read somewhere that over 40% of Kickstarters DON’T get funded. I’m honestly amazed that we were able to pull in what we did in such limited time.

15. Finally, have a look at successful campaigns for ideas, inspiration, strategy, etc.

I personally like Alfa Garcia’s (http://www.alfa-music.com) recent Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alfamusic/alfa-you-her-next-ep

Good luck!

Leave a comment

    Add comment