I would be lying if I said that the experience of creating and pursuing an Indiegogo fund raising campaign was enjoyable. There were of course some great moments of joy when donations were coming in, but the day to day stuff was brutal. My first suggestion to anyone that is considering an Indiegogo campaign is to be realistic about how much money you think you can raise for your film. I did my Indiegogo fundraising campaign to raise funds for my finishing costs. When I say finishing costs I don’t mean to hire a professional sound mixer for audio post or a colorist to do color correction and grading. This is DIY filmmaking here…we don’t hire outside specialists. We learn to do this kind of stuff ourselves. I’m talking about getting music cleared, getting E&O insurance, legal representation as well as pay for the DVD artwork along with the packaging and duplication expenses. These cost were adding up quickly.
I estimated that this would cost approximately $38,000 if I was going to do it right. So I went ahead and used $38,000 as my goal in my campaign. I don’t have enough time to explain all the reasons why this was too much to expect. But I can say this… I raised almost $13,000 during my Indiegogo campaign and another $2,000 after it ended. I worked my butt off on it and even had my campaign connected to a viral video (with over a million views and thousands of comments). The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail both supported my campaign by writing about my viral video story along with a link to my Indiegogo page. The video that went viral was also posted on hundreds of blogs and websites all over the world, it even ended up on Yahoo’s home page reaching millions of people.
My point here is that even though I had had an amazing amount of exposure and these websites brought in hundreds of donations and thousands of dollars it just wasn’t enough to get me even close to my goal. I soon realized that if I didn’t have that viral video and all the publicity from the media, I may have ended up with maybe four or five thousand dollars tops. And that would of been because of some dear friends and family who either felt sorry for me or felt strongly about the cause and backed my film.
So unless you have an army of professional promotional and publicity people behind your film or perfect timing of a special cause that will have a mass effect on moving people to support…you must think realistically abut how much money you can raise from strangers. When you hear about huge fundraising efforts, in most cases the film hired professional publicists to promote the campaign. If I had to do my campaign over again I would probably have set the goal at $10,000. But you have to figure out your goal based on your documentary and what you need to complete it.
Although I didn’t get near my goal, I did raise $15,000 and that’s a lot of cash. So I just downsized my finishing plans and expenses so that I could get the doc released. I held off on E&O insurance and also on hiring a lawyer. I also cut back to the minimum deals I could make with music licensing. If PBS, HBO or any other broadcasting opportunities come along, I’ll go back and get the appropriate legal counsel, insurance and music licensing. But for now I’m good with releasing the doc with what I could afford.
You have to really think hard about picking perks. I looked at the $25 donation as a DVD pre-order. This way when you are pitching your campaign you ask people to pre-order as an option for their donation. Then when they get to your page they can decide how much they will donate based on your pitch video, your write-up and the perks you offer. But there is something nice about asking friends, family or even strangers to pre-order a DVD or digital download. After the campaign was over, I then put a pre-order page on my website and continued having additional funding coming in right up to the film’s release. I pre-ordered about 50 DVDs at $20 each and that thousand dollars came in handy when the Indiegogo money ran out.
By the way…Kickstarter VS Indiegogo? You should do some research on this and make your own decision. For me the answer was simple. Indiegogo gives you all the money donated regardless of whether you reach your goal or not. I understand and realize that some high end campaigns can use the Kickstarter “all or nothing” concept to their advantage by presenting the campaign as a do or die for the film project. But for DIYers, I would play it safe if this is your first campaign.
Another thing I highly recommend is getting a fiscal sponsor involved with your Indiegogo campaign. If you have even the slightest hope for someone to give some big bucks they will only do it if there is a tax-deduction for their donation. That is what a fiscal sponsor does, it gives your film all the benefits of a 501C3 organization. If you set that up before you start your campaign, all your donors will get a tax deduction receipt from your fiscal sponsor. They do take a percentage (between 5%-8%) depending on who you are working with. Fractured Atlas is the one I used. They are associated with Indiegogo and will seamlessly get the donations into their account and handle all the paperwork. All your donors will get a tax exempt document from Fractured Atlas along with a friendly thank you note after they make the donation. I would also recommend sending a personal thank you note to each donor.
I can not stress enough how important it is to work hard the entire month of your campaign. Do not do it part time, put all you have into social media, press releases, phone calls, emails and getting your message out to people. That is how I got my viral video on the Huffington Post page. I always researched the media outlets I was contacting to find out who has already covered stories that lined up with my film. This way I know that there will be at least be some interest from the journalist I contact.
Just remember one thing…this crowdfunding stuff is hard work and can be daunting. It will be the thrill of connecting with donors who believe in you and seeing your numbers go up that will make it all worth it. But you must work hard to earn the satisfaction of a successful campaign even if you don’t reach your goal.