Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mr. Dollar Short

We all love free money. Any time you can raise funds that don't have to be paid back, it feels like heaven. Today's ASK JOY column deals with running a successful crowdfunding campaign for any type of project or venture:

Hi Ms. Joy,

I’m really frustrated! I’m an Actor/Director and I’ve been trying crowdfunding to get seed money for a horror film I’d direct and star in. Nothing is happening it’s just failing. I’m trying to raise $5,000. I’ve emailed all my entire address book of over 600 people. I Facebooked, Twittered and all that for 60 days but only raised $200. What am I doing wrong? How many more ways can I get the word out?

- Dollar Short in Marina Del Ray

Mr. Dollar Short,

Crowdfunding can be a great way to announce a new project to your support network and gather monies that you don’t have to pay back. It
can really work. Based on what you’ve told me, it’s possible that your problem falls into one of four categories: Contacts, Campaign Length, Return on Investment, or Method of Outreach.

Contacts are the first cornerstone of a crowdfunding campaign. You need to have enough friends, family, and associates to reach out to. Do the real math on your campaign. If you need $5,000, are your 600 contacts really enough to raise that kind of capital? Let’s say everyone you know gives a dollar, that’s only $600. Perhaps most of your contacts are having money woes from the recession and you don’t know 50 people who can each donate $100 or, even $10.

You have to know who comprises your contacts. If your network is only relatives, a few friends from college, other actors and filmmakers, you may be barking up the wrong trees. If your relatives or college buds aren’t in the biz, there’s a strong possibility they didn’t understand what your project is and how the crowdfunding works. On the flip side, your actor and filmmaking contacts may be too preoccupied with their own projects to care about yours. In LA, even your mailman has a screenplay. Know your contacts.

Your second issue could be campaign length. You let your campaign run for 60 days. Someone asking you for money for over a month can become annoying. Having 60 days to donate doesn’t create a real sense of urgency. Fundraising efforts have to light a fire under someone’s butt quick, fast and in a hurry. Shorter is better.

The ROI, or return on investment, has to entice your target audiences. You can’t just send “thank you” notes or offer a dvd. Be imaginative and fun so that your benefactor gifts stand out and strike a cord with most of your immediate contacts.

Now, if none of these are the problem, it could be your outreach methods. It’s great that you put your campaign on Twitter and Facebook but, if those groups aren’t that big, that can be a non-solution. A Twitter audience of 70 followers and a Facebook friend list of 134 folks isn’t cutting it. Just blasting people with generic emails won’t work either. Few people like to be “generally” asked for money even if they like you.

Don’t send Facebook email blasts that will only get lost amongst other Facebook email blasts. Take the time to personalize. Reach out personally by phone or letter to your aunt that sends you money for every holiday. Take time to directly contact your friend that made a bunch of money online. You know who your whales are. Cater to them in a way that would put Vegas to shame.

Make sure there’s more than one way to donate and that people understand this. Ask the people who love you to help spread the word. State all of this in your video (and you should create a video to complement your campaign).

Look at these categories and see if you can re-strategize to give your campaign some momentum. On a side note, don’t forget to actually ask for the money. People need to understand that you actually need cash and that even a dollar will make a different. Say it! Don’t assume they know it.

Keep rising!


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