Considering crowdfunding: Tips for Success
Kat Jenkins is a crowdfunding strategist who has worked in and researched the crowdfunding space for the past three years. She runs her own business www.multitude.co.nz and offers a range of crowdfunding support services for people looking to improve or launch a successful campaign.
The most successful crowdfunding campaign she has worked on in the arts sector Kat said is David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s documentary Tickled. The pair raised almost $30,000 on Kickstarter to produce what was initially going to be a short independent film. However, throughout the campaign, they managed to get Stephen Fry on board to produce the film, and they finished with 675 backers. The numbers were impressive enough to catch the eye of the Doc Edge festival and the film commission, resulting in a substantially larger budget through grants. After production was complete, HBO got involved and the film gained international distribution. Kat highlighted that successful crowdfunding campaigns can be really useful when applying for grants, as you are able to clearly demonstrate your following and tangible support with the number of backers that have donated money to your project.
The mass effort of the “Buy the Beach” campaign last year demonstrates that there will always be a space for crowdfunding in New Zealand Kat says, but she warns that for arts projects to be successful, campaign owners will have to work a whole lot harder. She said she’s seeing a growing trend of people not delivering on their promises, with backers left with a bad taste in their mouth asking for project updates and rewards over 12 months later.
Boosted has moved away from the rewards-based model and is New Zealand’s only donation-based crowdfunding platform dedicated to arts and creative projects. Since its beginnings in 2013, it has hosted over 700 projects and raised over $3.5 million. It boasts an impressive 84% success rate – the highest in the world, with the industry standard sitting at 45%.
Boosted General Manager Simone Hunter attributes Boosted’s high success rate to the amount of support they provide their artists, with 11 ambassadors throughout the country providing one on one coaching. The Boosted School of Crowdfunding also offers workshops in the main centres educating on the principals of crowdfunding and fundraising.
Simone said she sees crowdfunding for arts projects as so much more than a fundraising exercise, “it’s about the skills developed along the way; how an artist is able to tell their story, build support and grow their networks – these are all essential skills for arts practitioners to be successful in their field.” She added that the crowdfunding process also provides a strong PR platform for artists and invites access to previously untapped audiences.
Simone reported $5,500 is the average target for campaigns on Boosted. She said they encourage artists to be conservative with their targets and suggest using crowdfunding as a vehicle to contribute to a portion of the bigger picture. “Crowdfunding is just a part of the mix now, ” she said, commenting that artists are using Boosted to compliment funds received from other grants and traditional funding streams.
Boosted is also unique in that it offers matching opportunities with key industry partners. Simone highlighted the current Loading Docs campaigns on the site. Each year The Loading Docs Collective select 10 short films and challenge the film makers to raise $2000 on Boosted before they then match a further $4000 to each project as well as offer a production and distribution package. The films are then freely available on TVNZ on Demand.
Simone reported that film is the fastest growing genre on Boosted. She noted that from very early on film makers appreciate that fundraising is part of the film making process and that they are less afraid of ‘the ask.’
Anna Jackson of Loading Docs acknowledged that film making can be quite a solitary experience, so fundraising in this way offers filmmakers a chance to connect with their audience right from the very start. Seeing that people are interested in their project and supporting them from the start, Anna said is very encouraging for filmmakers. Because they are able to demonstrate their support in this way, Anna said more and more funding organisations are interested in this model of fundraising. Anna added that Boosted works particularly well for their filmmakers as it’s not focused on rewards, and allows artists to focus on raising money and get on with what they need to do. “People are supporting you because they care about what you do, there is a real emphasis on being involved and making a connection there.”
For artists considering launching a crowdfunding campaign, here are five top tips for running a successful project from Multitude’s Kat Jenkins:
- Have a crowd before you start. Momentum right from the start is very important and most successful campaigns raise 30% of their funds in the first week. This means you have to have a crowd before you launch. Spend a couple of months getting a mailing list together (be aware that if you're relying on Facebook, you're going to need a budget to boost posts so your fans actually see them), and get people ready to give on Day 1
- Make a great video. You are 30% more likely to succeed with a video. It doesn’t need to be movie length, 1-3 minutes is fine. Keep it focused and make sure the passion for your project really comes across.
- Think critically about your budget. Keep costs as low as possible. You can always over-fund, but the less money you’re looking for, the more likely you are to find it. Consider crowdfunding for a component of your total project
- $25 is the magic number. The largest portion of your audience is likely to give you $25. Bear this in mind when creating reward structures.
- Send updates. Projects that display updates prove that you’re moving forward and really working on this.