Sarah Moshman is an Emmy® Award Winning documentary filmmaker and TV Producer and in 2012 she came up with the idea to create ‘The Empowerment Project’ as a way to change the way women are portrayed in the media by spotlighting 17 strong women from a variety of lifestyles and industries. To get the project off the ground Sarah and her business partner Dana Michelle Cook raised $28,590 in 60 days on Kickstarter with 404 backers. They completed the film in May 2014, and now Sarah and Dana have the privilege of screening the film and speaking in schools around the world about facing fears, following a dream and not being afraid to fail.
My favorite quote from the film is: “Be bold and naïve,” by architect Katherine Darnstadt, and that is a good attitude going into crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is a revolutionary tool for anyone, especially those who otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to produce their dream products and projects. When done right, platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter and other specialised sites like Seed & Spark can empower you to define your vision, build an audience, raise funding and set you up to create an amazing project to put your name on.
Too often those looking to raise money through crowdfunding don’t put in the necessary preparation work and consideration to refine their messaging and streamline their campaign. Here are five tips to get you going towards not only a successful campaign, but a meaningful experience that will continue to pay off long after the donations come in.
1. Do your research and PLAN
Be an expert of your category. Look at other campaigns that have been successful in your area and ones that have failed. Why did this campaign work over that one? Which platform did they use? Why did this work for them? How many people backed them? What kind of rewards did they offer? Try to get in contact with as many successful crowdfunders as you can to get some valuable tips on what they learned.
Do your homework when comparing platforms too. Will you get any money if you miss your target, or is it “all or nothing”? Rewards based crowdfunding is where entrepreneurs pre-sell a product or service without incurring debt or sacrificing equity / shares or to launch a campaign.
Equity crowdfunding is where the backer receives shares of a company, usually in its early stages, in exchange for the money pledged. You should check out the legal implications, especially when you’re looking at equity based funding. Crowdfunder is an example of a platform that is equity based. My tips are mostly in reference to rewards based crowdfunding like Kickstarter.
Pick a time to run a campaign when you can focus a lot of your time and energy. IT IS A FULL TIME JOB. So if you have full time job like I did during my campaign, just know how little sleep you will get and how much stress this will produce. Prepare yourself.
With that said, the more you plan ahead the better off you’ll be. Draft mass emails, make a list of blogs to reach out to that may want to write about your campaign and start to think about alternative marketing strategies that will set your project apart from others.
Put a press kit together with good quality images that you can share. Reach out to journalists who have an interest in your sector. Who will be your best allies? Who can you trust to be on your team and has a vested interest in the project? With such a short window of time to fundraise, the more preparation work you do and contacts you gather, the more streamlined the process will be.
2. Have your elevator pitch down
If you had to describe your project in within a couple of sentences how would you do it? This is very important because you are going to be giving this pitch a LOT. In your video, in your emails, on social media, in person to family, friends and strangers you must know your idea inside and out and be able to articulate it properly.
What is the essence of the story or the cause? Why should anyone care? And perhaps most vital to the elevator pitch is passion. If you don’t deliver that pitch with passion and enthusiasm every single time you say it, you could be missing out on a potential backer. And during your campaign, EVERYONE is a potential backer!
I have met many a crowdfunder with no passion for their idea whether it’s in their video or in person. If you don’t care about your project why should I? Why should I open my wallet for you if I don’t understand your project and don’t feel your passion? Of the 404 who backed ‘The Empowerment Project’, at least a third of those were complete strangers that identified with our cause, loved our message or loved us. Whatever the case, they donated money to a person they had never met and I believe that’s because of the passion we had for our project.
3. Make a GREAT video
Keep it short and sweet. We made a four and a half minute video and the stats on Kickstarter told me only 33% of people who watched my video actually watched it all the way through! And my passionate plea was at the end of my video. Grab the attention of the audience, give some kind of proof of concept, and let us know why you need the money.
Proof of concept is very important to a great video. Gather some material for your upcoming project, or show examples of past projects you’ve run. Spend the time and maybe some money to show your potential backers that you won’t squander their money away. You are a professional, you have credibility and you have a plan.
4. Know your audience. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!
I had to say that one twice. This is perhaps the most important tool in crowdfunding. A lasting fan base will carry your project through to completion. That’s right – the people that back you in the crowdfunding phase will be the first ones in line to buy your product or service or support your cause. Yes your friends and family will donate to your campaign. Yes it will seem easy at first. Then, one day, NO ONE WILL DONATE. And it will crush you. So here’s where knowing your audience comes into play. Who is your project aimed at? Why?
For us, our cause and our mission was always about empowering women; shining light on strong female role models which is something that is lacking in the media today. Even though we are a documentary, this can be true for narrative too. We had a line-up of strong women, so we accentuated that! We had a female director, cinematographer and producer; that’s an angle and a hot topic. Whatever your cause or product / service make that clear and then structure all of your outreach and marketing to match it. Once you know your audience you need to locate them and get them excited about your project.
The magic of this is these people will stick by you. They want to see you succeed. We leaned on our backers and still do! We stayed with backers on our road trip, we got referrals from them of women to interview, and we share every major milestone with them along the way because we couldn’t have done it without them.
5. Think outside the box
When it comes to marketing a campaign, think about all the oversaturation. How can you stand out? How can you be heard amongst all the noise on social media? You don’t do it by posting your campaign link everyday, or annoying people with constant emails. How can you brainstorm to present the same information consistently but in a different way?
Emailing, press releases and social media are vital to the process but get creative! Go outside and meet people, hold an event that supports your mission. Get your community involved!
During our campaign I designed a shirt that said, “Ask me about The Empowerment Project.” I held a fundraiser at a local bar with a female DJ and female singer, so it was an evening of empowerment, and we raised $1300 cash in one night. I held poster boards up at Los Angeles landmarks that said: “5 DAYS LEFT!”, “3 DAYS LEFT!” and took pictures to post.
None of this was ever within my comfort zone before the campaign but crowdfunding has this funny way of yanking you out of your comfort zone very quickly.
I hope you take these tips as a jumping off point to create a meaningful and successful campaign. What a wonderful resource it is to raise money from people around your community and around the world. Go forth! Be bold, be naïve, and be passionate!
The Empowerment Project: Coming to a town near you!
We are seeking schools and colleges, regardless of where in the world you are to host a screening of the documentary to empower your students. We’d also be interested to connect with corporations who are running social responsibility projects in their local communities and would like to use the film to inspire women in the workplace.
To learn more about ‘The Empowerment Project’ and how you can host a screening, go to: http://indieflix.com/empowermentproject