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Crowdfunding tips from 11-time crowdfunding mentor Thomas Mai

BY Pozible | 20-Aug-2014
Want crowdfunding tips from 11-time crowdfunding mentor Thomas Mai, who's raised over $400K for film projects? Of course you do! The man who coached successful campaigns like Gayby Baby and I Dream of Gina dishes out his secrets on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. @pozible #pozible #crowdfunding

Be prepared

There is a lot of work that goes into making a crowdfunding campaign successful. I usually spend a full three months making sure I get my strategy right before I go live. During this time I undertake research on who could help spread the message; I also put a lot of time into my rewards and campaign video.

In this preparation stage I also investigate which organisations share my projects' views/interests. But instead of asking them for money, I offer them genuine experiences and opportunities to partner with the project and help to spread the word… if you only ask without giving anything back they will most likely not respond.

Get ready to work hard

When your campaign goes live it is a constant mad rush to get it across the finish line. As soon as the clock starts ticking you and your team will have to work at least full time to get your message out there. Get all the help you can get from family, friends, interns etc, as you are under time pressure and your project is on the line. Fight for your project. If you don't who will?

Your video matters.. a lot

I cannot emphasise this enough: your video is the single most important tool to succeed in your crowdfunding efforts. And this is even more true for filmmakers.

Do not underestimate how important it is to get it right. When I launch a crowdfunding campaign, my team and I usually do about 10 drafts of the script before shooting the video, then we reshoot many times before editing. You are not ready to launch your crowdfunding campaign before your video is perfect: end of story.

Communicate to your audience.. quickly

Any well done commerial will get you emotionally involved in 30 seconds. Your video should ideally be a maximum of two minutes in length, or the length of a news bulletin; which is adequate time to convey a message.

I recommend that you choose someone to be your project’s presenter/ambassador. The person should do a 15-20 second personal introduction about WHY you are making this project. You should then cut to a minute of trailer/teaser footage/demonstrative footage about your project, and then end with an outro from the same person explaining WHY you need people to donate to your campaign. This is how I have structured my videos and it's a good way to personalise and present your campaign.

Switch your thinking from ‘what’ to ‘why’

In crowdfunding you are pitching directly to the audience and they don’t care about the WHAT. They only care about the WHY. Why are you making this film? Why is this film important? Why should I as a member of the audience care? And most importantly WHY should I give you my hard earned money when I can send money to a charity, go to the movies or have drinks with some of my best friends for the amount you want from me? If you can’t answer this paramount question then you are not ready to crowdfund.

What to offer for pledges

Do rewards matter? Yes and no. No because the average donation we got across the 11 films was $194.30 and most of them gave above and beyond on what the actual pledge level was. But yes, people will be happy to receive something from your film. The more personalised it is, the more it means to them.

The more exclusive the reward is, i.e. a dinner party, premiere tickets, afterparty tickets, the more valuable they are. These rewards should be at the higher end of the scale between $100 - $10,000. Try to offer unique rewards that are limited by time or quantity at the higher end of your campaign. Easily mass-produced rewards, i.e. digital downloads, can be attributed to a lower value.

Your network and your campaign target

Think of all of your friends, families and close social media contacts as your first circle of influence. These are the people who most likely will give you money and support your latest film idea no matter how bad it is. I estimate that 50% of the people in your first circle will give you support.

The second circle is friends of friends, old and forgotten roommates… They will only support you if they like your idea. I have found that about 15% of them will probably give you money.

The third and final circle are the most important if you are going for more than $50,000. These are people who have no idea who you are but who like your idea. You can contact them through PR, partnerships, blogs, ads, general awareness etc. However, of everyone you contact in this circle, you should not expect more than 1 or 2% of them to contribute.

The numbers above should give you a rough idea of how much money you can ask for. Find out how many people you can contact and do the math.

Crowdfunding gives you more than money

Most people are so focused on the money when it comes to crowdfunding, but in my opinion that is the least important part. At the end of the day it is a great test tool to see if anybody cares about your idea.

If they don't, be happy, change your idea and move on. Crowdfunding allows us to pitch the idea to consumers and if enough go for it then by all means make it happen!

Yes, you will get frustrated and want to give up many times during your campaign, this is normal.

Believe me, I have been there 11 times!

I wish you the best of luck

Thomas Mai is currently working with Pozible to help experienced filmmakers to raise more than $100k for their next project. To read about it, go to www.pozible.com/missionpozible