Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Six secrets to crowdfunding campaigns

Feb. 26, 2014, 7:20 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Secrets to Crowdfunding with Vann Alexandra Daly from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Power2Give open up a new world for artists seeking funding – allowing small projects to reach a mass audience in ways that only large organizations with big budgets could in years past. 

To many artists, crowdfunding seems like the silver bullet for getting needed support. Yet much like any marketing campaign, crowdfunding takes a lot of time, resources and the ability to tap into an extended network of supporters.

“It’s a full-time job,” said Vann Alexandra Daly, a filmmaker who has raised a quarter of a million dollars for creative projects over the past year. “Every day of the campaign is important.”

Last week, Knight Foundation asked Daly to offer advice to South Florida artists on how to launch and sustain a successful campaign.

Here are some of Daly’s tips:

Give your video extra TLC: The video on your page is your introduction to supporters – and “you don’t want to turn off donors immediately with a bad video,” Daly said. Make sure the sound and picture are high-quality, and hire a filmmaker if you need to. Make the spot one to three minutes max, and make it authentically yours. You’re selling your vision and your project, Daly said. People need to see and feel your passion for your idea, much like artist Marina Abramovic portrays in this clip.

Secure early donors: The first week of your campaign is critical, Daly said. Kickstarter data shows that if you raise 20 percent of your funding in the first week, you’re 80 percent likely to hit your goal. Some causes will have a built in fan base – such as the Kickstarter campaign that raised $5.7 million to make the “Veronica Mars” movie. Everyone else needs to start by making an outreach list of 100 people – friends, colleagues, friends of friends and relatives – who you know will donate to your cause.

“I think that’s the misconception going into crowdfunding, that you think the crowd is going to be on your side,” Daly said.

Consider stopping your campaign if it’s not going well: If you don’t hit that 20 percent goal right off the bat, you may want to halt the campaign, regroup, and find that initial group of donors to boost your project.

“It takes a lot of courage to make that decision, but I think it’s worth it,” Daly said.

Have fun with rewards: These gifts for supporters, offered by donation level, are a great way to entice people to donate. Being creative is important. For one of her campaigns for a film, Daly offered contributors the chance to insert a “subliminal message” – say a photograph or a song in the background – into the film.  “It was one of our most successful rewards,” Daly said. Whatever you offer, make a detailed rewards budget – down to costs for shipping and packaging. You don’t want any surprises that cut into your budget.

Keep donors in the loop: People who support your campaign want to feel a part of it. Keep them updated via email, and consider sending them a selfie or a video taken from behind the scenes of your project. The extra effort will warm hearts, and hopefully get donors to spread the word further about your campaign.

Be wary of the timing of your campaign: Campaigns should only be about a month long – any longer and people grow weary of it. Also, be sure to launch it at an optimal time – and definitely not around the end of the year holidays when folks’ attention is elsewhere.

Daly, currently raising funds for Art and Craft, a documentary about the art forger and diagnosed schizophrenic Mark Landis, offered many more insights during her one-hour presentation with Knight Foundation’s Dennis Scholl, captured in the above video.  Check it out, or contact Daly via Twitter.

Marika Lynch is a Miami-based writer and communications consultant.