How we raised $12,000 in 30 days for our feature film.

TRIUMPH67 a kickstarter success!

Note: This is a repost from a post I authored at the TRIUMPH67 web­site.

Upon first hear­ing about crowd­fund­ing via kick­starter I was obsessed with how I was even­tu­al­ly going to put it to use on a film project. I had thought it would be for a doc­u­men­tary project that has been in the works for sev­er­al years, but when we got close to fin­ish­ing post-production on TRIUMPH67 and ran dry of funds (and time) I reex­am­ined what I thought I knew and real­ized that kick­starter would be the per­fect fit for us to bring the fea­ture film project to completion.

I start­ed fol­low­ing and mak­ing men­tal notes of the var­i­ous suc­cess­ful cam­paigns, espe­cial­ly film/movie projects, and began an out­line of my favorite tech­niques and approach­es. I stum­bled upon anoth­er Min­neso­ta film­mak­er in the process of a kick­starter cam­paign, Phil Hol­brook and TILT, and made a con­tri­bu­tion. His group real­ly seemed involved and moti­vat­ed and it was easy to become engaged. I was par­tic­u­lar­ly thrilled to see them meet their goal of $15,000!

Then, one project real­ly lit a prover­bial fire under my ass: an extreme­ly detailed write­up about fund­ing a book pub­lish­ing project called “Kick­Start­up” by Craig Mod (thanks for the inspi­ra­tion, Craig!).

KickStartup by Craig Mod

Not only did Craig pro­vide a scin­til­lat­ing sto­ry with great pic­tures, he did some real­ly use­ful analy­sis on his num­bers and fig­ured out what pledge lev­els were most pro­duc­tive. I decid­ed it was extreme­ly spot-on, and jived with much of what I had found else­where, and went ahead and cre­at­ed our pledge lev­els at what were the most appar­ent pro­duc­tive lev­els: $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000 and $5000. We knew it was a stretch to get any­thing at or above the $5000 lev­el, but we thought it looked good to have on our cam­paign! And who knew, maybe some deep-pocketed bene­fac­tor would emerge and desire to help TRIUMPH67 (nope, they didn’t).

TRIUMPH67 kickstarter pledge levels

We launched our kick­starter post-production cam­paign on Octo­ber 5th, 2010 and set it for a stan­dard 30-day dura­tion. I would rec­om­mend this length as any short­er and it might be hard to build up enough aware­ness for your project and any longer and you (and your audi­ence) will like­ly run out of ener­gy to con­tin­ue the fundrais­ing. How­ev­er, if you tru­ly believe you can do it in a short­er amount of time, go for it. You will be work­ing hard every day for every dol­lar in your fund. Can you ded­i­cate 30 days of your life to this? Let me answer that for you: Yes! Of course. This is like free mon­ey! Of course, you have rewards you need to ful­fill for each pledge and it takes a lot of your time, but you know what I mean. And you are build­ing your audience!

If you read Craig’s sto­ry of his cam­paign you saw that he out­lined their strat­e­gy for pro­mo­tion of their fundrais­er. They focused on twit­ter, face­book, emails and online media (blogs and mag­a­zines). Their dai­ly approach of tweets and sta­tus updates were bol­stered with four unique emails to their con­tact list, each of which meant an approx­i­mate increase of an extra $500 in dona­tions. Nice, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that send­ing emails is super low-cost or even free! The real­ly inspi­ra­tional bit of infor­ma­tion on their strat­e­gy was that they got their cam­paign men­tioned on at least fif­teen dif­fer­ent blog or mag­a­zine sites (main­ly deal­ing with design and art). That kind of push and pub­lic­i­ty would be phe­nom­e­nal for any inde­pen­dent film­mak­er and we hoped for some of the same.

The T67 Analysis

Here’s the run­down on how we approached our pro­mo­tion: We knew that the direc­tor, Dan, and myself could tweet and face­book on a dai­ly basis, along with sup­port­ing help from a few close peo­ple. This is where we real­ly took advan­tage of Hoot­Suite to keep track of what we were doing in sep­a­rate loca­tions and to not send out redun­dant posts. Bril­liant. Dan and I could quick­ly and eas­i­ly see what each oth­er had already post­ed or sched­uled to post and not repeat the same messages.

TRIUMPH67 kickstarter funding graph

We had hoped to do more full-on email blasts, but we only did one offi­cial TRIUMPH67 email a few days before the end of the cam­paign, which, tied with the impend­ing end of our cam­paign, gave us a boost of over $1000 com­pared to the pre­vi­ous day (which was a Sun­day, by the way (week­ends were always more chal­leng­ing)). We did, how­ev­er, act on our own per­son­al email con­tacts and sent out sev­er­al direct mes­sages to our friends, fam­i­lies and cowork­ers. The great hope we had of get­ting sup­port­ive men­tions in media or movie blogs nev­er panned out at all, most­ly due to our own lack of effort in this area. This is some­thing I’d rec­om­mend not skip­ping over in your own cam­paign — build your audi­ence and fol­low­ers at every step in your film­mak­ing process and get some media mentions!

Our biggest boost, and per­haps our biggest secret recipe that we stum­bled upon and we are now reveal­ing direct­ly to you, was in engag­ing our con­nec­tions on Face­book in direct chats. Since this per­son­al, one-on-one com­mu­ni­ca­tion was almost as good as being face-to-face with our acquain­tances, they were far more like­ly to agree to a pledge. Maybe it was too hard to say no direct­ly to us in this man­ner or maybe the per­son­al con­nec­tion was just real­ly con­vinc­ing, but once we got on this groove, we had our sin­gle best day in pledges with over $2800 raised (about 24% of our total)!

TRIUMPH67 daily kickstarter pledge levels

In sum­ma­ry, we worked our 30 days pret­ty hard and con­sis­tent­ly, although we weren’t ter­ri­bly engaged dur­ing the four days we were at the won­der­ful Fly­way Film Fes­ti­val screen­ing our work-in-progress cut of the film and it was patent­ly obvi­ous — we only raised $200 dur­ing those four days. Remem­ber, you will work for every pledge.

TRIUMPH67 kickstarter pledges per week

If you think that you will build it and they will come, you are sad­ly mistaken.

When you launch your own crowd­fund­ed fundrais­ing cam­paign, be ready to devote every free moment to work­ing it! We found that tweet­ing and face­book­ing at least twice a day seemed to be the right amount of social men­tions on our part (with addi­tion­al retweets or remen­tions a bonus on top of that) and didn’t seem to alien­ate or annoy any­body with the fre­quen­cy. We def­i­nite­ly should have sent one or two more offi­cial emails to our list of sub­scribers (don’t just send one!) and we should have spent more time on some good media/blog men­tions. Per­son­al con­ver­sa­tions led to our best pledge day and we’d rec­om­mend spend­ing time either talk­ing in-person to peo­ple or on the phone or chat/Skype/etc. Our first four and our last four days were high­ly pro­duc­tive, like­ly due to the excite­ment of launch­ing and wrap­ping up our cam­paign. It was the mid­dle 20 days that were the the long-slog of work­ing hard for every dona­tion, and week­ends were just tough in gen­er­al. If you don’t already have sev­er­al hun­dred friends and fol­low­ers on twit­ter or face­book (includ­ing sev­er­al who are quite influ­en­tial them­selves), you will have a hard­er time of effec­tive­ly run­ning a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign, so build up your social pro­file and your respec­tive per­son­al brands, every chance you get, not just when you need to raise mon­ey. You may find, as we did, that you will receive dona­tions through oth­er means as well!

After all, peo­ple are mak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion based some­what on your project, but most­ly upon their belief in you.

TRIUMPH67 kickstarter success

  • Days with­out a pledge: 2
  • Days over $25: 28
  • Days over $50: 25
  • Days over $100: 19
  • Days over $250: 12
  • Days over $500: 7
  • Days over $1000: 4
  • Best day amount: $2830
  • Aver­age pledge/day: $379.47

Further Reading

See our archive of tweets dur­ing our kick­starter campaign:
http://topsy.com/www.kickstarter.com/projects/jwilker/triumph67-0

Read more analy­sis of kick­starter projects:

http://pdnpulse.com/2010/10/tips-for-successful-fundraising-from-kickstarter.html

http://blog.kickstarter.com/post/1162195899/trends-in-pricing-and-duration

http://gigaom.com/2010/09/22/crowdfunding-kickstarter-has-some-advice/

http://coffeeandcelluloid.com/2010/03/01/behavior-patterns-of-kickstarter-funders/

http://coffeeandcelluloid.com/2010/03/04/how-to-figure-the-true-cost-of-a-kickstarter-project/

http://blog.kickstarter.com/post/5014573685/happy-birthday-kickstarter

http://blogs.indiewire.com/tedhope/archives/guest_post_jennifer_fox_part_4_how_my_reincarnation_broke_all_kickstarter_r/

http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/10000-successful-projects
(we are in the 5:01 seg­ment of their suc­cess­ful projects video!)

Recent­ly Won­der Rus­sell com­piled a list of arti­cles from around the world relat­ing to crowd­fund­ing. This is a great resource, per­haps becom­ing the actu­al Crowdfunder’s Bible, (thanks, Won­der!) and it’ll be worth your while to peruse every sto­ry pri­or to launch­ing your own cam­paign. Learn from those of us who’ve gone first and avoid the pit­falls and mis­takes we’ve blun­dered through!
http://bellawonder.com/2011/07/11/the-crowdfunders-bible/

Please note: kick­starter could just as eas­i­ly be replaced with indiegogo.com or rockethub.com or ulule.com. As of this writ­ing, kick­starter just sim­ply has the most street cred/reputation. Oth­er sources of crowd or micro fund­ing are: pledgie.com, flattr.com, pay­pal dona­tions on your own site, etc.

If you found this infor­ma­tion use­ful, please like and fol­low TRIUMPH67!