Jan 21, 2013

For and Against: Privately Run Crowdfunding Campaigns

As you no doubt know, we recently ended our unique, privately-run, crowdfunding campaign. We reached our target without the use of a crowdfunding site (see: Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Sponsume), and I’m aware that a lot of you are curious whether I think it was easier or harder to raise funds for our film without using any of these sites.
Well, it’s a tough call to make as the positives and the negatives seem to be fairly balanced. You’ll have to decide for yourself. Below is a list of the positives and negatives of privately running a Crowdfunding Campaign –
Instant Payment You can spend as you go. Payments are received instantly, meaning we were able to buy props and costumes as the campaign continued. This essentially meant we could handle pre-production at the same time as the campaign, allowing us to begin the shoot, just 13 days after the campaign ended.
Trust The flip-side to such a positive is obviously the biggest thing that puts people off – trust. As anyone can set up a private campaign, there’s obviously the possibility that some may use it as a scam (they have done in the past). BUT the same can be said of crowdfunding sites. Those who run campaigns through trusted sites do not guarantee ANYTHING to the person who contributes. So trust is something that is needed for both.
Exposure You’re on your own. One of the biggest benefits of using an ‘established’ crowdfunding site is the exposure your project may receive. Arguably the more you work on making people aware of your project, the more you get out of it. You can’t just set up a campaign and hope people will contribute. You have to be out there constantly spreading the word to as many people as possible. Although you may find people actively looking to invest by using these sites, exposure is something that YOU control. A campaign with 500 twitter followers using a site such as Kickstarter, will struggle more than a campaign such as ours, with over 2500 followers, not using a site.
Lower Target The biggest benefit of not using these sites (as I’ve mentioned before) is that you can ask for less money! Crowdfunding sites typically charge 5%, then you have paypal/amazon fees, and added to that, each person who contributes is charged an additional fee (which I personally find off-putting). Privately run campaigns allow you to ask for roughly 6% less (making it more likely that you’ll reach your goal) because you don’t need to pay the crowdfunding site. This of course is the biggest factor – is the exposure you might receive from a known site worth the extra expense? You may reach 6% more people, but you won’t be seeing any of that money for your project, the crowdfunding site will.
Although we didn’t make 100% of our goal, 95% is nothing to snub your nose at. I think we showed it can be done and probably should be done more often. We arguably took a big risk, as anyone does when they set out to crowdfund, but in the future we’ll most likely use this method again.
So why didn’t we reach 100%? Well, this comes down to two things, as far as I can tell. We didn’t have a dedicated team spreading the word (friends and family spread the word now and then, but it was essentially just me and Tom out there every day). Despite knowing you need a constantly flowing ‘awareness campaign’, it just wasn’t possible. The second factor was local media are terrible. We’ve had this problem before. I won’t name names, but aside from a couple of sources, we were ignored despite calling regularly about who we are and what we do. We were assured that articles and interviews would take place but they never happened. We were continually ignored, even by those who had invited us on their shows and hoped we would return, or interviewed us for articles before. In one instance we even recorded a radio interview and the presenter just didn’t play it on their show because they “didn’t have enough time”. Why invite someone to do an interview and not even play it? So, local media, despite a couple of sources, are essentially dead to us (I’m speaking on my own behalf). We saw no real response from the local area, with the majority of backers being people outside of our county, that found us online via social media (Twitter)
The greatest thing we took from the campaign was seeing countless people, who we’ve never met, pledging astounding amounts. Obviously it’s appreciated when friends and family contribute, but when you receive contributions of £200 or more, from people who don’t know you personally, and simply appreciate what you do, it’s really something special. The words of support received as we ran the campaign have also made it worth while, so again, thank you!

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