Most of us have at least one dream that we’re deathly afraid to utter out loud. It is the thing we see when we close our eyes after a long, unfulfilling day at work. It is the butterflies in our stomach as we read book upon blog post about how other have succeeded doing what we long to do.

Often times, high on our list of excuses reasons for not having pursued said dream is that we frankly can’t afford it. We can’t afford the materials we need to make it happen. Lord knows, we can’t afford to take off work and focus on a passion project. Loans apps have been unsuccessful and credit cards are out of the question.

What’s a girl to do?

Five years ago, the answer may have been to just give up, but today there is another option out there for people looking to fund their “unrealistic” dreams: crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is the process of funding your idea little by little via a community of folks who believe in what you’re trying to do. These days, sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Crowdrise, and others make the process of grassroots fundraising easier than ever, creating platforms for individuals and organizations to raise anywhere from $500 to $500,000 towards their ideas and projects.

So, how does the whole crowdfunding thing work? We sat down last week with filmmaker Sarah Moshman to talk about how she is using a crowdfunding strategy to bring her indie film project to life. With 20 days still to go, Sarah has already raised $12,735 towards her $25,000 goal. Here’s what she’s had to say about the process:

[CGC] Tell us a little about your Kickstarter Campaign.

[SM] Gladly! Our project is in the documentary category and it’s called The Empowerment Project: a docu-series about women. My business partner and friend Dana Michelle Cook and I began our Kickstarter campaign on March 28th with a goal of raising $25,000 over 60 days. Our goal is to travel across the US for a month this fall interviewing 10 inspirational, career-minded women in a variety of fields to create positive role models for girls and women everywhere. AND we are going to make the whole piece with an all female film crew. At the end we will have a 10 part docu-series to show for it about 10 very different powerful women. We are super passionate about this project and if we reach our goal it will truly be a dream come true!

Our first full webisode is about Sundance Best Director Winner Jill Soloway and it also features an interview with her long time friend and collaborator Jane Lynch! Once we hit 50% funded our backers will have exclusive access to that webisode.

[CGC] What did you need to do to prep for your campaign?

[SM] I think the preparation for the campaign is just as important as the actual fundraising time. It is very important to start your Kickstarter page at least a couple weeks if not a month in advance because it needs to be very carefully crafted to get the best results. And the great thing is that you can share a preview link of your project to try to drum up interest ahead of time. It’s also important to have a press release ready to go for the launch of your campaign. So for us, we spent a long time figuring out the wording on our page as well as getting a punchy press release ready.

The video is probably the most important part of preparing. It has to be short enough that people will stay engaged but long enough to explain what the project is and why people should donate. (For a point of reference of the amount of times people play our video, only 35% watch it all the way through) It also helped me a lot to write up a list of media outlets to reach out to with our press release as well as blogs that might be interested in our cause.

[CGC] How did you set your project fundraising goal and deadline?

[SM] Well 60 days is the longest amount of time you can set on Kickstarter and since this is our first time doing anything like this we wanted to give ourselves the most amount of time to pull it off. Now that I am in the midst of it I see why shorter amounts of time are more popular. Urgency is a huge factor when it comes to people taking the time to donate. If I could do it again I might shorten it to 45 days or less. But it’s all a learning process!

We chose $25,000 because although it isn’t the full amount of money we need to really make this project happen it felt more attainable to us to fundraise. You can always exceed your goal, but if you don’t meet it you lose all of the donations people gave you! That’s super scary when the stakes are so high. The money we receive will go to transportation from city to city, video equipment rentals, memory cards, hard drives, food, the list goes on and on. It isn’t cheap to travel across the US for a month with an all female crew but if we pull this off it will be beyond worth it.

[CGC] How did you come up with your rewards system?

[SM] We studied a lot of other project’s rewards and we found there is a common theme especially when it comes to film and video projects. Like others we have a special thanks reward, a thank you card reward, a Heartfelt Productions t-shirt, a digital download of the series in its completion, a signed t shirt from all ten interview subjects, and it goes all the way up to our higher amounts where you can be an Executive Producer or we can add you to our trip and interview YOU!

It seems like it’s helpful to not have too many rewards, as it gets overwhelming, but to make the rewards special enough to convince someone who may not know you to donate. You have to be able to deliver all of your rewards in a timely fashion, so you don’t want them to be too complicated or too expensive for you to produce.

[CGC] Some expert suggest coming up with an “angle” in order to interest people in donating to your campaign? Does your campaign have an “angle” and if so, how did you come up with it?

[SM] That is definitely good advice for any Kickstarter, know your audience! Your family and friends will only take you so far in terms of donations. You have to access that outer layer of people whether it’s friends of friends or perfect strangers. In the bigger campaigns that seems to be how they achieve their goal – by reaching outside of their networks and accessing a whole new circle of people.

Our angle is female empowerment. We are trying to set ourselves apart from any other project or documentary by having an all female film crew and practicing what we preach when we produce this series. Our angle and audience is mostly women, but men as well that are interested in supporting a project that empowers women. We might appeal to Moms that want to live in a world where their daughters can feel empowered, we might appeal to women that want to go after their career aspirations whatever they may be, and we might appeal to fellow indie filmmakers that know how rare it is to have an all lady crew and are supportive of the idea. It was easy to come up with our angle since it is intertwined into everything we stand for as women and with this project.

[CGC] What strategies are you using to promote your campaign? 

[SM] Social media is obviously the #1 way to get out the word. We have a facebook page for our production company at: Facebook.com/HeartfeltProductions and we also have our personal networks to call upon. Friends have been re-posting our link, which helps a lot to access a new network of people. Twitter is great to tweet at women’s organizations and causes and try to get attention that way. I have paid for a couple promotional posts on Facebook to get our message out to more people as well.

Emailing works well for us, sending mass emails to your family and friends as well as personalized emails to get the word out and directly ask people you know to donate and share.

Media outreach is huge. We have reached out to tons of media outlets, women’s organizations, and blogs with our press release to try to get more exposure and promotion. It’s fabulous blogs like this one that help us climb slowly but surely to our goal!

Can’t count out grass roots marketing too! I have a t shirt I wear that says “Ask me about the Empowerment Project” as well as business cards with our info ready to go at all times. I made a flyer to put up in local businesses and I am always talking about the project to anyone who will listen! In addition we have had some great PR events to get the word out too. We have hosted a couple women’s forum events to have an open discussion about women in the workplace today as well as talk about our project. We have done some public speaking and we are even putting together party events to ask for donations. Any and every way we can get out the word we are trying it out!

And we are still learning. Everything is a potential opportunity to make this dream a reality.

[CGC] Any final thoughts on how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign?

[SM] It is a lot of work to launch a successful campaign. It is honestly like a full time job! It’s important not to get discouraged because some days you feel on top of the world and other days you feel like there’s no way you will reach your goal. You have to be passionate and driven to maintain the kind of energy you need to make it happen.

We still have time left in our Kickstarter campaign and we have a long way to go to reach $25,000 so please check out our project and donate! It would mean the world to us. Thank you!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/531137895/the-empowerment-project-a-docu-series-about-women

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Discussion:

Have you ever used crowdfunding to bring a project to life? What tips and strategies would you share? Would you use a crowdfunding strategy? What questions or reservations do you have?

Don’t forget to check out Sarah’s campaign and donate if you feel so moved!

 
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