At this point, I’ve seen a LOT of crowd-funding campaigns. I’ve seen them succeed, and I’ve seen them fail. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the fantastic, and the face-palm. I might not be the uncontested expert on how to create a strong campaign, but I’ve talked to enough successful crowd-funders and seen enough examples of what works and what doesn’t work that I think I can share some pretty useful advice if asked…
…and in certain cases, if I’m not asked.
I have to say that this year has been pretty wild when it comes to crowd-funders. I’m already outlining the “2018’s Year in Review” blog to focus on the various Kickstarters, Indiegogos, GoFundMes, and even FundRazrs that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various fan projects over the past several months. Some have soared, some have been absolute nail-biters until the final hours, and yes, some have struggled.
I feel really bad for the struggling ones. In some cases, I do whatever I can to help with blogging support and even personal contributions on occasion. But sometimes, all I can do is watch helplessly from my computer, seeing so clearly what’s being done wrong (or not being done), and wanting to shout like a frustrated fan sitting in the bleachers to a quarterback on the field.
But usually, I just hold my tongue (or in the case of blogging, my typing fingers). After all, these are not my campaigns, and if people don’t ask me, then all I’m doing is shoving my nose in where it doesn’t belong, right?
Well, I’m about to shove my nose in. Hopefully, I won’t regret it…
Of all of the recent crowd-funding campaigns for Trek fan films, there are currently three that are really struggling to reach their goals…all of them using the GoFundMe platform (which might, for all I know, be part of the problem, but I don’t think so).
The first campaign, for Dreadnought Dominion, has raised only $275 (of $1,500) from just 8 backers. However, they get a pass because, as I learned recently, the show-runners discovered they would not need to pay a large fee to rent the Stage 9 Studios (the former Star Trek Continues sets) but only cover electricity and maintenance for the days they shoot there. Therefore, they don’t need to push their campaign…and so they haven’t been. Costs have been mostly covered.
The second campaign is for Melbourne‘s second fan story, “Balance of Terror.” After six months, they’ve only managed to raise $475 of their $3,500 goal from just 8 backers. This campaign has issues similar to the ones I’m going to discuss today, so I’d urge those folks to read this blog carefully, as well. But my real focus today is for…
The third campaign, The Lexington Adventures, currently sits at $555 of a $1,350 goal with 20 backers in three months. Not bad, but the description says: “This is to raise enough funds so the cast & crew of The Lexington Adventures will be able to film their first episode in Arkansas in the third week of September, 2018.”
That’s just two weeks away!
So when I saw this post on the Fan Film Forum Facebook group from Lexington show-runner JOEY BONICE asking once again for donations, I had to ask him: “…what happens if you don’t make it to the full $1,350?”
Joey’s response came a few minutes later: “We’re pushing filming back to after the holidays next year, as there’s no way we will meet our deadlines right now. And this will give people more time to donate to our cause. We’re not giving up the fight just yet!”
I had to admit that Joey’s reply stirred up a number of conflicting thoughts and feelings for me.
On the one hand, I really really want these guys to succeed and reach their goal. I feel that way about nearly all fan film efforts. So I’m glad they’re staying optimistic and not giving up the fight just yet.
But at the same time, I feel like that guy wanting to yell at the quarterback. After all, I’m sitting up high in the stands, and I can see more of the field than he can. Joey’s GoFundMe has obviously stalled. And just putting up a Facebook reminder with link every few weeks on Fan Film Forum (and maybe some other groups) isn’t going to spontaneously start generating new support when they’ve only gotten four donations in the last two months. Why would fans suddenly start donating when they haven’t been…just because they see a Facebook post?
Perhaps it’s time for a new approach or two…or seven!
I wrote up a response to Joey Bonice almost immediately—I just felt like I had to at least get it out of me—but I held off on posting it. Do I really want to do this? I asked myself. Joey never asked me what I thought about his campaign or what suggestions I might have to improve donations. And yet, here I was writing up a “How to” guide for him. That’s pretty ballsy, Jonny!
In the end, after a lot of thought, I did decide to post the comment. Why? Two reasons. 1) Because I really DO want this GoFundMe campaign to succeed, and these really are strong suggestions. They might not all work, but if even one of them has a positive effect, that’s better than saying nothing, right?
Of course, I could just message privately to Joey Bonice without the fanfare of a public post. But that leads into the second reason: 2) This advice isn’t just for Joey. There are so many campaigns I see that can do much better than they end up doing simply because they don’t seem to be aware of some pretty basic and, in some cases, relatively easy strategies (in other cases, the suggestions will require more effort). However, there are some things that just make sense to do…and not everybody does them.
But maybe if they read this, they will. Here’s what I wrote back to Joey…
My humble recommendation, Joey, is that you consider doing the following:
1) Expand the description of your project on your GoFundMe page. Include things like a breakdown of the costs of where specifically the $1,350 will go to. You give a general list, but there’s not a lot of detail for such an exact number. How much goes to costumes, and how much for catering? What are the production costs exactly? Do you need props? Lights? Clip mics for better sound? Enquiring minds wanna know…and so do backers.
2) Talk more about what Lexington is, why it will be unique and not just another bunch of Trekkies in costume filming their role-playing. Sure, many fan films fall into this category, but each is special, each has its own voice and its own important thing to say. What’s yours? Why is it worth my $5, $10, $25, or $100 to give to YOUR project? Your page doesn’t tell me.
3) Make a video. A good video. Explain your project in your own words. “Interview” some of your cast and crew. Include some VFX if you already have any. Include some shots from your first short that already came out. Making a video shows that you at least know how to make a video. If your crowd-funding request video looks decent, it gives your backers confidence that your fan film will also look decent. If it’s flawed, then it becomes a learning exercise to show you how to make your final film better.
4) Promise donors at least something: their name listed in your credits, an early sneak peek at the finished film, exclusive updates on production progress, etc. You don’t need to offer T-shirts or patches or Kharn Roast coffee, but at least make your donors feel like they’re getting something for their trouble…even if it’s just a thank you of appreciation.
5) Make yourself more visible. Don’t just post reminders on Facebook asking people for money (although that’s important, too!), but have recurring updates or details about your project ready to post to build excitement. Look at what Samuel Cockings is doing for his upcoming Indiegogo for his new project Convergence. Granted, he’s got a lot of resources, but look at what you have, and try to leverage that as much as possible. Look at how much Vance Major posts…and he doesn’t even ask for money! But when he did finally ask for some funding to purchase TNG/DS9-era costumes for Constar Chronicles, he got $500 in less than 8 hours!
6) Don’t be afraid to seek out more coverage from fan film blogs. Samuel Cockings has been all over me for months to cover Convergence on Fan Film Factor—offering me interviews, exclusive artwork, updates, etc.—and you better believe he’s gonna get some. Space Command, Sky Fighter, The Romulan War, Stalled Trek…those folks all reached out to me to cover their campaigns and then kept providing me updates. Granted, Joey, you contacted me early on, and I did a feature on Lexington when you kicked off your campaign back in June. But since then, I haven’t heard from you with anything newsworthy. Pushing back your production date is, of course, newsworthy, but this is the first I’m hearing of it. I also haven’t seen coverage of your project in any other places (although, admittedly, there aren’t many Trek fan film blogs). But there is Treksphere and Trekzone…have you tried reaching out to them for some coverage? How about podcasts like “Continuing Mission”? People need to know you’re out there in order to donate to you.
7) Are there any friends with mailing lists or contact lists who would be willing to give your campaign a shout-out? Space Command lit up with donations in its last few days when e-mailing list updates for other fan films like The Circuit and Renegades included a “Hey, check this out…!” paragraph about Space Command with a link to its Kickstarter page.
There’s a lot of ways to try to jumpstart a stalling crowd-funder, Joey, but make no mistake: it takes work…lots of work. And as an executive producer, it’s actually YOUR job–and yes, it IS a job. Not half a job or “I’ll get around to it sooner or later” job. It’s a job that should be among your most major priorities until you reach that goal. And if you don’t do it, who else will?
Good luck, Joey. I hope you can find find some or all of these suggestions useful and effective. I hope you make it to your goal.