Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t expect this…although my friend MIKE BAWDEN predicted it the day before. “I really think you’ll be up five or six thousand dollars by the end of Thursday,” he said, “You might even come close to your $19,500 goal.”
And he was right. After a crazy day of more than 70 donations, 40 from brand new donors and another 30 donations from existing backers (plus the $1,200 each from both of my match-backers), we’d taken in more than $5,000 for our GoFundMe for INTERLUDE!
So how did this all happen? Was it just blind luck? Did everyone simply wait to donate on the same day? How did Thousand Dollar Thursday turn into FIVE Thousand Dollar Thursday?
I know that a number of my readers have held crowd-funders of your own—or are planning to. And when something works for one of us, there’s no reason not to share our “secrets.” After all, we fan filmmakers are in this together!
So this blog is a deep-dive for anyone who is interested in everything that happened “behind-the-scenes” to set up all the dominos that fell into place so perfectly yesterday. Sure, every campaign is unique, and not everything that I did will translate to other campaigns. But take from this whatever insights you think might help you out.
For everyone else, feel free to read this blog if you’re curious to find out everything that the duck was doing under the water while gliding smoothly over the surface. It was pretty wild! Otherwise, feel free to skip this one…
So…funny story to start this out. While I haven’t been paying much lip service to the detractors during this campaign, I did find it amusing when—as the donations were pouring in—one detractor tried to turn lemonade back into lemons with the following comment…
What followed, as you can probably imagine, were a series of snarky comments aimed at me and, of course, ALEC PETERS. (You can read the whole thread here.) But what surprised me was that some detractors were actually DEFENDING me! Can ya believe it??? And a well-earned appreciative tip of my hat to—of all people—CARLOS PEDRAZA for schooling MATTHEW MILLER a few comments later…
So thank you, Carlos, and to all of the other folks on Axamonitor who have ve stuck up for me and my project over the past two months.
As for Matt, welll…in his mind, I’m “outsourcing everything”—directing, acting, building sets, sewing costumes, doing lighting, supplying music or VFX…all of the things mean you’re doing something useful for the production. Of course, he’s forgetting one of the most important jobs: raising money so that all of those other things can happen!
Sure, you can always shoot your fan film on a shoestring budget. But if your dream is to make a high-quality fan film and you don’t have the money finance it all yourself (which I don’t), then setting up a successful crowd-funding campaign makes everything else possible.
I freely admit that, while I did write the Interlude script, I don’t have the skills to act or direct, do CGI or handle lighting, make-up, sound, music, and my editing skills are minimal, etc. But one thing I do know how to do (or was pretty confident that I could) was crowd-fund. Granted, I hadn’t actually done it before, but I’ve spoken to many people who have, watched carefully what’s worked and what hasn’t, and I felt ready to take a swing at it myself.
And here’s how I tackled Thousand Dollar Thursday…
In a crowd-funding campaign, try to avoid weekends or any day that touches a weekend. In other words, Fridays-Mondays are bad. Tuesdays-Thursdays are good. Why? People go away on weekends and sometimes leave a day early or come back a day late. Sure, not everyone goes away every weekend, but the likelihood is that at least some of your audience is away from the Internet on the “bad” days…more than on the “good” days. If you’re doing a special promotion for your campaign, you want as many eyeballs home and with access to the Internet as possible.
So how did I decide on Thursday and not Tuesday or Wednesday? Nothing scientific…I just like alliteration. When my two big backers said they’d be comfortable capping their matching donations at $1,200, the phrase “Thousand Dollar Thursday” just popped into my head. Also, considering that I’d already set August 20 (a Tuesday) as my “point of no return” deadline, choosing a date five days prior allowed for a time cushion to build up to a big final push day (or even a do-over) just in case the promotion tanked.
Why not schedule it the previous Thursday instead of cutting it so close to the end? Well, first, the offer had only been made to me a few days prior to the previous Thursday, which wouldn’t give me a lot of time to promote it. And second, I would be flying back from Colorado to Los Angeles the previous Thursday (Aug 8), and this wasn’t the kind of promotion one leaves on “auto-pilot.” I needed to be on top of this thing for the entire day.
I can’t stress this enough: it’s not what you know but whom you know…and whom THEY know!
In the week leading up to Thousand Dollar Thursday, I reached out to dozens of my fellow fan filmmakers and asked if they could mention Interlude and the promotion on their Facebook feeds and, if possible, as a shout-out to their donor emailing lists. Folks like VANCE MAJOR (Minard/Constar), GARY DAVIS (Dreadnought Dominion), MARK NACARRATO (The Romulan War), GARY O’BRIEN (The Holy Core), CHRISTOPHER ANDREWS (Arianna’s Enterprise), ALEC PETERS (Axanar), LUKAS KENDALL (Sky Fighter), MARK EDWARD LEWIS (Blade of Honor), AARON VANDERKLEY (Line of Duty), and a few others that I’m forgetting all agreed to help spread the word leading up to Thursday. Those without big followings—like Kenny Smith (First Frontier) and Mark Largent (Stalled Trek)—promised instead to at least donate. I thank all of them.
But my biggest thank you, however, goes to RYAN HUSK and MARC SCOTT ZICREE of Space Command. Ryan had already facilitated me getting a shout-out on a donor mailing update for Renegades/Cozmo’s early in the campaign. They have a HUGE mailing list of previous backers, and their shout-out brought in some nice donations and helped spread the word. (In fact, I’d likely have gotten a second shout-out from them for Thousand Dollar Thursday had this not also been the week that the crowd-funded series Cozmo’s is launching a new $100K Kickstarter for episode 2.
But the biggest fish in the pond was Marc Zicree. His mailing list of Space Command loyalists numbers in the the thousands! And while they’re not necessarily plugged into the Star Trek fan film community, they probably love Axanar (most fans do…even the detractors think Prelude is a solid fan film). And, of course, they’re predisposed to donate to crowd-funding campaigns. And they LOVE Marc Zicree (who doesn’t?) A positive shout-out from him spreads the word to a whole slew of folks who might not know about Interlude yet and would probably be likely to donate.
But Marc’s a busy guy! And getting to him, even with Ryan helping me out, took nearly two months. Sometimes I’d go for weeks without hearing from Ryan, only to get a sincere apology for not getting back to me as he’d been trying hard to get in touch with Marc to ask about the shout out. But I persisted in keeping myself on Ryan’s radar, and Ryan eventually delivered…and just in time!
The shout-out was an e-mail from Marc (whom I’ve interviewed multiple times, so he knows me) focused exclusively Interlude and the Thursday promotion. It went out to thousands of people around the world! Marc and Ryan timed the e-mail to post Wednesday night at 11:30pm Pacific Time, and my first donations came in just after midnight. I’m convinced that most of those first $600 worth of donations (and a portion of what came later) were new donors brought in by Marc’s e-mail.
EXISTING DONOR RELATIONS
So that took care of bringing in new donors. But don’t ever forget your existing backers. Just because someone donates in week one doesn’t mean they don’t have a little extra again by week five of the campaign. Granted, some folks really do struggle and don’t have enough for follow-up donations. So never assume and always be humble when asking.
Of course, if all you do is send your donors repeated requests for more money, they’re not gonna appreciate it. Donors aren’t ATMs. So you need to build relationships with them through your updates…and also through your thank you notes. Most crowd-funding sites let you send out individual e-mails to backers right after they donate. Personalize as much as possible. At the very least, check to see if someone is donating for a second or third time, and say “thanks again.” This takes a little extra organization, but you want to make each donor feel special and appreciated.
As for donor updates, I’ve posted 20 so far. Only three have asked for more money…and the third was for Thousand Dollar Thursday. In other words, don’t over play the “asking for money” card. Hopefully, there’s lots more about your project to talk about—the people involved, how it came to be, progress (if any), or even how encouraged and excited you feel about how things are going.
With crowd-funding campaigns, the best way to connect to your donors is to talk to them through updates. The more updates, the better the connection.
Another aspect of timing is the question of when to start promoting something like this. You don’t want to wait until the last minute, as some folks need time to save up their money. On the other hand, if you announce a promotion like this too soon, then you’ll have a “donation dead zone” while people hold back until the big day.
I decided to give the promotion a five-day lead-in…both through donor updates, on my blog, and via Facebook. But also, for the week prior, I wasn’t really pushing donations the way I had been. Yeah, that led to a general slowdown in donations, but I felt that was better than encouraging donations only to then “double-dip” the following week when the big promotion happened.
The “big reveal” campaign was pretty basic. One week prior, as soon as the previous Thursday turned to Friday (didn’t want anyone getting confused about which Thursday was Thousand Dollar Thursday), I began to “tease” things by sharing the name but not explaining what it was yet. That reveal came on Monday when I explained about the matching donations and everything being worth triple.
I also appeared on the video podcast Egotastic Funtime, and even though it was released on YouTube on Monday, I blogged about it on Wednesday—a convenient time to remind everyone about Thousand Dollar Thursday the next day. I also asked Alec Peters to give me a short segment at the beginning of Axanar Confidential’s Monday podcast to talk about Thursday’s promotion.
THE BIG DAY
And finally, Thursday arrived. I’d already created a Photoshop template that would let me quickly grab a screen cap of the latest total and move the USS Ares across the graphic from left to right as the daily total went from $0 to (hopefully) $1,200…
I intended to keep updating these graphics throughout the day on Facebook and here on Fan Film Factor. In the meantime, I checked in with all of my friends in the fan film community who’d offered to help with a friendly reminder of the link, an offer to assist them if they needed anything, and of course, a big thank you to each of them. Never take anyone for granted!
Before the day was even half over, I had a good news/bad news situation. The good news was that we’d hit our $1,200 matching maximum after barely 10 hours! The bad news is that the day still had 14 hours left, and my exciting “tote board” graphic was now irrelevant.
Or was it?
Now that we’d hit our $1,200 goal, why not expand the progress bar to show our final goal: $19.5K? I quickly re-engineered the “tote board” to show the day’s progress toward our final goal…
(By the way, my son Jayden suggested the checkered flag line at the end. I love that kid so much!)
Meanwhile, as I kept updating the “tote board” every few hours, I kept IMing and emailing my fan film friends and updating them, too. And of course, I thanked people who donated. With more than 70 total donations for the day, I spent much of my time thanking people personally, making sure I got their names right, and being certain to check for previous donations before writing “thanks” versus “thanks again” as part of the note.
In the end, all of that hard work in the days and weeks leading up to the promotion—and during Thousand Dollar Thursday itself—paid off incredibly well. We now have enough not only to shoot in November but also to put back in some of the stuff we were planning to take out had we only made it to our minimum $13.5K.
Naturally, August 20 is no longer our “point of no return,” since we’re now far past it ($17.5K as I type this). But I do intend to leave the campaign up through the end of October, just in case we do make it to our full $19.5K goal. There probably won’t be much more in the way of big pushes for donations, but I’ll still float the occasional reminder here and there.
In the meantime, it looks like the Interlude fan film is gonna happen, folks! Thanks again to everyone who donated, is still planning to donate, or has simply stuck by and supported us along the way.