In exactly one month we will begin principle photography on This Is Art. A week ago, this terrified me not because I didn’t think we were prepared, but because there was a very important factor I couldn’t control. We needed $6000 to make our show and we didn’t have any of it.
So seven days ago, we finally launched our IndieGoGo campaign, I felt as if I were a tiny ant standing at the bottom of a towering mountain.
“Insurpassible,” I thought aloud as I starred at the glowing computer screen. I allowed myself one fleeting moment of doubt before plunging into action and clinging to the strength of my conviction that this project is something worth pursuing to the bitter end.
I immediately contacted everyone in my address book with a blind copied email about our project. I tried to approach it as call to arms rather than a plea for handouts. Then again, an “ask letter” is what it is. You can’t really dress it up as anything else. Honestly, I find this to be the most uncomfortable and unsavory part of producing my own work.
However, I knew that I would have to get over the discomfort in order to achieve my goal. I harnessed my passion for all the work we’d already done so far and wrote about the power that new media entertainment puts right into the hands of the artists themselves. For those unfamiliar with webseries, I knew that would be a huge selling point and it’s definitely one of the main reasons I’m so committed to this art form.
So, I sent out my emails. Check. For fun, I pressed refresh on the Indiegogo campaign. Nothing. My heart fluttered. Even though we’d barely started I was beginning to feel the tremendous pressure of our campaign’s time limit bearing down on me.
In order to stay proactive, I started thinking about campaigns I had contributed to and ones I had not. Some had budgets that were so astronomical I didn’t contribute because I didn’t see an ascertainable goal on the horizon. Conversely, I almost always contribute to projects that look very close to reaching their goal. I can’t help but try to help them achieve it. Being on this side of the table, I now think about all of this very differently.
One thing became crystal clear within the first day of our campaign; we needed some brave souls who would take the initiative and make the first donations in order to help us gain the momentum to garner other supporters.
It was at that moment I received an email from IndieGoGo. “A new contribution came in for This Is Art: The Webseries on IndieGoGo.” My heart lept! The little ant version of me puffed out her chest and took a wee step up the mountain. Another email came in. Another step.
I began posting about our progress on Facebook and Twitter, diligently expressing gratitude and linking to everyone I could so our status updates would show up in their feeds and other people might see them as well. I also contributed to a few of my peers’ campaigns. One by one, donations started to come in, some small some large, but little by little that ant kept moving further up that mountain.
One of the most illuminating aspects regarding the outset of our campaign was seeing who came forward first in order to help us gain momentum. One thing surprised me. Within the first few days, a third of our contributions were from people with whom I had played World of Warcraft with over the years. I certainly expected family and friends to help us out but I was very touched at the outpouring of support from my “guildmates.”
Now before you tell me I have strayed from the subject at hand, I must tell you that I am including this brief caviat in order to express how worthwhile it can be to cultivate relationships with people you meet online, especially when it comes to developing content for the web. Heck, our web designer is a friend I met in an online fan community for the hit webseries, The Guild.
Now I know there are still some folks out there who find this whole newfangled internet thing to be a bit daunting and perhaps full of predators and possible rapists. I’m here to tell you that my guildies are some of my closest friends. We have travelled the world together, they have taken me to dinner, and they have always found ways to support my artistic aspirations whether it was a kind word in a moment of self doubt or a contribution to a project I’m working on. They have touched my life in so many ways, especially outside our “adventures in Azeroth.” In closing, don’t be afraid of putting in the time it takes to develop pixelated relationships.
Alright, alright! I’ll get back on topic!
When it came to looking for people to approach for larger sums of money, I turned to my mother. No, not for money, silly humans! For ADVICE.
My mother is a very practiced fundraiser and was at one time the president of Girl Scouts Chicago. When I told her about the premise behind the IndieGoGo fundraising model, she said one thing that I have found to be very true. “Getting these donations is about affirming your relationships with people. You have to make it personal.” She encouraged me to set aside a certain group of people that I thought I could approach for more sizable donations and spend some time tailoring my letters to each individual. She advised me to make the stakes very clear for people- not just the stakes of what happens if our campaign fails, but also the positive aspects of what the show could do for my career as an actor and a writer if it gets produced successfully.
So I set these contacts and letters aside, deciding that I would send one out every few days in an effort to both keep a steady flow of income to the project and also to keep from going down the entire list if it didn’t become necessary. One thing is for sure. You need to respect the people who come forward with larger sums of money by not continually harassing them in the future. My goal with this strategy was to keep from throwing all my golden eggs into one basket.
By the time I finished organizing that aspect of the campaign, we had managed to get fairly close to our first $1000. At this point I decided to try a little trick I learned from being addicted to World of Warcraft. In the game, they sometimes have “world events” or achievements that all players must participate in so that they can work together to unlock new tiers of content and abilities. Why not, I thought, create a mini ascertainable funding goal for the donors that has to be reached in a certain amount of time? AKA, if they got us to the $1000 mark by the end of the day, we would release bonus content from the project.
Sidebar: Apparently, everything I know about fundraising I learned from playing MMORPGs.
I wasn’t sure this strategy would be successful, but I thought it would be a fun to atleast try. Oddly enough, before I could BLINK, someone had donated enough to put us over that goal and suddenely it was me who had to catch up to the donors by quickly finishing the sketch and posting it online as promised. Nothing loses support for a project faster than making promises and not keeping them.
The way this works is as follows:
1. Go to the event page.
2. Click invite friends.
4. Press enter and give it some time to select the names.
I also added a personal message with a link to the campaign invitations so when they arrived in the recipients’ email, they would have all the information they needed without needing to log into Facebook.
There is certainly an awareness factor that needs to be accounted for by using this system. Many people don’t sit online and obsessively read status feeds like some other people do (read: me), so for them our status updates wouldn’t effect their awareness of the project and our progress. I realized that I had made the right choice in creating an event once another slew of donations began to roll in.
It took a few days, but larger donations started to come in, partly due to the personal letters we had sent out to friends and family. As we got closer and closer to 50%, it started a tidal wave effect. We went from hoping to get one or two donations a day, to getting three or four anywhere between $10 and $1000 in a matter of hours. Not only were people donating, but our cast/crew were becoming more proactive and involved in linking the campaign on their feeds and inviting their friends to our event. I’m positive this began to happen because our goal became more attainable. That mountain didn’t look quite so steep from almost halfway up the peek.
When we got to 46%, I released an update saying that if we hit 50% funded in the next two days, Emily and I would release a surprise video as a reward. At this point, that was $235 away and it seemed a reasonable goal given the time frame and our track record so far. What I didn’t want was to set a goal so high that there was a big chance our donors wouldn’t be able to meet it.
No sooner had I put this message out via all of our social media outlets then one of our donors stepped forward with the entire sum required to get us EXACTLY to 50%. He left a comment expressing that the reason he gave that specific amount was to reach the goal. Enough said. This system works, and it’s also a blast for us to figure out what we’re going to release!
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for becoming a part of our This Is Art family! Like Bon Jovi, we’re halfway there! We are so incredibly grateful to all of you and we cannot wait to start filming!
PLUS, on Thursday, Emily and I will release a special video because we reached our 50% goal in the allotted time!
BUT, my comrades! The battle is not yet won. We have 27 days to raise $3000. I firmly believe that goal is attainable, but it won’t be possible without your help.
To those of you who are still considering donating, feel free to check out our campaign page. We’ll continue to add more content to it as the campaign progresses and we edge ever closer to our shoot! Even if you are unable to contribute monetarily, we need all the help we can get when it comes to posting links and exposing new people to the project. This is not only a time for getting our campaign funded, but it’s also a great time for us to get our names out there and get people excited about the series from the ground up. Please help us by sharing our campaign on Facebook, Twitter and by Email.
Whether you are doing research for your own campaign or you are simply interested in our progress, I hope this update gave you some insight into what this crowd funding process has been like for us so far. I’m sure there are many lessons still to be learned as we move forward and I’ll certainly share them as we go! If you have any advice for us, we’d love for you to share it in the comments section below.
Now let’s climb the rest of the way up this frakin’ mountain!