Overview of our Kickstarter Fundraiser
Our documentary on the hazards of dental mercury fillings raised $71,203 from 249 backers in 30 days, thus surpassing our goal of raising $60k. As my dad used to say….”Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness”
I initially wanted to raise half of my $300K budget through Kickstarter, but I was quickly counseled by several people to lower that amount. It was a hard message to hear, but ultimately when cameraman Travis Wears started running the numbers and showing me how many people would actually have to contribute and at what cost, I lowered the amount I was to raise, substantially. I lowered our fundraising goal down to $60K from $150K. Between Kickstarter and Amazon, they will take about 10% of our total.
When raising money through a crowd funding website, one has to balance asking for the amount they think they can realistically raise versus the lowest amount they need to actually complete their film.
In retrospect even my $60K fundraising goal was probably too high. While the majority of pledges came from people I had forged relationships with during the time of gather research footage for my film, a portion of funding came from an organization whose goal is to discontinue the use of mercury fillings. This was NOT a given, but a fortunate happenstance since I’ve built a relationships with many of their main members for over 2 years. Luckily, my film coincides with the goal of their members and organization. Luckily they had no interest in dictating the style, approach or content of the film.
Running the Kickstarter fundraising campaign took a lot more time than I had thought it would as it turned out to be a full time endeavor. I spent hours a day personally reaching out to people and organizations.
The pitch video
I was continually counseled by friends who’ve run Kickstarter campaigns to try and get our intro video down to 3 minutes or under. While I got our trailer down to 3:40… I still had to add on the personal pitch part of the video. Creating a pitch video was trickier than I had anticipated and we had to shoot it twice to achieve the right tone. Adding the completed pitch expanded the total runtime of our intro video to 5:35
I figured the opening trailer was the meat and potatoes that people needed to see for an overview and that we are serious about completing this film. If they wanted to tune out afterwards without hearing my personal pitch, I was fine with that. I would freely admit my personal pitch was too long as some of it was redundant. The Kickstarter stats show that only 47% of the plays of our trailer on the Kickstarter website were completed.
Had both our trailer and my personal pitch been shorter, perhaps more people would have watched to the end of the video and then felt compelled to contribute to our campaign. Our conversion rate from the number of people who watched our trailer to the number of people who contributed was horrible.
We had over 3,101 video views for our trailer and over 3,307 facebook likes of the video (this is displayed underneath the the trailer) But yet, only 249 donors…that is NOT a good turn over rate. And as I said, in the end we would have not even raised our fundraising goal with the financial help of outside organizations.
We will get funded cause we are on Kickstarter (NOT)
Kickstarter stats show the project owner where the person who has donated came from. Out of $71,203 only $1,482 came from someone finding our info on or through Kickstarter…that’s 2% of our total take.
These crowd funding websites are saturated, so don’t count on much from their viewers / membership as the donations are going to be directly related to the number of people you can get this out to, who feel personally moved to contribute funds to your campaign. And my caveat about that is most of those connections have to be personal. There were very few donors who I did not personally know.
Kickstarter Promotion ?
Once I knew I would make my goal, I specifically asked Kickstarter to promote my project… silence.. no response. So I’ll never know if a Kickstarter promotion to their members would actually provide a bump in donations from their promotion.
Facebook is a great tool
Over $20K came directly from facebook where I usually do postings of articles and footage from my interviews and other mercury news all related to my website www.mercuryexposure.info. I have about 1,800 facebook friends which I spent over a year actively accumulating. The vast majority of these are people whose lives have somehow been touched by mercury. For others out there who are contemplating raising money, find your niche and became the leader in that community (I did it by providing content from my research that spoke to that small community).
I kept thinking that because of the alarming footage in our trailer (we are the first to ever visualize mercury vapor generated during polishing and removal of mercury dental fillings… at levels thousands of times higher than safety limits) and the sheer importance of the subject matter that I thought our fundraiser would take off like a rocket. Combine all that with all the work I did prepping for people and websites to promote us… and I ended up being wrong, very very wrong about what I could raise and it was extremely humbling.
Probably the most disappointing thing was getting written support early on….. weeks before we launched…. that indicated people who were helping to run a few of the big autism websites would promote our fundraiser, only to have them not return emails and not promote us once we launched the campaign. It was totally disheartening and a major blow.
My take away is…
Nothing is a sure thing, even when people will say they’ll do something, sometimes they won’t. Don’t rely on any one approach and have many backup plans.
My personal relationships with many mercury free / safe dentists is what saved my project. Outside of these other organizations we would have not reached our goal and thus lost everything. I tried to stay away from mass emails and plead my case directly to individuals. I think people are more apt to give when it comes as a personal request from someone.
All or nothing is not the only game in town
When going through an all or nothing crowdfunding website (such as Kickstarter) one has to be very realistic about how much one thinks they can raise through their personal connections. It is a rare project that goes viral and rakes in tons of pledges.
Running this campaign with the thought that we might lose it all if we don’t hit out goal was extremely stressful.
Luckily for others looking to raise funds, Kickstarter is not the only game in town… as there are other websites, such as indiegogo.com which give the project owners whatever they earn during the fundraising process.
While this might have taken some of the stress out of the process, one still has to run the campaign with the knowledge that every dollar earned will be one that was earned through hard work and perseverance.
SUGGESTIONS for successful fundraising campaigns
- Make a kickass video.
- Know your niche / audience / community.
- Pre-plan by getting people to agree to actively promote your fundraiser.
- Be realistic on what you can bring in, not what you need.
- Include something for businesses.
I lucked out by adding business tiers right before launching. Since my movie is about dental mercury there was a great niche in the area of mercury safe dentists, who are passionate about this subject.
One might want to think about having business tiers where you offer their logo on your website for say $100 and in the credits of the movie for $250. But one has to actively pre-promote this to all those businesses you might think have a vested interest in having their products or services associated with you film.
Caveats: tricky thing about promoting someone on a website (as a benefit to them) is it is usually tied to how many views (or page hits) a website gets… in order to be valuable to the person you are promoting one should be able to show a large number of page hits. over at www.mercuryexposure.info we get around 200 hits a day. I thought surely with our trailer posted on every single page that we would get some donations from people viewing our website… kickstarter logged about $800 through the use of their widget…so I don’t know if how many (if any) were directly from my own website.
Reach out to webradio…we did, especially those in health care…we did two interviews on Natural News…with Linderman Unleashed and Robert Scott Bell.
Back up plans
What happens if your fundraiser flops ? It is a definate possibility, so what’s your backup plan ? Don’t rely soley on your fundraiser. Use google to find applications for film grants. I’ve applied to several documentary film grants and turned down by most, but I’m still hopeful some funding will come through those avenues.
If you have a dream, don’t give up. Perseverance and determination will see you through.