by Erin Bagwell
Founder of Feminist Wednesday
This past summer Feminist Wednesday embarked on the terrifying journey of creating a Kickstarter Campaign to fund our film “Dream, Girl.” This film is a documentary redefining what it means to be a boss by interviewing female entrepreneurs.
In the process we worked like a dog (or maybe in our case a beaver), made a TV appearance, did a monstrous amount of press (Upworthy, ELLE, Washington Post), got a celebrity endorsement, and ended up almost doubling our original goal, raising over $100,000.
I will tell you right now there is no black and white formula for beating the beast that is Kickstarter, however there are some helpful tips and tricks you should be aware of along the way. Please enjoy this list of hints to help you with your Kickstarter! Also, feel free to ask additional questions or share your thoughts in the comments below!
Before Your Campaign:
Start social media early
I set up Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages a month before my campaign launched so I could get some social media traction. Definitely start building your audience as soon as you can.
Set a realistic goal
Everyone wants to contribute to a successful campaign so make sure to make your goal is attainable. But don’t shoot too low. Make sure you set a goal that will allow you to execute your project to the standard you’ve envisioned.
Don’t do more than 30 days
Successful Kickstarter campaigns are built on all or nothing urgency. If you have a campaign for 30+ days it’s hard to get people excited or involved due to the longer timeline. Also, once it becomes your main focus it can be an emotionally draining and time-intensive process, so I wouldn’t recommend the anxiety of waiting to get funded longer than you have to.
Set up kickstarter early so you can play and modify
You can set up your Kickstarter as early as you want without launching. So take the time to set it up- send the beta link to friends to get their feedback, and start building out rewards. There are lots of little details you need to set up so it’s nice to have some time to modify and change things as they develop.
Note it takes a couple of days to set up the proper financial channels, so make sure you do that two to three weeks before you launch. Depending on how much money you want to raise I would also suggest checking out your legal options. I created an LLC for my project since I didn’t want my personal account to be slammed for taxes. Be mindful of Kickstarter fees and taxes for your campaign.
Use your personal story
People want to feel connected to the story you are telling so make sure you put yourself out there to share why it’s important. Feminist Wednesday was a huge stepping stone because it gave my cause some legs. Don’t be afraid to put your story out there to gain some interest.
15 second teaser
People are really busy and I knew there was no way a reporter or blogger was going to watch a 4 minute Kickstarter video. So I made a 15 second teaser and lead all my emails with, delivered with the subject line “15 seconds of Inspiration.” I knew someone wasn’t going to give me 4 minutes, but 15 seconds seemed pretty reasonable. Try to find a fun and short way to gain people’s attention fast. If they liked the 15 second clip I had the full trailer link in the next sentence so they could explore the project more.
Spread out your demographics for your campaign and then focus on one a day
Make a list of as many blogs and media outlets before you start. I recommend around 100. Organize them by demographics. For my campaign I focused on feminists, women in tech, women in leadership, motherhood focused blogs, and so on. It’s important to spread out your message so it reaches as many people as possible and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with contacts, so divide and concur. This will also give you a better sense of which types of articles bring in revenue.
During Your Campaign:
Praise your backers via Facebook and Twitter so their friends know about it
This is a really easy way to gain some easy revenue. I went through every person on our backer list and wrote on their facebook or twitter walls. “Thanks so much for contributing (insert personal message if you know them).” That way their friends and family not only know about the project, but know someone they care about already supports it and donated- it was a great way to spread the word about the campaign.
Go after big and small media outlets
I did a lot of really big and really small press. The ones that were huge and we thought would bring in really big money sometimes ended up not, and some smaller blogs really took off. It’s important when you are researching media outlets to look at engagement. Sometimes big blogs are cool and have a lot of street cred but if they don’t have active engagement they aren’t really helpful for your campaign.
Use social media and social media management tools
Be on Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else you can access to spread the word. I used Hootsuite to help me manage our posts and did roughly 3-4 facebook posts a day and around 10-15 twitter posts a day. Using a social media management tool like Hootsuite is great because you can schedule them throughout the day and you don’t have to worry about monitoring it.
Twitter is your new best friend
I didn’t really use twitter much before Dream, Girl but now I see the value of sharing and spreading the message quickly. @ reply famous and influential people in your campaign, set up tweets around the clock for international users, and use hashtags galore to get people to see your content.
Ask for help
Try to get a couple of your friends to help you with outreach or lending a hand with the process. It feels great to spread out some of the work and rely on people you trust to help.
The middle is awful
The middle of your campaign is the worst in the world. If you end up like me, and not funded at this point, can be a super difficult time. There is no urgency with 20-15 days on the line so it feels like every day drags and drags. I don’t have much great advice here other than to keep doing what you are doing. You are constantly planting seeds that will grow throughout the campaign, and you just have to trust that it will be ok. Here are my thoughts on not losing your mind in the process:
– Take 10 mins to meditate on positive images and celebrate every little success- the fundraising process is hard, and the fact that you put it all together is amazing. Enjoy and be proud of the risk you are taking!
– Mix up your support system! Don’t rely on the same person everyday there is a bump or problem, reach out to old and new friends for their expertise and advice.
– Have a dance party. Once a day I would try to put on a really happy and upbeat pop song to rock out to in my apartment alone (not sad at all!). Try to do small and happy bursts of things to keep you motivated!
Ask for favors and stalk reporters
If you know someone who knows someone, or are a fan of a huge blog and think it will be helpful to get your message posted about on there be aggressive and creative about finding those people! I found a lot of famous reporters have big followings on Facebook but not on Instagram, so I used that as a way to get people to notice me. Most bloggers have their own personal webpages with gmail address you can contact that get a lot less volume than their work emails, contact them using those! If you have a friend of a friend on Linkedin and you want a connection ask them! You never know who will help you along the way, and there are lots of different avenues to find people. Use them!
Network like a monster
Online outreach is great but it’s also important to go to events and meet people in person to spread the word about your project. A beautiful email is fabulous but when someone can see your passion and drive face to face it opens a lot of doors. I went to one super exclusive party and in additon to meeting a slew of influential people I met some huge contacts that would later get us on some pretty sizeable press outlets. Make sure to show face for in person networking to really sell your project.
Create an event for your launch and during your kickstarter
Events are great ways to get people excited and informed about your project. We had the awesome opportunity of partnering with NY Tech Meetup, so we were able to share our project with a huge variety of new people who were interested in the message. I would suggest making a Facebook group for your project and inviting everyone who you are friends with. Even if they don’t live in your area and might not be able to come to a real event they will be informed of your launch.
Plan a Telethon
My friends from On My Block Films did a Kickstarter campaign a couple of years ago and to raise the final 6K they needed to meet their goal they threw a live telethon. They invited 10 friends to an office with their laptops and asked them to Facebook message and tweet about the event. People loved the idea of a telethon, came out to help, had a great time, and raised 8K that night to meet their goal. They live streamed the event, and people even did dares on camera for pledges, making a little party out if it.
Save rewards for the middle of the project (make sure you have rewards for international backers)
It’s nice to save some content and excitement for the middle of your campaign when it feels like nothing is going on. Adding new rewards midway through can breathe new life into a campaign.
Send notes to backers
Sending personal notes and updates to backers is a great idea to keep them involved. You can also give them content to tweet and push them towards your next big marker. I found setting goals for backers was a fun incentive to get them to help out and feel involved in the project IE- “Tweet this phrase or image to help us get to 10K”, and so on.
Send personal emails to your networks and communities (get the people on your team to do the same)
Your personal network is amazing because they already know and (hopefully) like you- so sending out messages to old coworkers, extended family members, and people in your network is a great idea. I reached out to my high school friends, my college, my hometown newspaper, and anyone who in my past who might have an interest in the project.
Trust your gut
Seven days before our campaign closed we had 30K to raise to make our goal. I had spoken to over fifty women at that time about their possible spots in the film. All of the women we spoke to were interested in the project (awesome) but I never felt comfortable enough to ask them to lock down a spot in the film. I still feel pretty protective about our casting process because that’s the bread and butter of our story. I was approached by some pretty big names about being in the film and could have leveraged their popularity to get us some big hits, but none of those possible collaborations felt right. I knew unless we found an all-star who believed in us, then the collaboration wouldn’t make sense. One day I got on the phone with Marie Forleo and something just clicked. She understood the message of our project and felt really touched by the project. She also wanted to help spread the message of the film no matter what her role in it would be. We talked for almost an hour and something in my brain told me to leap. I signed her on to be featured in the film, which was a huge move for the project. The next morning she sent out an email to her followers and we raised 30K in about 5 hours. It wasn’t anything I was expecting and I thank my lucky stars everyday for taking that leap of faith and trusting my gut. I heard a really great quote the other day- “Make small decisions with your head and big ones with your heart.” Sometimes you need to make a bold move to make it happen.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Money
Don’t assume people can read your mind (in general this is a good thing to remember). When I first started out getting on phone calls to speak to potential collaborators about donations it was an awkward conversation for sure, but just remember no one would take the time to talk to you if they didn’t think your project was at least a little interesting. Don’t be afraid to ask for donations and money when the time is right. At the end of the day you are fundraising and sometimes you have to be direct about what you want. If they can’t donate at the moment make sure you have other alternative collaborations in mind (press, networking, do they have a friend you can talk to). It’s great to ask people to share but it’s important to be direct about what you want too. Make sure people know you aren’t getting any of the money raised if you don’t get your funding.
So what do you think! Are you ready to start your Kickstarter campaign? Or is there something you would love to learn more about? Add your questions or comments below!