While Part I covers the our preparation for the crowdfunding campaign, Part II covers the experience of running once it has gone live. Now that the campaign ended back in late June, I’ve reflected on the experience and put down my thoughts on the experience.
My cell phone buzzes with a notification within an hour of the campaign going live. Our first contribution comes in! The IndieGogo mobile app notifies me of a generous $100 contribution from an anonymous source. We are on our way with a fantastic start coming from $0. The first week sees the majority of the funds come in.
It launched on Tuesday May 24th and thirteen days later, on June 6th we tallied $3,322. That’s roughly $255/day, but the climb was not a steady ride. A number of generous contributions came in a cluster. We are downright euphoric when that shots us right past our original $2,000 target and opens a discussion about stretch goal. We were so convinced we would fall short that we didn’t consider overshooting it.
KAISHAKUNIN even made it into the top trending film projects for a few days around June 6th. IndieGogo appears to weigh the frequency and amount of contributions to determine what bubbles up to the top. I suspect Kickstarter uses a similar algorithm. There’s a lull in the middle and an uptick on the last few days. With a $1,000 extra, printing DVDs for contributors is suddenly within reach (see Part I). We closed out on June 23rd with $4,044.
The remaining 18 days averaged $40/day. The last few days account for most of that. This matches with most other accounts of crowdfunding campaigns that receive the majority of contributions in the first week.
Despite the featured listing in the film category, we did not get any contributions from complete strangers. Every one is traced to someone that Jerry, Sanj or I knew and, in some cases, that all of us knew.
There’s a fine line between promoting your campaign and annoying the hell out of your friends. I have accepted friend requests only to be immediately followed by a direct message with a request for a contribution earning that person an immediate unfriending. Having three of us promote it gave our respective social media feeds a break as we rotated the days that the usual crowdfunding petition went out on Twitter and Facebook, including the Small Basket Studios page. We have a Kaishakunin Facebook page, but that was not live until after the campaign ended. While we did post about the campaign on Small Basket Studios page, we did not expect much traction there. Since Facebook put up a dedicated page feed in 2012, getting page posts noticed has been an exercise in frustration.
Did you know that there is a link both in the mobile app and the web site to view only page posts? It’s not obvious. Next time you’re on Facebook on the desktop take a look though the left hand navigation pane in the pages section and you’ll see the Page Feed. In the mobile app, it’s accessible through the More link in the lower right. I never use these and neither do most people.
You can ask your users to jump through hoops to view your posts in their newsfeed.
- Select the drop down on the Like button on the page and click the pencil icon next to “IN YOUR NEWS FEED.”
- Select Notifications on the left and click the check boxes below to receive notifications, then click Done.
Pages still have their place. Use them to build a story and timeline around your film so that a film fest organizer sees behind the scenes photos and other activity, but don’t expect to use it for crowdfunding promotion – unless you pay for advertising. And that defeats the purpose. Stick to your personal Facebook profile.
If you’re active in a Facebook group, Google group, etc that is centered on film, by all means post there. Just don’t let the crowdfunding campaign be your first post. In the Philadelphia area, the Film & Theater Artist’s Exchange group is worth posting to.
After Part I of this series went live, a filmmaker commented that he wasn’t aware of the campaign at all. You can’t reach them all. Routine posts to our personal Facebook pages brought in the bulk of our contributors.
As the campaign owner, emails to the campaign land in my inbox. I’m accustomed to filtering spam, phishing attempts and various offers involving enlargement of body parts. This is the first time I was dealing with direct offers for crowdfunding promotion for pay. Over a dozen come in the first week when the uncertainty of making our goal is most palpable, when we’re most vulnerable to giving into self-doubt. Several advertise that they’ll post your campaign to hundred of crowd-funding social media channels and it’ll get hundreds of thousand of views. Of course, none of them guarantee any contributions. I gave spreadthewordonline.com a shot with $20 and they did exactly what they said and sent proof. Warning: the web site automatically plays a video. They posted to 100+ Google groups and Facebook groups and sent me proof with screenshots. Not a single contribution came in from any of those sources. I can be sure of it. Each contribution is traced to someone Sanj, Jerry or I know personally. The groups have nothing to do with independent film, little or no engagement and similarly ignored crowdfunding solicitations. Lesson learned.
I’m over at Sanj’s planning the first weekend of interior shoots. A call comes in from Nick at gofundsystem.com. Good news! KAISHAKUNIN qualifies for their “Proven 10 Day Gofundsystem” that promises to game the Indiegogo ranking algorithm and have our campaign listed on the home page. This is the only crowdfund promoter to call me directly. I’m busy and ask Nick to call back the next day. I google “gofundsystem scam.” Sure enough, plenty of hits come up. One, in particular, has documentation citing fake photos and testimonials. This post would be easily double the length if I listed them all. If you’re curious, you can find them here.
A photo of the alleged founder, Milton Gregg, features on the home page. No wonder. Milton Gregg doesn’t exist. The photo is of Felipe Spinel, a student who attended Boston University. It appears in this article about international graduates. A month ago, I found a profile listing for him on Linked In. It no longer exists. Filipe Spinel has a profile. Milton Gregg does not appear in any of the company videos. Either GoFundSystem is lying or WGBH News is lying. Take three guesses.
I send Nick an email.
I did a little checking and found a rip off report that connects the photo of Milton Gregg to a photo of a student.
The same photo is here and says it’s Felipe Spinel.
International Graduates Face Tough Visa Process
No follow up phone call needed. This doesn’t pass the sniff test.
I totally understand. Luckily the reports that you have seen were made up by a competitor. We have yet to figure out who this is (Because they aren’t a client), but we have had a virtually flawless reputation here since 2009. It just comes with the territory, these people just want to ‘Mud sling’ us sadly. Luckily, it is pretty easy to see that they are fake, because they have done the same thing through only a few different alias’s, to almost all the bigger firms in this space; in the same day. I hope you understand, can’t wait to get the ball rolling.
Let’s do it!
Indiegogo Success Coach
I write back.
Regardless of the source of complaint , there’s no denying that the photo posted on this page and on the LinkedIn profile for Milton Gregg
Go Fund System
is the same as the photo posted on this page:
International Graduates Face Tough Visa Process
So, one of these has to be a lie. Either the attribution to Filipe Spinel in the that photo on a news outlet is a fabrication or the attribution of Milton Gregg to the photo on the funding site is.
I can find plenty of references online to Filipe Spinel. That would be quite a bit of effort to falsify. The only references I can find to Milton Gregg are on the gofundsystem web site and on LinkedIn. I suspect that if I contacted MIT and checked if Milton Gregg had graduated in 2009 I’d find that no such person exists.
There are too many red flags here to move forward.
The rest is silence. No doubt, Nick will say this post is ‘Mud slinging.’ The facts stand for themselves.
These experiences invite the question: are there any legitimate crowdfunding promoters? Maybe. I considered using GreenInbox.com, a service that sends direct messages to your Facebook friends using templates and a mail merge process. Then, I thought better of annoying everyone I know. Posting to your newsfeed is one thing. Sending direct messages to people you generally don’t correspond with is an invasion of personal space and likely to get you unfriended.
We met our goal. Would I do anything differently if I had it to do over again? No. I’m happy with the result.
I may do a few things differently in another future campaign, but not for at least a year. The same people that contributed to this one want to see some results before launching another one – a reasonable position.
Here’s what worked that is worth repeating:
- Crowdfund with a well-connected team. Don’t go it alone.
- Stay active in local film groups
- Attend film festivals. They’re excellent networking opportunities to meet other filmmakers and actors. If we didn’t go to Fantastic Horror in San Diego, we would not have found an affordable tea house location in Pennsylvania (read Part I).
And some items worth exploring next time:
- Take a closer look at Seed & Spark as a crowd funding platform. Their film-focused support is worth looking into.
- Don’t bother using any paid crowdfunding promotion. Rely on your existing network.
- Prefund up to 30% for the funding goal. Help out other filmmakers in exchange for contributions to the campaign once it goes live. Take a look at this talk from Yancey Strickler, cofounder of Kickstarter. He makes a strong argument that if you hit 30% of your goal early in the campaign, you’re chance of hitting your target goes up dramatically.
- Be ambitious. We didn’t think would could find an appropriate location, find affordable costumes, or cover expenses (hotel, insurance, food for cast and crew, etc). This campaign and persistence made it happen.