View Full Version : I am halfway through my first Kickstarter - wrote a piece sharing what I've learned

Michael J. Epstein
08-31-2012, 04:33 AM
Halfway through a Kickstarter...What I expected and 10 things I've learned...


Here are just the 10 things part. Stats and background, etc. (if you are interested in that) on the post.

1. Kickstarter is NOT an easy way to raise money. Many people are burnt out on contributing to Kickstarter campaigns. It's no longer a novel model. Now people want value or merit for projects.

2. Most people need to hear about your campaign many, many times before they will contribute. It's challenging to come up with new ways to talk about what you're doing without annoying people.

3. You will annoy people by fundraising. There will be a million reasons why what you're doing is bad/wrong/annoying/rude/obnoxious/selfish/stupid/etc. I don't believe there is any way around this. Asking for money brings out haters (people who don't know you well). It brings out inexplicable reactions in some. Maybe it's jealousy. Maybe it's anger that they don't have money or support to create. For us, I am concerned that some filmmakers may become angry that we are endeavoring to raise money for a film without having made many films before. I view creative work as universal, but I understand the idea of encroachment. I probably get annoyed when players on the Red Sox make rock albums or whatever.

4. Asking for money is awkward. We're asking for $11,000 (really $10,000) to make a movie that will ultimately cost $20,000 (the rest of which will come out of our future pockets as debt). We will personally keep none of this money. It will all be paid out to artists who don't make a lot of money so that they can pay their rent while we consume their time. We are going to be paying them badly for their time, but it's the best we can do. Still, it is always going to feel like contributors are giving the money to line the pockets of the fundraisers. It's hard to break that misconception. In short, we're asking for people to help us make this while reducing how much money we lose (so that we can afford to lose it), but it still feels like we're asking you to put money in our wallets.

5. It's very hard to justify spending money to people. The constant response is, "well I know someone who will do that for free." Yes, we can make a movie for free. We are not going to. Why? It's not the movie we want to make. I am not interested in making the movie that I can make for free (or for less money). You would not be interested in seeing it. It would be doomed to be an artistic failure. It's just the reality of it. If I could make it for free, I wouldn't go through this terrible, awkward experience of asking for money. I am not saying people can't make great movies for free. They can, but I can't make this movie at this time for free...and I won't. In the meantime, there are charities more worthy of donation, community crises more worthy of your money, and any number of ideas about how money could be spent on more charitable affairs. I have to convince myself not to feel bad asking for this money while these things are happening. It's a challenge.

6. You'll make everyone feel guilty! I just said essentially that this project rides on your shoulders. It actually does, but I don't want anyone to feel guilty about that or feel coerced to contribute. I don't want to apply social pressure. Some of my friends won't contribute. I won't hold that against them. I am not going to judge anyone based on their choice to contribute or not. I want that to be clear, but it's hard to make people believe it.

7. If it fails, you'll feel guilty! I've spent this entire campaign trying to get people excited about a film that might not be made. They've earmarked money for it. Yes, if the campaign fails, I don't keep their money, but I kind of promised them something and then took it away. I've had a few contributors already say that despite giving very generous contributions, they will personally feel guilty if this doesn't get funded.

8. You may have to decide where the actual funding cutoff is. Will I "cheat" in the rest if we reach 75%? 80%? 90%? I hope not to have to decide. This is really genuinely just a flaw of the Kickstarter model. There needs to be a minimum project goal and then a series of target goals. I guess people do feel the guilt of the single target, but it doesn't really make sense. In fact, our goal is to raise $20,000 (which we never will), but $11,000 is our listed minimum.

9. People like personal interaction. We've been sending thank you videos to all of our supporters and have had a lot of very kind responses to them. We want to make sure that each contributor knows how much they mean to us. Each supporter is not just another number - not just a tick up on our funding meter, but rather a person that is essential to making this movie a reality. We want people to be part of it. We want this to feel like a hive-willed project. People really like becoming part of something creative. A lot of our contributors are people who are not really active artists, but are people that want to make sure that art is made. This gives them an opportunity to be a part of the creation of something. I have only once (our of almost 50 campaigns I've given to) gotten a personal message from the fundraiser. I'd like to think that personal interaction should be a standard here to make every contributor into an essential piece of the whole. One of the things I look forward to the most is sending updates to our backers, answering questions, mailing them all surprises from the set, etc. I can't wait to build my relationships with them. I can't wait for them to see the whole process and then finally, join us for the unveiling of the final piece.

10. It's really hard work. Sophia has actually put more time in than I have, but with making the videos, writing blog posts, posting on social networks, sending personal videos, etc., we probably could have gotten jobs that would have paid better than the money we've raised. Some might say it's not worthwhile then, but as in 9, it's less about the $ and more about the backers. If we worked an extra job to raise the money, we'd have 133 fewer people involved in our process. If you're just looking for $, save yourself the time and get a second job.

08-31-2012, 05:08 AM
Michael, thanks for telling us about some of your personal experiences, and what others should expect from using Crowdfunding to raise finances for their project.

Why not post about your particular project here on the forum?


08-31-2012, 05:40 AM
Michael - very thoughtful, helpful observations, and I especially liked the stats graphs on you backgrounder page. Experience is the best teacher, so rest assured that you'll be well equipped for your next project.

Michael J. Epstein
08-31-2012, 01:26 PM
Michael, thanks for telling us about some of your personal experiences, and what others should expect from using Crowdfunding to raise finances for their project.

Why not post about your particular project here on the forum?


Thanks! Will do.

09-05-2012, 10:42 AM
Definitely agree with most of these points. We just started our campaign on IndieGoGo (posted in IndieGoGo forum) and many of these have already came up. I feel that many people are interested and want it to happen but getting them to pull the trigger on donating is close to literally begging which then makes you feel guilty.