Why I Contribute to Crowdfunding


Flickr - Money - aresauburnphotosCrowdfunding is an internet spin on an old idea.  For as long as I can remember people have been raising money for one reason or another; Girl Scout’s with their cookies, Salvation Army with their buckets and of course politicians with their promises.  With the Internet we’ve taken the bake sale fundraiser and gone global.  Now you can have people from all over the world pitch in to get you closer to the brass ring.

If you’re interested in running your own crowdfunding campaign and start researching the concept you’ll find tons of articles talking about "why" people contribute to these things and techniques you can use to help maximize your success.  The one thing I’ve never seen is a case study from an actual donor or a poll taken of all the backers who participated.  Since this information is lacking I’ve decided to contribute my reasons for having backed crowdfunding projects.  My reasons are my own and might not reflect the population at large, but I’m going to be blunt and honest.

Since July 13th, 2010 I have donated to 3 separate crowdfunding campaigns.  I will detail what the projects were, who was involved and my relationship to them.

Julie Keck & Jessica King (King is a Fink)Tilt: An Independent Thriller

I met King is a Fink through internet channels.  They were cool, they were supportive and they were into a lot of different things that expanded my horizons (Cinekink, NYC Midnight, etc).  When it came to this project their involvement was all I needed to know.  Everything else was extraneous.

But for everyone else… Tilt is a thriller directed by Phil Holbrook and set in Brainerd, MN whose claim to fame is being the city the movie Fargo was filmed in.  There’s more to it, but that’s all I knew when I chose to help fund this.

  • Relationship: Met on Twitter, solidified thru blog posts/comments, and then connected on Facebook.
  • What Worked: Julie & Jessica, I knew their other work and was hungry to see more.  The daily coffee chats with Phil were phenomenal.  Low key, very relaxed and on a regular enough schedule to keep me interested.  The connection thru the semi-daily chats was better than any other video recorded for this campaign. Tilt the Town was a stroke of genius.  Populating a fictional town with backers as crazy characters was a perk that really made the campaign stand apart.
  • What Didn’t: The first TILT trailer really didn’t resonate with me.  It was too long and didn’t hold my interest.  If I had based my entire opinion on that trailer I would have passed on this project.
  • Why I Chose My Donation Level: The Tilt Town biography was a cherry on top as was my name in the credits, but a DVD of the film is what sold me.  Owning a copy of the film you helped make is an awesome feeling along with supporting two very cool chicas.

Tyler Weaver (Multi-Hyphenate) – Whiz! Bam! Pow!

Tyler is one of those ambitious creatives who’s constantly pushing himself to the next level.  I came across his writing on a now defunct television review site and from retweets by King is a Fink.  His own site, Multi-Hyphenate, was a cool swirl of creative energy with articles on a wide variety of subjects.  I wanted to join in the fun and wrote an article for him as well (Reboots and Remakes: What Works and What Doesn’t).

When I heard he was looking to make a 1940’s comic, radio play and corresponding short film I immediately thought "that’s just crazy enough to work!"  Helping him reach that goal was a no-brainer and I was also intrigued with why he went with IndieGoGo when I had seen so many other campaigns leveraging Kickstarter. 

  • Relationship: Met on Twitter, solidified thru blog posts/comments, guest wrote on his blog and then connected on Facebook.
  • What Worked: The scope of the project.  He was going for a film, radio play, iPhone app and slew of other directions.  The fact that it would all be connected really interested me as well as learning more about transmedia.  Plus, I’m a sucker for comic books especially one’s set in the 1940’s
  • What Didn’t: The campaign started strong with videos and twitter action, but fizzled out to just twitter mania.  It didn’t have the connection or consistent message of other campaigns.
  • Why I Chose My Donation Level: A copy of the comic, radio show, short film and having a vintage ad in the comic itself was too good to pass up.  Also having worked with Tyler I really wanted to see this project succeed.

Angelo Bell – Road to Hong Kong

I first encountered Angelo Bell thru retweets from Tyler Weaver.  I started following him and liked many of the articles he linked to or snippets he shared about being in the film industry.  The first crowdfunding campaign of his that I encountered was for his upcoming film Legend of Black Lotus.  Kung Fu movies are up my alley, but I personally wasn’t interested in one with a strong family focus or child lead actor.  I’m more in the Jet Li, Jackie Chan camp of martial arts films.

Even though I didn’t contribute to the project I still followed his progress and tweets.  Recently he mentioned going to Hong Kong to meet his potential co-producers at the Hong Kong International Film and Television Market (FILMART) and the Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF).  He already scored an all-access pass to FILMART so all he needed to do was get to Hong Kong.  That’s an idea I can get behind.

  • Relationship: Met on Twitter.
  • What Worked: Angelo has put in the time and effort to network his way into this opportunity.  I would gladly do what I could to bring him closer to becoming a full fledged international film director.  The blog post he wrote gave me all the information I needed to know it was a worthy endeavor.
  • What Didn’t: The idea and blog post really sold me, so I didn’t need to see the video. 
  • Why I Chose My Donation Level: Since I didn’t know much about his previous work I liked the opportunity to experience many of his short films at once.  Also getting access to his travel blogs, private tweet stream for the trip and the contact info collected at the events were a big draw.

Hopefully this breakdown will help others looking to launch campaigns of their own.  This should also be a clear indication that Social Media WORKS.  I haven’t met any of these people in person or talked to them on the phone.  The best has been an IM chat or Google Wave (remember that?).  These relationships were completely forged through Twitter and blog posts and comments.  Facebook came at the tail end once the connection was already there.   If that doesn’t legitimize the medium I don’t know what will.

If you contributed to one of these projects or any crowdfunding endeavor I’d love to hear your reasons why. 

12 comments… add one
  • Tyler Feb 16, 2011

    Thanks so much for the mention, Gabriel and for the kind words. I agree 100% with you on why the campaign fizzled out (which it did) and yep, the message constantly changed to the detriment of the campaign. My bad. But hey, the good news is that we’re moving ahead and kicking ass. =)

    And Julie, Jess, and Angelo simply rock. The cream of the crop.
    Tyler´s latest post ..The Creative Bachelor PadMy Profile

    • Gabriel Novo
      Feb 16, 2011

      Tyler, you struggled with the same issues every first time campaigner does not to mention your project scope was truly epic. I think you did a great job and pushed through in spite of the setbacks you faced. I still await Whiz! Bam! Pow! with the same excitement as the day I contributed.
      Gabriel Novo´s latest post ..I’m Committing to my Creative SuccessMy Profile

  • Sheri Candler Feb 16, 2011

    You know where I saw this post? On Kfink and Tyler’s Facebook pages.

    Yeah, I’m a big believer in social networking and I contributed to all of these campaigns plus about 15 more in the last year. Except for maybe 2 of those, there was a personal connection to the PEOPLE involved in the campaign. I didn’t care about the perks, in fact I don’t even want a DVD copy (I think perks like this also cost the production too much money and should be rethought with more intangible, but personal perks), I just wanted to help. I think that is a key element to understand. People who contribute donations are not doing it to be repaid. The mentality is not the same. An investor has a totally different motivation than a donor and those shouldn’t be confused. What are you offering when someone gets involved in your project? They want to be included, they want to feel like they are helping, they want to make a difference and they want you to succeed. That is the “repayment.”

    Great to see someone offer advice from the donor’s perspective.

    • Gabriel Novo
      Feb 16, 2011

      Sheri, when it comes to social media prowess for indie films you are at the very top of my list, so I really appreciate you swinging by. You are 100% correct that there is a major difference between the investor mindset and that of a donor. Some donors still make the mistake of thinking they’re investors, but hopefully that’s few and far between. I wanted to write this article specifically due to the lack of donor perspectives in crowdfunding. I believe more successful campaigners should directly poll their donors to get better feedback for future fund raising attempts.
      Gabriel Novo´s latest post ..Why I Contribute to CrowdfundingMy Profile

  • Angelo Bell Feb 16, 2011

    Brother, you really shook up the world with this blog post!! I love it. But you gotta excuse me for being on the West Coast and not having a link on my Facebook page early enough and in time for Sherry to see it, lol.

    Obviously I owe you a big “thank you” for the mention and a hug for the contribution. But I am also in your debt for your comments about the video. Seriously, I HATE doing these videos. I spent 5 hours writing and rewriting the blog post because I really didn’t want to record a video. But “everyone” says you have to do a video because that’s the selling point. Now I know that the reverse is true.

    Oh, btw, the young child in “Legend of Black Lotus” is only 1/3 of the film. She grows up and she whups ass, just like Jet Li and Chow Yun Fat 🙂

    Thanks again, bro!
    Angelo Bell´s latest post ..Netflix Distribution For IndiesMy Profile

    • Gabriel Novo
      Feb 16, 2011

      Angelo, I’m glad I was able to shed a little light on donor motivations. Granted, there are probably some people who were sold by the video alone, but just slapping up an embedded video is not a guarantee of donations. Your writing efforts paid off in this case.

      Thank you for the clarification on the Black Lotus storyline and I’m now eagerly awaiting the trailer. Definitely looking forward to hearing about your wacky hijinks in Hong Kong. I totally expect you to kick ass and chew bubblegum…..
      Gabriel Novo´s latest post ..Why I became a Supporting Member of HWAMy Profile

  • T. Reed
    Feb 16, 2011

    Great in depth analysis (even if personal) the kind you don’t get from clinical metrics. Also great folks you supported! (I also supported 2 of the 3 campaigns you mentioned – plus about 8 more since beginning of 2010)
    I specifically dedicate a very humble ammt. ($250) per year to crowd-funded campaigns (When it’s gone I’m done – keeps me from goin nuts on spending;). I do so because I either think the project is cool and should get made or because I have made a personal connection online with the creators (and usually these end up going hand in hand) The creators who have been communicative with me and appear to be excellent people who I would be comfortable working with or having work for me (not because of an expectation of this happening, but because if I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them on a team that means I doubt their capacity to complete a worthwhile project). While I’m not running a crowdfunding campaign now, I might someday and in that event Why should I expect that any stranger should/would donate to my project if I wouldn’t be willing to help anyone else out. It’s a splendid way for creatives to help fuel each others engines enough to get some projects floating that might otherwise end up as sitting on hands time without the minimal funds to get cookin. I come from and (despite some corp and commercial work) am a firm believer in the Indie community and Artists supporting Artists. Biggest pet peeves with crowdfunding however are the folks who take the money and run, don’t finish the project, don’t delever their ‘percs’ (not that they were the important part -but a lack of follow through and courtesy pisses me off), and don’t remain communicative after they’ve got their cash, and those who never communicate with you then suddenly beg for money (not in generic announcement but directly). Also Constant campaigners who have jack shit to say but “give me money!”
    T. Reed´s latest post ..Interview with Hart D Fisher – The Scariest Man in America – Part 2My Profile

    • Gabriel Novo
      Feb 16, 2011

      Terry, it’s good to have you here. I like the way you’re supporting the community because you hope to one day reap those same benefits. I can’t stand the people who take the money and run or simply don’t appreciate the generosity of their community. Radio silence is one of the most insulting ways to treat your fans.

      Factoring in whether or not you could work with the project creator is another great qualifier because you intimately understand the dedication needed to finish a film project. Thanks for giving us insights into your crowdfunding contribution process.
      Gabriel Novo´s latest post ..Creative CollaborationMy Profile

  • Alexis Niki
    Feb 17, 2011

    Gabriel, thanks so much for this blog post, which comes just as I’m about to launch my own fundraising campaign. You managed to answer many of my questions as well as point out a few pitfalls I should be aware of. I have also contributed to two of the three campaigns named here as well as others, and the reasons you and Sheri and T. Reed give correspond with my own, so thanks for confirming what I already suspected. I dream of the day when I’ll be able to tithe a percentage of my film income to support other filmmakers. Support from those who know what it takes to get the job done always feels extra special.

    • Gabriel Novo
      Feb 17, 2011

      Alexis, I’m happy this helped clear up some questions you were facing. Statistics alone are not enough to get the full picture behind what makes these campaigns successful. Thanks for swinging by.
      Gabriel Novo´s latest post ..Careers are GrownMy Profile

  • George Brumder Feb 18, 2011

    I completely understand the motivation of a donor. However, it’s impossible to ignore the innate desire to get repaid. Why not help a project see the light of day AND hopefully get repaid? After all, many films are both artistic AND commercial ventures, unlike, say, donating relief $ to Haiti. I think the main reason crowdfunding sites focus on donating isn’t because so many people want to selflessly help out, but because securities laws are a seemingly immovable obstacle. Audience Productions, however, has done it. A real investment opportunity for the crowds. Check it the future of crowdfunding: http://www.yourmoneyyourmovie.com.

  • Julie May 28, 2016

    I agree, this is the first time I’ve heard this from a donor’s POV and it’s extremely helpful to hear what made you decide to support something. Anyone launching a crowdfunding campaign should read this.

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