Sheffield Doc/Fest

Kickstarter is on track to fund more projects than the National Endowment of the Arts in the U.S. in 2012. To address the widespread popularity of the fundraising platform, this year's Sheffield Doc/Fest features a number of panels centered on how to best use the tool to your advantage.

"More Than Just Money: The Unexpected Benefits of Crowdfunding" featured award-winning artist and filmmaker, Jeanie Finlay ("Sound it Out"); Catalan sociologist and filmmaker Xavier Artigas ("[NO-RES]," Spain's first crowdfunded film); Jennifer Fox, director of "My Reincarnation," who raised $150,000 on Kickstarter; and Malcolm Morrison, who helped crowdfund Stuart Murdoch's "God Help the Girl,"which became third top funded narrative film on the site.

Below find the top five crowdfunding tips made during the panel:

Know Your Niche Audience

Fox: Who’s your niche audience? A director recently called me from Sweden who was doing a failing crowding campaign, so I asked her who her niche audience was. She didn’t know. She said women. "Women" is not a target audience; it’s half the population.

Our key audience was first the followers of this teacher. We were very active building an email audience. We asked Buddhist partners to help e-blast people about the campaign.

"Women is not a target audience, it’s half the population." -- Jennifer Fox

Don’t Discount the Importance of In-Person Crowdsourcing

Artigas: In our country, you can only deal with government aid for film if you have a production company. We didn’t have that, so we had to make the decision to form our own production company. But I had always been an anti-capitalist. For me, it was clear to create a company without profits involved. We only had one way to produce, which was crowdfunding. In 2010 you couldn’t kickstart in Spain, so we started our own crowdfunding system. Because of the campaign, people became aware of what we were documenting.

Crowdfunding was very practical. The most important thing and beautiful thing is that we built a community that not only met on the Internet, but at gatherings. We call this the critical mass. They control how we work. We had work in progress meetings every month where we showed sequences we were editing, and asked people who had paid for the project for feedback. So we can say it’s a collective work. Of course I’m the director, but a lot of people would criticize that the mayor didn’t get to talk enough etc., so it was very interesting. It was like free research for us. We were building the future audience for this movie.

This project got so popular before it was finished that a TV company in Spain got interested. They came on as co-producers and we got enough money to finish the project. But they had a huge problem: It was not made under creative commons and therefore we didn’t have copyright. But we said no. We made the movie for people, not for consumers. We wanted the movie to be online, to flow so people could be aware of what we were documenting. In the end they changed their protocol.