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7 Tips for Crowdfunding Your Event from The Atlanta Film Festival

By Christopher Holland | Indiewire December 10, 2013 at 12:14PM

Chris Holland, Operations and Marketing Director for the Atlanta Film Festival, writes about why the festival decided to use crowdfunding to raise money for the annual event and shares his lessons for crowdfunding.
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5. When talking to potential backers, be a human or a group of humans, not a faceless organization.

That doesn't mean you have to write every email in the first person or post pictures of your cats to your festival's Facebook wall, but it does mean you should answer every pledge with a personal note, respond quickly to inquiries about your project, and put yourself in your plea video. Your audience is invested in your festival and your ideas, yes. They are also invested in the idea of you executing your vision.

When we made our plea video, our Artistic Director Charles Judson was the natural choice of spokesman. Charles is one of the people who has been associated with the Atlanta Film Festival the longest, and as the former communications director he has been the functional face of the festival for years. Not only does he deliver the festival's message in the video, but we converted his personal Kickstarter backer account to serve as the account for the festival's project, so that his tastes and backer history could give people a sense of who we are and what we do. (I have since accidentally backed a couple of projects while logged into his account, including the 2014 Kanye’s Pugs calendar. I maintain that this only reinforces my point.) 

Charles has also resumed posting duties to our social media accounts. Since he was one of the primary builders of that audience, they respond to his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts enthusiastically. It's true that Charles' tastes and sense of humor might not have the broadest appeal. However, I would rather his interpretation of the festival's personality be strongly & genuinely appealing (or irritating) to smaller segments of our audience than be blandly unoffensive to everyone -- and followed passionately by no one.

It's important to add the little touches that remind your backers of the people running the campaign. Every contributor to our project receives a two-line poem to celebrate their pledge. Sometimes the rhyme is based on their backer number, sometimes on their name, sometimes on some small detail I know about them. The point is, it's written about them by me. They get attention and recognition for their gift, even if it's in private. (A few people have tweeted their poems publicly, or posted them to their Facebook walls. It's always nice to be published.) At this point I'm several dozen poems behind, but I'll keep writing until they're done. 

Atlanta Film Festival audience
Atlanta Film Festival audience

6. The “crowd” will mostly be people you know.

The likelihood that your film festival's campaign will go viral is pretty slim. That's OK. Crowdfunding still makes sense, because it reduces the friction of giving to your organization, turns meeting your funding goal into a game, and provides a focal point for your fans. Because yours is a project rooted in a specific space and time, however, you will probably be appealing to people in your general vicinity, and most of your backers will probably be your existing fans. That's OK, too -- the whole point is to galvanize your admirers into action, and for that enthusiasm to draw others into the fold over the course of the campaign. If you do this right, your community will be larger when your crowdfunding period ends than it was when you started.

Getting your crowd to respond, however, will require more than a few email updates. I've been on the phone for a few hours every day, catching up with old friends and gently nudging them into giving a few dollars. This kind of individual attention is essential to letting people know how much this effort means to you, and how much you’re counting on them. Don't rely on Facebook or Twitter, either. Tweets are great for giving updates and thanking your supporters by name (which will then inspire your mutual friends to contribute), but on their own, tweets are about as effective at closing as Jack Lemmon. Social media is your wingman, but it won't land the plane. 

7. Your fans are everywhere, so be sure to have something for the out-of-towners.

While your backers may be mostly people you know, don't take that to mean that they won't want rewards, or that they will only be people who can attend your festival. The Atlanta Film Festival campaign offers passes to the festival at certain reward levels, but we also offer perks that anyone can enjoy from anywhere. 

The screening and voting for our Backers Jury, for example, will be held in online -- with private screeners and closed ballots, naturally, but still accessible from anywhere. We'll be sure to post video updates from the festival for backers elsewhere to enjoy, and we plan on asking the filmmakers who benefit from our backers' contributions to record a few thoughts about the experience. Just as the internet expands your fundraising reach, so too should it expand the boundaries of your festival beyond the theater walls.


Check out the campaign video below:

This article is related to: Film Festival, Filmmaker Toolkit: Crowdfunding, Crowdfunding, Kickstarter , Atlanta Film Festival





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