Lessons from how we raised $56K+

In May of 2011, I had the pleasure of leading a Kickstarter campaign that eventually helped crowd-fund over $56,000 for an amazing documentary called Within Every Woman. Since then, I’ve had many people approach me with questions about the success of our campaign, so I’ve highlighted a few common questions below. But feel free to contact me if you have other questions.

How did you do it?
This is by far, the most common question I get. Many people ask about the formula that we used to achieve our Kickstarter goals, but the important thing to recognize is that campaigns like this one can’t be replicated with a simple formula. The strategies that we used specifically fit our project and the personalities of all those involved. The campaign was essentially a creative experience that let our supporters know who we are and the passion project that brought us together. That is, formula highly depends on the people and the project and for all those who are thinking of launching a Kickstarter campaign need to first ask themselves “what kind of experience do you want to convey to your supporters?”

How long did it take to reach your $50,000 goal and what type of work was involved?
The project was listed on Kickstarter for 60 days, however, we took the first 30 days to plan and test different strategies. And we didn’t officially launch our social media and publicity campaigns until the 30th day, which was the turning point for the campaign.

During the last 30 days, we hit the social media avenues including, Facebook and Twitter. We also ran countless fundraising events around Toronto including talks, parties, and the ever so popular Epic Garage Sale, where countless supporters donated and bought items in support. Our family and friends were also a huge component of our success. They were the ones who generously donated their time and resources to help us spread the word that got us off the ground and eventually lead to the 3000+ Facebook likes, and over 100,000 visitors to our Kickstarter site within just 30 days.

What were your backer prizes and why did you choose them?
We came up with a series of prizes that really spoke to our audience, the film we’re trying to make, and the personalities behind the film. Since Tiffany typically breaks the ice with these grandmothers via the international language of food, she’s been able to learn some delicious recipes from the grandmother’s whom she met. So for one of our prizes, we are making recipe videos where Tiffany and some of her team will prepare some home cooked meals. We’re also in the process of collecting books and dvd’s from comfort women related organizations to send to some of our pledges. At the higher levels, we provided limited edition prizes such as getting the pledger’s name in the credits and tickets to the premier.

Who were your backers on Kickstarter and how did they hear about the project?
Just about everyone came out in support of the film. Though initially, it was our family and close friends who really went out of their way to help us spread the word and when all the social media and press hit a critical mass, the campaign just took off over night. Individuals, groups, organizations all started to support us throughout our campaign. We’ve had an amazing set of volunteers whom dedicated their weekends to help us strategize, write emails, design brochures and help us at all of our events. Majority of our supporters on Kickstarter were complete strangers who read about us through blogs, facebook, the news, twitter, and our events. The extent of how fast social media allows information to be spread was contagious.

What is required post-Kickstarter campaign?
There is still much to be done. The down side of a film project is that many of the deliverables won’t be ready until the film is complete. However, we are aiming to send out parts of our pledge prizes in the next two months. We are trying to engage our supporters as frequently as possible. Answering their questions and keeping them posted on the production process promptly is important to us. Social media has been a great tool to help us bridge that gap.

Would you do it again?
The Kickstarter experience just further proved that new avenues of funding such as online crowd-funding can give people (i.e., artists, film-makers) more options and approaches to financing their projects, which would have been impossible before. For example, investors would typically be hesitant to a take chance on first-time filmmakers. However, platforms like Kickstarter enabled us to speak directly to the audience and that changed the game completely. Involving our audience in the filmmaking process not only gives our supporters a sense of ownership over the film, but it also lets potential funders know that this film has a following and that they can’t wait to see it.

I can definitely see myself working on other Kickstarter projects to help strategize and brand the project. As for the Within Every Woman project, we wouldn’t do the same campaign for the film again, since it was an experience that can’t be replicated and we are still feeling the momentum of that success. However, we’ve always wanted to extend the project past the life of the film with an interactive component that will educate people around the world about the Comfort Women history. In conjunction with the film we would like to make available the interviews of all the grandmothers that we have collected over the years and provide an online story-telling platform that will help to tell their stories to future generations. And at that time, we may consider using Kickstarter again.