Recently I had the pleasure of addressing a talented group of film students who attend a media arts college in Chicago. They were assigned the task of running a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a portion of their “capstone” film. This is a progressive school.
No advance crowdfunding training was given to the students; they were simply directed to the Indiegogo platform and left to their own devices. The assumption, I suppose, was that the brains of 20-somethings are hard-wired to handily grasp and navigate anything in the online space. They would figure it out.
Oh, and they had a week to launch.
The campaigns were not going as well as expected. So when they were asked if they wanted any advice they jumped at the chance to resuscitate their campaigns, and I was invited in.
I called it a “speed consulting” session because I took the rather mercenary role of your typical busy browser. I showed them how such a viewer would vet, react, and judge their campaigns—that is to say they would do it very speedily, especially if they caught any whiff of a fatal flaw.
Though a project creator can lose a potential donor for a range of peccadillos, fatal flaws usually consist of the three primary crowdfunding components: the video, the narrative, and the perks. Boom. Boom. Boom. I gave them my first impressions. It wasn’t a very fair process but they were forewarned, and I was otherwise gentle and supportive.
The day was as eye opening for me as it was for the film students. There is a vast range of how-to-crowdfund advice to be found and consumed, and the students thought they had studied up. What we all learned is worth imparting here because no one is immune to the pitfalls. The fact is the devil is indeed in the details. And the details can’t be conveyed well when you rush to go live.
The video: This was surprisingly a weak link. Though production values were high, they spent more time on flare than on actually painting a clear picture of what their films were about.
The narrative: In the spirit of transparency and the idea of relationship building, too much time was spent talking about themselves and what they wanted. As a result the narratives came across as one-sided, maybe even a tad narcissistic.
The perks: Catchphrases meant to entice, such as “limited availability,” and “30-minute Skype sessions” were employed. But perks that may be special in one campaign could fall flat in another.
What became clear pretty quickly to me was a failure to grasp the nuances of tips they had read about. It’s important to read and listen to the advice, but internalizing it well enough to execute your project well takes time, attention to detail, and work.
Think of it in terms of speaking a foreign language. I speak workaday Italian pretty well and understand it even better. But invite me into a deep and layered conversation with a native speaker and I get into trouble. I don’t have a handle on the colloquialisms, slang expressions fail me, and I can’t find the right idiom for what I’d like to express. I’ve attempted to directly translate an English idiom to Italian. From the expressions I’ve been met with I quickly realize that this does not work.
Crowdfunding is a little like that. It can be humbling. It takes time to get right. The more effort you spend learning the “language” of crowdfunding before you go live the more chances you’ll have to succeed.
Photo credit: Morguefile