Fundraising Tips & Film Thoughts

I launched the fundraiser campaign for my short film, One of Too Many exactly 11 days ago, and what an 11 days it has been. This is the first time I’ve ever done a fundraiser for a film, and in these short ~2 weeks I’ve definitely learned a few things about fundraising for a creative project that I wanted to share. Note: my tips aren’t ones that’ll give you a successful campaign– because I have no clue how to do that– my tips are on how to stay sane when you aren’t having a successful campaign.

Be patient. In the first 12 hours of the campaign not a single person donated. Definitely not the outcome I anticipated, but I stayed cool; “You’ve got this, God” I chanted to myself in the bathroom at work. A little more time passed and finally the first donation came in! It was from an ‘anonymous’ donor…  I opened IndieGoGo’s e-mail with the details of the donation and I learned that the ‘anonymous’ donor was someone I liked to call Mom… Yeah I shouldn’t have to explain the mix of emotions I was feeling at that point… Patience. Patience is needed because every person and every campaign won’t instantly raise thousands or even hundreds of dollars. It takes time and sometimes hard work to raise anything.

Be Thankful. For every penny that people do give and for every share, like or comment. No one has to give or do anything nice for your campaign. You are begging people for money or for a social media promotion. These things make people uncomfortable. We see it everyday in the subways and on the streets; someone begs for money and 95% of the population will walk by this person without so much as a second glance. When you start a fundraiser campaign, you have officially become that street beggar– not quite literally. You really have to learn to appreciate and thank those people that take the time to give; to share your campaign and to offer words of advice. Which brings me to the next point.

Be willing to ask anyone. A wise woman once gave me great advice:”The worst I can say is, ‘no;’ you never know until you ask.” Asking people for money is hard. It sometimes feels embarrassing, which is why at first it’s easiest to reach out to people that you are really close to– best friends, family, etc. or to people that you automatically assume will donate because of any number of other reasons. You soon start to realize that you’re limiting your options by thinking like this. Ask everyone for help. The worst anyone can ever say is no and people can surprise you. I’ve reached out to people I haven’t spoken to in months & some even years, and yet still these people generously opened their wallets for the film.

Let out your emotions. I’m a crier. I am probably one of the most sensitive, emotional people you will ever meet so when something bad happens, I cry. Day 1 of the fundraiser, I told myself “You can cry, wallow in self pity and contemplating quitting for five minutes a day, but that’s it.” Naturally, I broke my rule a few times and wallowed a bit more frequently than I should’ve. The point of this rule is for me to be honest and vulnerable with myself so that I can continue to lead my cast and crew with strength. I’ve gone the route of bottling things up before and it has never ended pretty. But the key part with this portion was for me to let my emotions out to God. I didn’t just declare my fears and doubts to myself. I prayed about them and wrote them in my journal and released them to God. He didn’t magically make them go away, but when I brought them to Him, He gave me clarity and peace of mind, which gave me the strength to continue to work on the film and to try to raise the funds.

Be prepared to fail. A lot of my disappointment from the first day of the campaign came because I expected the campaign to be an immediate success. I expected an overflowing amount of funds to come to the film. So you can see why I felt a bit distraught every time I glanced over at my cell phone, praying for an IndieGoGo notification. When I saw that the campaign was doing poorly I realized I needed to decide how far I was willing to go for this film; how much would I sacrifice for it. The answer came simply: everything. I am literally willing and preparing to go into debt to make this project. So if the fundraiser fails, I will still do everything in my power to tell this story.

To tell you the truth, I’ve been so wrapped up in pre-production plans for the film that I’d temporarily forgotten why I’ve spent the past three months trying to create this project. Last night, I was reminded of why. I read an article about a survivor from the Columbine shooting. The woman is crippled and now in her thirties. She recounted the day the shooting happened and she talked about the constant physical pain she is in because of bullets that hit her that day. I teared up as I read her story. My heart ached as I remembered the pain and fear the victims of mass shootings and people that haven’t even been victims, now feel. Why do I think I can make a difference? Why do I think I should tell this story? Why do I think I can write a mini series that can heal wounds and change lives? This string of questions raced through my mind last night. The short answer to all of them is I can’t. I can’t do any of these things because I am inadequate and far too ignorant to grasp the depth of the pain that people are feeling. But that doesn’t mean, I shouldn’t try. So that is precisely what I’m doing- trying. Trying to tell a story that will bring some measure of peace and healing into people’s lives. I’m a lucky one. In spite of the violence and horrible things that have been happening in the world, I’m still able to believe in the spiritual– to believe in a Good God that loves me and that brings me peace. I know that everyone isn’t able to do that; it’s hard for a lot of people to believe that God can exist when we live in a world full of mass shootings, bombings, and other tragedies. I can’t make you believe, but I can try to impart to you the peace and hope that I feel.