It seems entirely fitting that our first Guest-blog on Fund it should be written by our first ever pledger (and now, multi-pledger!), the journalist and broadcaster Una Mullally. We asked Una to give some advice to prospective project creators from the point of view of the seasoned pledger – what works, what doesn’t, and what just down-right annoys! Over to you Una…
While I generally fund projects that attract my own interests, be it across theatre, music, visual art, film or whatever else seems special, the projects that especially attract me or grab me outside of those genres are ones that when you first click on them, it’s obvious that those driving the project have made a real effort. This comes down to three things for me; the text outlining the project, the campaign video and the rewards.
Although many people won’t want to read a thesis on what the project is and why those behind it want it funded, I like to see a comprehensive outline on the impetus for creating the project, who is involved, whether there’s a specific goal (like an album or a festival to perform at), what is actually being funded (studio time? Production costs? Material?), and a breakdown of where the money is going. Sometimes I read project outlines and they appear quite vague, so a comprehensive breakdown of where the money will go is really appealing. Not only is this a transparent process, but it also shows that those running the project have already thought about how it’s going to work. It also gives the funder an insight into how much creative endeavors actually cost to see through.
A decent video is a must. It doesn’t need to be a full-on production or a preview of what’s in store, but it should outline quickly what the project is, why it’s exciting and why it should be funded. For most people, this will be their first introduction to the project, so it needs to be impactful. I definitely think that the people behind the project should appear in the video too. They should be speaking directly to potential funders and explaining why they should part with their money. If this doesn’t work visually throughout the video, tack it on to the end. It adds a personal aspect to it that gives a further insight into the work and who’s making it.
Sometimes I don’t even consider the rewards – maybe I’ll have reached a decision whether or not to fund something before I even get to that point. But nevertheless they are crucial. The less rewards there are, with a limited scale of financial commitment, the less likely I am to fund it. If there’s a wide range of figures, from a fiver or a tenner up, chances are it’ll swing me. And the rewards need to be creative. They don’t necessarily need to have a material kickback, so stuff like bands playing gigs in your gaff, or a director cooking dinner for you, things like that make it fun, interesting, and show the artists’ commitment to getting their work up and running.
If I see a campaign that has 20 rewards, I’ll know they’ll have put the effort in. A few rewards feel just lazy to me. You have to think of creative and innovative way of making people part with their money. What would you spend a tenner on? How would you feel more involved in a project? I think considering people spend often substantial amounts on Fund it, there needs to be an allotment of ownership to the funders. This is why offering incentives like production credits and so on work. Funders don’t just want to throw money at things, they want to be a part of it, during and after the project has come to fruition. For some funders, having their name on credits or an album sleeve is the closest they’ll ever get to creating a piece of art, and that’s why they seek that sort of participation and multiple-ownership.
DURING THE CAMPAIGN
I suppose there are three main stages when the pledger should be contacted by the project creators. The first is the obvious one of a ‘thank you’ for funding. The second should be activity updates on the site (which are emailed automatically to funders) before the project has been funded to let the funder know how close they are to reaching their target. I’m not the biggest fan of emails that say “tell your friends to fund us to.” As a pledger, when I input my credit card number and click the button, I’ve already done my job. I might tweet about it afterwards to let people know if I think it’s a particularly interesting project, but it’s not the pledger’s obligation to spread the word further. They’ve already done their job by giving you money, the rest of your job is to replicate that action, not outsource the responsibility for it by calling on the pledger to tap their own personal networks.
Then there’s the third stage of informing the funder that the target has been reached and they’re about to get working on it. At this point, the funder should be informed when they’ll be getting their reward, and reminding them of what it is.
There is nothing that would turn someone off from giving money again or feeling like they were ripped off, than if the campaign stops when the target has been reached. While you don’t have to fall over yourself with gratitude, I cannot stress the importance of keeping your funders in the loop with what’s going on. After all, they are the ones who made it happen.
The first obvious one is delivering rewards. If these are long-term rewards (like a copy of a book when it comes out, which might take a while, or tickets to a performance that is still in the works) that’s fine, but remind your funders how and when they can access these rewards or when they will be delivered.
The second is continuing to involve funders in the creative process. Email updates talking about how recording or rehearsing or filming or building or whatever is going are essential. I like as much detail as possible, so describing the first day of filming for example, or talking about who has come on board, or the logistics of putting a show together are interesting to me. They make me feel as though I’m getting an access all areas or backstage version of the creative process, which enhances the feeling of involvement.
Everyone knows that creating something can be a long and arduous process, but it’s important to keep the people who got you there in the loop. Giving little previews of what’s happening; photos, videos, and that kind of thing also enhance this.
The third thing is letting people know when things are just about finished. Emailing and describing the final days of the project or the final preparations enrich that timeline from the Fund it page to the realization of a project. Letting people know that things are just about to kick off is fun, because it also adds to the excitement of remotely seeing a project finally come together.
The fourth stage is about game time. Even if people haven’t earned rewards to get a free EP or tickets to the play, let them know that it’s out there, that they were the ones that made it happen and that the project is now live. And in the aftermath, thank people again. Whatever the creative endeavor is, once it’s out in the world, it’s important to remind pledgers that it wouldn’t have happened without them.
Don’t take the piss. Don’t fall off the earth in terms of communication once you’ve got money from people. Follow through on rewards. Deliver what you’ve promised. Be friendly and excited and grateful in your communication. Don’t send updates that seem ‘mandatory’, like emails that are just a few lines that are a gesture to what’s going on rather than proper details. Updates like that just read like “I was told to do this” rather than “I’m excited to tell you what stage we’re at.” Make people feel like they’re a part of the process, that they’re actually a collaborator in it, not just a contributor. This is not charity. You should not feel entitled to receive funding. At the same time, there is an incredible appetite out there for people to give money to projects they believe in and that they believe are worthwhile. But the people funding you are doing something as worthwhile as what you’re doing: one doesn’t exist without the other. Naturally, you need to do it properly the first time around and leave a residue of positive sentiment in case you want to hit them up again!
*Una Mullally waived a fee for this contribution to our blog.