Reflections on Crowdfunding

It’s a month until I graduate with a Master’s in Entertainment Business, and it’s a month until my IndieGoGo fundraising campaign ends. Yes, I timed it that way on purpose.

My team and I have produced our YouTube show, The Dinz, for the past 9 months. In those 9 months, our subscribers have more than doubled, but our average view count hasn’t shown a measurable upward trend. We’re treading water, and not making nearly enough ad revenue to buy the crew lunch, much less pay a fraction of our deserved wages. We turned to IndieGoGo as our last hope to turn this thing into a job as we figure out how to turn our work into actual profits.

Despite all our greatest efforts, and the incredible generosity of more than 50 friends and fans, we have barely made a dent in our goal. However, sometimes things can be learned from not-so-successes just as well as successes. Here’s a list of the things I’ve learned, and how I would advise other YouTubers attempting crowdfunding to run a successful campaign.

1.     Do not set a goal that is higher than your subscriber count. If you need more than that, too bad so sad. If you can’t get 80,000 people to hit a “subscribe” button, you won’t get 80,000 people to give you a dollar. One dollar per subscriber is already an ambitious estimate. 2/3 of your subscriber count is an attainable goal.
2.     Never depend on solo funders to spend more than $100. If you want to offer a perk that is extremely resource intensive, like a custom video, crowdfund the perk. I.e., “If 200 people claim this perk, we will do xyz!” Offer some sort of small, free prize to the donors if that capacity wasn’t reached – like  a shout-out or digital photo.
3.     Limit the physical objects – like photos and T-shirts – that you include as perks. You’ll have to sell more than 100 of them to even afford to offer the perk at all. Focus on perks that cost nothing and are personalized – like  a shout-out or digital photo.
4.     BE REAL. I tried to be chipper, positive, and bubbly for the first two weeks of the campaign and barely made a dent. As soon as I made a blunt and honest video explaining what was at stake, how much we needed the money, why we needed so much, and how sorry I was that we had to ask for donations, the amount of donors exploded. People tell you not to do this in fear that you’ll sound like you’re “begging,” but I find that people respond empathetically when you’re just being honest. You can state your need without guilt-tripping people.

I wish all the best to anyone attempting crowdfunding. Some people think that it’s begging, but frankly – they are wrong. We are working for our money. Crowdfunding is a full time job, and I believe that with that attitude, crowdfunders are more likely to be successful. Maybe we won’t be this time, but next time, I’ll be armed and dangerous!

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