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Actor-Producer Chronicles: Crowdfunding Tips for Theatre Producers

June 11, 2013

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Well, our indiegogo campaign officially ended last week, and I cannot thank all of you enough for your support.

We did not reach our total fundraising goal of $10,000, but I still consider our campaign to be a GREAT SUCCESS, as we raised over $7500 in just over 30 days, an incredible sum and an awesome 75% of our goal. I think that’s pretty impressive for someone who was mostly promoting this herself 🙂

I’m also very proud that we spent nearly the entire month as the #1 theatre fundraiser on indiegogo, and we made it onto the homepage of indiegogo.com, a feat only achieved by a rare few crowdfunding campaigns:

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As promised, I’ve written up a post sharing what I’ve learned about crowdfunding by running my first campaign, and what I would do differently next time.

Here are my crowdfunding tips for theatre producers:

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1. Don’t like asking for help? Good. Me neither. Now GET OVER IT. You’re going to be doing a lot of asking, nay begging, for help over the next month. Reconcile yourself to that idea now.

2. Use your secondary contacts, and use them well. What do I mean by that? Well, the people who are your primary line of contacts are the ones you have direct access to — your family, close friends, college classmates, people who will listen to whatever you have to say when you blast it all over every social network you have access to. Your secondary contacts are the people that those people are connected to. Ask your primary contacts to spread the word to their family, friends, co-workers, college classmates, etc. My advice is not to rely on facebook to get at these people because it’s easily overlooked in the slog of the mini-feed. Instead, make a PDF or JPG flyer that you can email to your people who like you enough to share it with their people, whether that be emailing it to all of their co-workers or printing it out and handing it around at church.

3. Have a partner. Hopefully, you have a producing partner helping you to raise funds. If you don’t (like me), lean on your significant other. Or your best friend. Or your mom. Or someone who will help you with the monstrous list of tasks and people to reach out to that you hopefully have. You will need support to get this done.

4. Tap into your niche. Find the people who you aren’t acquainted with who will share your passion for the project, and figure out how to get in touch with them. For us, it was Anne Boleyn lovers, Tudors enthusiasts, and history buffs.

5. Get some press. Reach out to blogs and ask them to write a post about your crowdfunding campaign. Write a press release and send it to your hometown or alumni newspapers. We received a few donations when my community college in Florida posted about the campaign on their facebook page.

6. Rest up before you start. You will need it.

7. Try to make it fun. If you’re anything like me, the deadline and the fundraising pressure will be one of the most stressful things you ever do. But if you’re not enjoying it and you’re showing that you’re not enjoying it, your audience won’t enjoy it either. Make some funny memes (we made Anne Boleyn memes that were good for a chuckle) or make donating into a guessing game for prizes…do something that makes the process less tedious for you and for your donors.

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8. Weekends will probably suck, keep this in mind. People are offline a whole lot more on the weekends, especially in nicer weather. Keep this in mind and don’t end your campaign on the weekend like I did. And try not to let a holiday weekend land in the last week of your campaign like I did.

9. Prepare yourself for the fact that much of your money will be raised in the last few days of the campaign. Work as hard as you can throughout the campaign, every single day. But understand that many people are inherently procrastinators and plan for this. We raised nearly half of our total in the last 5 days. Crazytown.

10. Create the network you need before you even start. People are much more likely to give if they already know you, whether it be in real life or from twitter interactions. Work as hard as you can to create an extended network, both online and off, before you even launch that campaign. I’ve put a lot of time into twitter over the past few years, trying to get more followers, but more importantly, developing meaningful relationships with people there. It really paid off.

Bonus tip: Give of yourself — time, support, talent, soul — before you ever think of trying to pull this off. Because when you’ve given freely of yourself, people are much more likely to give back when you need it.

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I hope this was helpful to any of you who are contemplating launching a crowdfunding campaign in the future. I would recommend it to anyone who has the time and energy to dedicate to making it a success. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet me and I’ll happily respond!

We’re exactly two weeks away from going into rehearsals (eeek!), so there’s lots getting done and lots more to do. I hope to pop in with another post to update you on non-fundraising schtuff, but definitely like the show on facebook and follow it on twitter for all of the updates!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2013 9:52 pm

    I get a lot of requests for crowdfunding, and yours stood out because I was really impressed with the interaction you had with your funders (the photos were funny) and the appreciation you showed to them.

    • June 12, 2013 2:55 pm

      Thanks for weighing in on what helped us cut through the noise for you! And thanks even more for helping us make this happen — you rock! 🙂

  2. January 23, 2014 8:18 am

    You’ve got a lot of good advice there for others going the crowdfunding route. One thing I’d add is that people always need to refine their “ask” in order to get more donations.

    There’s an art doing “the ask” for any type of donation. It’s especially important when asking for donations online from people who don’t know you or your cause.

    In 20 words or less, you need to say who you are, why you’re raising funds, what’s in it for them, and do the ask with a psychological/emotional trigger included.

    That’s tough, even for people who do fundraising professionally. It’s even tougher for the average person who’s setting up a crowdfunding page who hasn’t spent much time asking other people for money before.

    It’s storytelling in a nutshell and obviously pictures and video are a big help. But, the words you use to do “the ask” are what trigger donations from strangers.

    The most important word to use in “the ask” is the word “because” since that’s the most powerful psychological trigger word.

    So, when you create your crowdfunding page, be sure to focus on how you’re asking for their help. It’s the difference between success and failure…

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