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The No Budget Report is a series of exclusive articles devoted to the creation and appreciation of no-budget films, written by No Budget Film School founder and independent producer Mark Stolaroff. To receive these reports in your email box, subscribe to the No Budget Film School Mailing List. Archived editions can be found at the bottom of this page.
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10 (Final?) Tips To A Better Kickstarter Campaign
April 2016

Dear Filmmakers,

The following article is an example of the kind of content I intend to create more of once my new web site is up.  If you like this kind of information, please subscribe to my mailing list--there will be plenty more of this to come!

DriverX Kickstarter Campaign



by Mark Stolaroff,  April 2016
I launched a Kickstarter campaign over three weeks ago for my new film, DriverX, which we’re currently editing, (you can view it here: ). We have a little over 3 days left to reach our goal before the campaign ends. For those of you who have been following me all these years, you know this is my third Kickstarter campaign. I wrote popular articles about my experiences crowdfunding during each of these previous campaigns, (and you can view those here and here), and while I might have thought there was nothing left to teach you about crowdfunding, I’ve learned so much on this try that I had to write another article.

So, here now, is the article that completes my Kickstarter Tips Trilogy. I don’t want to repeat the tips from the other two articles, and for the most part, those tips are still very much valid. If you’re planning to launch a campaign, I would certainly check them out also.

1.) Email Is Everything. (Please read Tip #8 “Spreading The Word” here; this tip enhances that tip). I have found in my own personal experience that email works best for me. It turns out, it should be the foundation of your outreach strategy, too. I had great success using email the first two times, but right before launching this third campaign, I heard someone speak who helped me define what I had been doing instinctively. Justin Giddings (AKA The Kickstarter Guy) gave a free 90 minute presentation at Film Independent 2 weeks before I launched and his advice in this area was illuminating. Justin advises you put every email address you have onto a big Excel spreadsheet, and then label each contact as either a P (for Personal), A (for Acquaintance) of D (for Do Not Contact). He calls this your P.A.D. List. P’s are people you send personal one-on-one emails to. These are people who you know so well they may get offended if you emailed them as part of a blast or a BCC, (e.g. “Dear Friend”). A’s are people you know, but they’re not so close to you that you couldn’t communicate to them in a blast (and BTW, you should never say “Dear Friend,” even to these people. You should be using some kind of an email service that allows you to use a FirstName Tag, so you’re saying “Dear Joe” instead, even on a blast). D’s are people who for whatever reason, you will not send an email to. Maybe they’re an ex who still can’t stand you, or a famous person you don’t want to ask a favor of, or this favor anyway.

Some of you might be saying, “but I only have about 200 email addresses.” Well, if you have Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections, then you have a lot more email addresses than you think. You can actually mine both Facebook and LinkedIn for email addresses (follow these instructions here to learn how). My P.A.D. list was over 4,000 people strong, and that didn’t include my Pig, House That Jack Built, or No Budget Film School subscribers. It did include some top prospects: the people who gave to my other two campaigns. These are my Glengarry Leads. Also my high school and college friends, my sisters’ friends, my mother’s friends, my cousins and nieces, and of course, all my film industry friends and colleagues. In addition to organizing them as P, A or D, I also included other fields to sort them by—subcategories—based on my relationship with them. High school friends got a different kind of email than film friends, or past backers. This list takes a really long time to create, grow and organize. You definitely need to spend a couple of months building it, and don’t launch until it’s ready to go.

2.) Figure out your 30/20’s. Again, I’m using Justin’s nomenclature here to describe people I called my First Responders. 30/20 people are the 30 people you identify (your best friends and closest family members, for instance), who you will contact well before you launch and ask them (or tell them) to donate on day one; and also, to tell 20 of their friends about the campaign. You need to impress on them the importance of donating on Day 1, and how much a strong start means to the overall success of the campaign. These people will be priming the pump for you, before you tell the world about your campaign.
DriverX Kickstarter Campaign
Try to give your description a little pizzaz
3.) Personalization Equals Money. Justin uses this mantra and my experience corroborates his. While you will certainly have people who donate to you from a BCC/Blast email, the bulk of your donations will come from the people you contact personally (your P’s). This could be done through email, text or phone call, (Justin even recommends turning on your FB chat and sending FB friends who are open to chatting your link). I know for me (and I’ve given to well over 100 crowdfunding campaigns), if I don’t get a personal email, then I know I’m off the hook and I probably won’t give. And a personal email, while it probably includes some template language in the middle, needs to be Personal. It needs to open with specific language that makes it clear you are not blasting to them, (you may have to research what old friends have been up to on Facebook to give you meat for these opening sentences of your email—so yes, these emails take time). Once you’ve sent the first personal email, you can then include these people in your blast lists. And you’ll want to send them several emails during the whole of your campaign; most people need to be reminded to give. How many times is up to you. Justin recommends several more times than I feel comfortable doing, but I would say a minimum of three emails to each person—one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one right before the end.

A word about Time: it not only takes time to build your list and designate who is a P, A, or D, but after you blast to 2,000 or 4,000 people you know, expect a few of them to get back to you. You will need to respond to these emails as well. Because I’m old, I had a lot of old friends I was emailing that I haven’t seen in years, so there was a lot of catching up to do in these emails, (a nice byproduct of crowdfunding—reconnecting with old friends). But also, a lot of watching friends’ web series, meeting people for lunches, etc.

4.) Start With Your Audience. Every campaign needs to be built around who you’re trying to attract to your film, not just who might give you money. Certainly, people you know personally are one and the same—you’re more likely to get money from friends and family, and those folks make up a small, but important audience group. But probably the biggest reason to launch a crowdfunding campaign is to create awareness for your film, and to engage potential niche audiences. A crowdfunding campaign is an Event, and there is a lot of energy that can be created around this event. That’s why everyone recommends campaigns that are no longer than 30 days, because you can’t sustain that energy, (or ask your friends who are helping you promote your campaign through social media, to sustain that level of energy), much longer than that. And your film only has like 3 other major events: the day you start shooting, the day you premiere, and the day you open in theaters or on VOD. Crowdfunding allows you to collect email addresses (which are like gold) and social media followers (which are like silver) before these last two events, assuming you launch a campaign before you premiere or open. And you want to build up these emails and followers before those two big events, so you can use them to help promote said events.

Patrick Fabian
"DriverX" lead actor Patrick Fabian, as Howard Hamlin on "Better Call Saul,"
and Prof. Lasky on "Saved By The Bell: The College Years"
So, your video, your rewards, your page text, everything needs to be designed around the potential audiences you’re reaching out to. For DriverX, for instance, a film about a middle-aged, stay-at-home Dad who has to start driving for an Uber-like rideshare company to support his family, two big niche audiences for us are Uber/Lyft drivers and SAHD’s. Also, because our lead actor Patrick Fabian stars on Better Call Saul, fans of that show (and the TV shows of our other actors) are also big niche audiences. So, you’re going to want to use descriptive keywords in your text that let these audiences know the film is for them. You’re going to want to design rewards and reward levels around these audience groups. Your video is going to need to speak to these different constituencies. For example, one of my big audiences are my friends “back home.” These people are not in the film business, and will be impressed by the bio of my lead actor, who has appeared on shows like Friends, Scandal,Xena and a million others my friends have watched over the years, (and yes, he kissed Kelly Kapowski in Saved By The Bell: The College Years!).
5). Your Video Should Ideally Be ___ Minutes Long. I don’t subscribe to the notion that your video should be any particular length. I’ve viewed campaigns with 5 or 6 minute videos that didn’t seem long, and others with 2 minute videos that were excruciating. My video is 6 minutes and 40 seconds, and while in absolute terms, it’s on the long side, I think in relative terms, it’s not that long, (some of you may disagree!). But here’s the thing: my video is very strategic. There’s not one moment in it that doesn’t have a very specific purpose. And we have a lot to say, especially because we’ve been around the block and we’ve already shot the film, so we can show footage from it. So, while my video my seem long to some, I’ve received the best feedback of any Kickstarter video I’ve ever made from this one. Say what you need to say and don’t say a thing more.
Sample Twitter Comment
6.) Social Media Is Important, But it Can’t Be Your Foundation. Your foundation is Email; Social Media is an enhancer. And if you have a big social following and are good at it, it can be an incredibly powerful enhancer. But only in very rare cases can it be the main thing you’re doing. Most people don’t go into a crowdfunding campaign with enough of a social critical mass to rely on it anyway. This is my first film with any real social strategy and assistance. We hired a social media team to help us not only build up our channels, but to engage our audiences and new fans during the campaign. Justin recommended posting 7 times a day, each and every day of your campaign, and we’ve tried to stick to that. That means you have to plan way out in advance all the kinds of things you intend to post. For instance, we have several series of posts: Crew Member of the Day; Reward Highlights; Guide To A Rideshare Rating; DriverX Dictionary; Rideshare Facts; Uber Archetypes, etc. The point of these posts isn’t to ask for money; it’s to remind people that we have a campaign going. Marketing research shows you have to hit people like 7-10 times before they act on something. These posts (which are almost always a picture or video and always include a Bitly link to the campaign page), are meant to be fun reminders, and they are also designed with our different niche audiences in mind.
Social Media Image Montage
Sample "DriverX" social media posts
A big part of making your social media work, especially your Facebook posts, which are controlled by a dreaded algorithm, is to create something called Social Echo. As soon as you post on Facebook, you need your Team, (key personnel, friends, cast and crew, etc.) to start liking, commenting and sharing those posts, so that Facebook opens up the floodgates and lets everyone see your post. Your tweets need to be retweeted by your team, so then others a couple of stations removed will see what you’re up to. You’re creating Networks of Networks here.
7.) Create a Custom URL. Another great tip from Justin. Come up with an easy URL that you point to your Kickstarter campaign after you launch. So, for instance, the URL for our film’s website is  We then created a URL that matched all our social handles (@DriverXMovie), This URL pointed to the website, but after we launched, we re-directed it to the Kickstarter page. That way rather than tell someone to go to Kickstarter and look up your film, you can give them an easy-to-remember link to the page, (and that link is on every pic we post, too). Once the campaign is over, we’ll point it back to the website. (Patrick was interviewed on TV and radio several times during our campaign as part of his Better Call Saul publicity; it was easy for him to mention our film, too, and tell people to visit, which lead them directly to the Kickstarter campaign.
Patrick On TV
Patrick Fabian on the Hallmark Channel, plugging "DriverX"...and his famous pickle recipe
$80 Level
8.). Strangers WILL Give You Money! So, I don’t know the stats on this and I haven’t done it enough to give you hard facts, but my experience has been that people you’ve never met will give you money. In fact, the sad truth is people you’ve never met will often times give you more than your oldest friends. Many of my old friends, especially the wealthy ones, probably feel ambushed by people and organizations asking them for money, especially in a busy political season. Many have to draw the line and while they could certainly afford to give my campaign $25, they feel that’s an insult, I assume, and don’t give anything at all. There are others, however, that truly dig what you’re doing. They’re not just giving to you out of guilt or obligation, they’re responding to your material. Maybe they represent one of those niche audiences; maybe they want one of your rewards; maybe they want a producer credit. I’ve had people give to our campaign for all those reasons. And give big. One donor gave us $5,000; one gave us $2,500 and another gave us $1,500, (all complete strangers). More likely for you and more common for us are the strangers who give $10, $15 or $25. And because we designed reward levels with certain niches in mind, we’ve had good success with those. For instance, we currently have 8 backers at the $75 level, but 14 backers at the $80 level, a level specifically designed for the BCS fans of our lead actor. And I always have a $1 and $5 level. With these, you're essentially getting paid to collect an email address. And if you've had any experience trying to collect email addresses, you know how nice this is!

How did strangers find us? From everywhere. Many came from the work we’ve done on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (and that work started well before we launched); many found us trolling Kickstarter, (they designated us a Project We Love, so we’ve had good placement on their website and in their social media; our $5k donor found us because he followed another donor on Kickstarter). This leads me to another recommendation…
9.) Don’t Second Guess Who Will Contribute. Send to everyone you know. You can never guess who will contribute and who won’t even respond to a personal email. Even on my third campaign, I’m shocked by who gets back to me and who I never hear from. Don’t take it personally! And like I said in my previous article, try everything. You need to be everywhere. You never know where someone will hear about your campaign and respond.

And how do you find out where people are hearing about your campaign? You’re asking them! I mentioned this in an earlier article and it bears repeating: THANK EVERYONE. I use the Kickstarter messaging tool and I thank each and every person who donates. If I don’t know who they are, (and I check to make sure they’re not on my P.A.D. list spreadsheet), I ask them how they heard about our film. For us, these people have come from everywhere—friends and family of cast and crew; posts we’ve done; video shout-outs from our actors; one of the several podcasts I’ve been on recently; you name it.  

Sample Selfie Videos
Sample "DriverX" selfie videos made by cast members Nina Senicar, Patrick Fabian and Desmin Borges
And you have to remember that these thank you’s are the beginning of creating that all-important relationship with your fans that you will continue to cultivate with Kickstarter Bulletins and Subscriber Email Blasts. When your backers respond to your thank you, you have to respond to that. Start a dialogue that you will enhance throughout the life of your film.

10. Get In The Habit of Saying Thank You. Really, with micro-budget filmmaking, you’re saying Thank You all throughout the process. You’re constantly thanking your crew who worked for no money or way below their rate; you’re thanking your buddy who lent you his gear (thanks Abe!) or their car (thanks Tom!) or their house (thanks Donald!) or their office (thanks Matt!); and this is just another one of those times. You need to come up with a lot of different ways to say thank you, and they need to sound sincere, because they need to be sincere. You’re coming from a place of constant gratitude, and you need to come to it humbly. You also need to give back as much as you get. Share your friends’ campaigns and web series premieres. Donate to their projects. Lend a hand on set. These campaigns can be the beginning of something really nice, especially with your friends in the filmmaking community. They establish a culture of sharing and mutual beneficence. I’m constantly shocked by how much support my projects get from my “poor” filmmaking friends. I try to pay this forward. We’re part of a pretty amazing community. Crowdfunding has just given us another way to collaborate and to assist and encourage our fellow filmmakers.

I hope these few tips assist and encourage you in your filmmaking endeavors. If you have questions, please feel free to email them to me, (though I may not be able to respond to all of them until this campaign is over!).


Copyright © 2016 Mark Stolaroff.  All rights reserved. 


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