What does it take to run a successful Kickstarter campaign? Earlier this year, we helped our friends over at Fidalgo Films reach their goal of $10,000 to fund post-production on their short film "The Bath", with a total of 98 backers.
A Kickstarter campaign is not for every project, so before we delve in to the nitty- gritty, here's a quick recipe of the things you'll need to get started. Before agreeing to help Fidalgo Films with the project, we made sure each of these ducks were in the same row:
If this sounds like it played out a lot like the planning scenes in a heist movie, then your imagination is similar to mine. Everyone has a role to fill, and they must do it with precise timing. My role was one of the smaller roles- in the Ocean's Eleven universe I was the two Mormon brothers of dubious piety. But the team must work in unison. No dress rehearsal, no calling "line", just a plan, 30 days in which to pull it off, and... GO!
As with many Kickstarter campaigns that ultimately failed, we got off to a great start. Mark called in favors, Courtney blogged with mucho gusto, John cut the kickoff video together, and I
tweeted(actually, I was active on Facebook and Google + as well, but there's not really a proper verb for using all three that I find satisfying to type. How about: ) trifecta-fied. My favorite tweet friendly call to action for this was several variations of "Donate a RT!", because it never hurts to ask.
In memory serves, we hit $4,000 over the first weekend.
Then, as with many Kickstarter campaigns, we hit a slump. Donations stalled out at around $6000. Tantalizingly close, but close won't even earn you a cigar in crowd funding land. We had plenty of time left on the clock- but resisted the false sense of security that comes with time. We expected a slump, planned for it, so we knew it was time to kick our campaign into overdrive. We didn't even have to deviate from the editorial calendar, we just had to execute it on schedule.
Courtney's religious blogging efforts yielded some good results, but keeping content on the Kickstarter page fresh would prove to be equal in importance, if not a wee bit more important in the end. As planned, Mark updated The Bath Kickstarter page with heartfelt thank yous, stills from the film, behind the scenes shots, bios for the cast and crew, and ultimately the trailer.
These updates did two things, they:
1) helped keep the interest of those spectators who hadn't donated yet.
2) reminded those that donated, why they gave, and why they should forward it to their network.
This was also the phase where sealing the deal with influencers became crucial. We had already made our activities known in the Dementia and Alzheimer's awareness communities, but now was the time to call them to action. And boy did they mobilize.
One individual donated $1,000 right away, and encouraged their followers to check it out. Fresh emails were sent, not to solicit donations, but to solicit some word of mouth outreach- because, again, it never hurts to ask.
The Kickstarter campaign made Fidalgo Films $10,868.
It's tempting to say that the moral of this story is "it never hurts to ask", but it would have hurt if we had spent all that time and energy into the campaign only to have it fail. Instead, I'm thinking the moral is something like "work hard, plan harder". In other words, you can not half-ass a Kickstarter campaign. Or maybe the moral is something about teamwork overcoming all odds.
I don't know. Why do stories need morals?
Okay, I've got one: "Before you start your Kickstarter campaign, call us." I'm not kidding. I can't guarantee a successful campaign, but I can help plan one and increase your odds for success. Or I can tell you it's a bad idea to begin with and save you a month of headaches (and public embarrassment).
The bottom line with efficiency is, well, the bottom line. How do you get the best value out of your work? There are a wealth of options when it comes to free or premium versions of the tools that make your life easier.
In part one of this post, we're going to take a look at some of the ways we were able to get things done better, faster, and cheaper, including
TheFilmSchool uses Google Drive and Dropbox for sharing files that need to be shared. Google Drive is free, of course, but tricky to organize and susceptible to files disappearing. That can be a huge headache and a real time waster when you spend half an hour searching for a file that isn't there anymore. The upside to Google Drive is that it is free. We are able to distribute key documents to interns through Google Drive and it doesn't cost a dime. Make sure to back up the important stuff though. For really important documents, Dropbox is worth the monthly fee.
Managing your own workflow is insanely important when it comes to efficiency. I have too much to do to be able to remember to do it all without help. Thank goodness for the nugget of extended cognition known as Basecamp.
I'm a huge fan of Basecamp, and most folks that have used it keep doing so. Basecamp lets me assign my interns tasks and get regular updates on their progress. I also use it to schedule my own workflow. I have run into trouble assigning an intern or myself a task that is just too overwhelming to consider finished at any given point, so remember to break tasks up into manageable chunks. There are different price points for Basecamp, all fairly reasonable depending on the volume of projects you have to manage.
Because Nate is in Chico and I don't know how to do everything (yet) remote training is a lot more efficient than a road trip. Skype used to be the go to resource for remote training, but these days a hangout on Google+ has the same features for zero dollars. Google+ for the win.
We'll be back with part two soon, folks. If you have a question about being more efficient, leave it in the comments.
TheFilmSchool is one of our long-standing NPO clients that is a continual delight and challenge to work with. Over a year ago the amount of course offerings doubled, increasing the marketing workload accordingly. Like everyone else though, budgets were tight.
Of course, this presented a problem. How do we do twice the work for the same cost?
The solution: Interns
This post covers a lot of ground, so if you like to read in bite sized chunks, here they are:
Make the benefit to your intern hires clear.
An internship can be just about the most valuable thing for a college student or recent graduate. The fact is anyone who is looking to develop professionaly usually has to start here.
It isn't a secret. Free training in the area of your professional interest, a few extra credits you can maneuver onto your transcript for no extra cost, and TheFilmSchool even throws in a scholarship to their program after 200 hours of work(about four to five months). Who can turn that down?
Suprisingly, many can. Not every intern we hired was interested in marketing, which comprises anywhere from %50 to %90 of their duties. They were there because they love film, and when they saw the sheer volume of press releases, social media campaigns, and newsletters they were tasked with, some shirked their duties and quietly fell off the face of the earth.
On the other hand, some got it. Some said "I enjoy this." For some, the experiece was life-changing. When you know in advance what the work is, it helps weed out the ones who won't want to be there a month down the line.
Make sure you know what the benefit for you is, too.
What's your workload? How many hours of work do you need covered? What tasks can you safely entrust to interns, and provide the right training? Taking stock of your needs in advance helps you not end up with five unoccupied interns. An idle intern is a lost intern. Make sure you can keep them busy.
Barriers of entry aren't a bad idea. Intern applicants are required to fill out a form with some basic info, and email TheFilmSchool to submit their resume. Even a simple instruction like "Include the phrase 'I would love to be your intern' in the subject line" can be a good indicator of how good they are at following instructions. Ignore this warning at your peril.
Resume or No Resume
Because the mission of TheFilmSchool is to elevate the craft of storytelling, the first round of intern hires were told not to bring a resume with them. We wanted to hear them tell a story. We heard some good stories, but at the end of the day a good story told doesn't always get that blog post written.
While some of the interns from that round worked out fabulously, others didn't. These days we ask for a resume. The resume offers proof of endeavors seen through, which might be the most important skill any intern needs: Perseverance.
I still like to hear those stories, but a resume is a must.
On-boarding requires some work from you, so don't get cozy yet. Through our experience with TheFilmSchool, we've developed a checklist for on-boarding interns, which includes:
At first, the password thing didn't seem like such a big deal, but after answering countless -and I meant countless- email requests for lost passwords it has become a bit of a sticky wicket. I let interns know not to fear asking me for these things, but give them the resources they need so they don't have to. Life is that much better as a result.
After on boarding, you must invest more time in training them. The better you train them, the less you have to re-train them later.
Because TheFilmSchool is not our only client, it is not always possible to train interns in person. To that end, a good place to start with training might be to train them on using google hangouts and/or skype. These days the hangout is preferred for a variety of reasons. Failing that, never underestimate the power of a phone call.
For example, when an intern at TheFilmSchool fell behind in his tasks, no amount of pestering emails would get him back on track. After a few in person training sessions it became clear that he was working on the tasks, but never made it to the finish line because he was afraid of doing it wrong.
Hell of a problem to have. Yet, that's how it is sometimes. After reassuring him that getting it done slightly wrong is preferable to nothing at all, a weekly phone call to discuss the weeks work and find out what he needed to finish the job were sufficient. He never missed a deadline after that.
My dream is to set a day where I can get most of the interns in at the same time for a weekly meeting to recap the week's work and make plans for the next week. Dream pending.
Firing a volunteer
Sometimes, no matter what you do, things aren't going to work out. Maybe their schedule doesn't work, maybe they never answer their phone. Once you realize that it's time to let them go, how do you break the news?
TheFilmSchool has an elegant solution. Because they have a number of one day workshops, hours worked can be applied to those as complensation. Whether the intern wants to take them up on it is up to them.
In the end, you fire a volunteer like you'd fire anyone. Thank them for their time -and show them the door.
Rewarding your awesome interns
Well, shucks. Isn't college credit, skills learned, and a scholarship reward enough? No. A really great intern is something to be cherished and nurtured. Out of twelve interns we've hired so far, three have completed their internship and only one has actually cashed her hours in for the scholarship.
A few others haven't yet completed the internship, but are awesome nonetheless. How can you keep them motivated?
At first I thought that telling them the kind of money they can make with their newly learned skills would be motivating. I was wrong. Not only is it an empty promise, because I don't get to decide who hires them for future jobs, but it draws attention to the fact that they aren't getting paid for it now. Turns out that can have a negative effect on their performance.
The most successful reward for a job well done I've found so far is some good ol' fashioned gratitude. When someone is awesome, let them know. Too often, an intern's mistakes are immediately pointed out, but the good things go unrecognized. Hell, if you don't tell an intern specifically how they were awesome that day, how will they know to do it again in the future?
Gratitude folks. This can range to letters of recommendation after the internship is over to a simple and sincere thanks. They've earned it.
Every intern is a special snowflake... Okay, well let's not get sentimental about it, but don't forget that each one will have different abilities and needs. Some will ask you twenty questions a minute, some will not communicate their questions very well at all. Any of them could become a valuable asset to your team if you remember to:
And the last lesson learned: Keep recruiting. During the last holiday break we lost touch with all of the interns. Two weeks off is fine if you can spare it, but only half of those interns got back to work before halfway through January. The rest never did. That meant more work for us, more work for TheFilmSchool, and an terrifying start to the new year.
TheFilmSchool has four new interns now. So far they've all been great. If I can take my own advice, maybe they'll all make it to the end.