Photo by Debra Lopez
I saw that you raised $100,000 doing a Kickstarter for your play, Good Bread Alley? How do you go about raising money to produce a play?
No sleep and lots of hustling...lol. The first thing is audience development. You've got to get folks excited about your work long before you start asking folks for money. First off, look at building a webpage and a FB page. Create content about your project. Visuals are best. For example, my play is about Afro Cuban and Gullah dance, so my webpage, FB, Instagram, Twitter and Tumbler pages are full of images, music and "Did you know" quick facts about the cultures in my story. People love images. Your goal is to create a mailing list. So on all your platforms, you want to make the offer of sending updates and related articles about your project in a monthly newsletter to begin with. Your ultimate goal is to get an active mailing list. Meaning, you ask folks what they want to know about your story and send them yummy visual treats. If there are places where they can get free stuff related to your story, get them the free stuff links. Or share excerpts from the film, play, webseries. As you get closer to the project, you'll send more regular updates like bi-weekly or weekly.
Once you have your fan base, time to start putting together a tighter strategy for a crowdsourcing campaign. You need a short exciting heartfelt video about why the project is important to you, to others, what sets it apart and what about it moves you. You'll need one strong visual logo and you need a campaign slogan that's catchy and memorable. For example, my play was called Good Bread Alley, so the campaign slogan was "Give us some Bread, So we can make some Good Bread Alley. Short, sweet and catchy...that and a sexy photo of the cast in costume became the t-shirt, postcard, kickstarter image that we pasted everywhere.
Your social media platforms are important to keep up to date with weekly and then daily posts once the campaign has started. Make sure every time you post, you're giving your audience new information and one action item (i.e. sign up for the newsletter, follow us on twitter, Like our FB page, donate now).
Then, the single most important angle is personalized letters. It takes a conversation before folks raise money. Meaning, three personalized letters to each and every person in your mailing list. Form letters turn people off, but if a letter begins with asking about their kid or commenting on a lovely FB post of theirs, then they know you're talking to them. A campaign should be no more than a month, so essentially you'll be sending them a personal letter once a week. The personal part of the letter needs to be no more than 2-3 sentences and then talk about your project. You can create the letters weeks before the campaign, then create email blasts to automatically go out. Folks usually give by the 2nd letter. The letter writing is more important than social media posting. I raised $100K with 500 supporters. Just by writing letters. 85% of all donations came from direct letters and not social media. It works, guaranteed.
Summary: Create a following long before you start asking for money, turn that into an email list and then write 3 personal letters to every contact in your email base. Done. Signed. Sealed and Delivered. And the good news is that those folks who give to your campaign are now your supporters who will put butts in seats opening weekend of your play or film which is when it really counts. Box office is all that matters and once you've run a successful kickstarter, you now have a base of loyal fans who feel invested in the success of your project, so they will buy tix.
Do it! and Do it well!
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April Yvette Thompson