Film Production Guide: Fundraising
Crowdfunding is making an appeal to many people to back your project. Sometimes backers may be content with a small symbolic gift (a project t-shirt, for example); at other times they want to invest and claim a portion of any profits. When you think about it, crowdfunding really isn't new. Ancient (pre-internet) practices included "taking up a collection" paying for projects "by subscription" and money raised by a "public appeal." In 1713, Alexander Pope recruited 750 subscribers to back his translation of 15,000 lines of ancient Greek poetry into English. Backers got a mention in the acknowledgements plus a copy of the finished work.
What has changed is that any one project can reach a wide group of interested backers located anywhere in the world.
According to the best estimates, crowdfunding sites are channeling over $34 billion a year to artists of every sort and also people faced with sudden and unexpected expenses. Estimates are it will grow to a $300 billion worldwide industry by 2025. There are 191 US-based crowdfunding platforms and about half of all fundraising efforts reach their goals. With so much cash—and passions at stake—practice due diligence and read the fine print very carefully.
The basic strategy is: refine and focus your project and fundraising goals, research relevant platforms, pick one, create you page, then spend lots time on social media spreading the word and shipping rewards.
Here are the major details to be on the lookout for:
1. Fundraising Tools
To fund your project you need to get your appeal in front of people likely to support it. Some questions: How robust are the platform's Twitter and Facebook applications? Can you directly send appeals from the platform via email? Is there a community of users forum on the platform where you can pose questions and learn about the experiences of other users? How good is the platform's library of resources? Are there tools, blogs, and tips for strengthening your appeal?
2. Customer Support
Behind every platform are teams of support staff and owners. Do they list a phone number or only email support? When you call, do you get a person or recording? Is there a chat window open when you are looking around the site? How well does the site maintain a reputation of integrity by ejecting scammers?
3. Crowdfunding Platform Fees
Most platforms charge fees. Types of fees to check for include flat fees for posting an appeal, and percentage fees subtracted from funds raised plus credit card processing fees (often twice what the credit card charges). It helps to understand the fees so you can explain them to potential donors. The industry range is from 7 to 12 percent.
4. Getting the Money
Setting a goal for your fundraising efforts is likely based on the detailed budget you have for the project. How much you actually will be able to raise is a guess. Does the platform require raising 100% of your goal to get any of your donations? This could be important, and if you go with a platform with this rule, you may want to set a lower goal. There shouldn't be penalty for raising more than you listed.
5. Ease of Use
As part of your research look over campaigns on a site. Does the typical layout make sense? Is it easy to make a donation? Do the pages look professional and inviting? Later, when seriously considering going with a site weigh the ease of setting up your page, making edits, and updating your content. If you can't use it it's not the site for your project.
Sample Crowdfunding Sites for Film and Media
With GoFundMe, the money you collect goes directly to you. There are no deadlines or limits. GoFundMe currently limits fees to standard credit card charges plus a small fixed amount per donation.
Indiegogo is an international crowdfunding website founded in 2008. The site was one of the first sites to offer crowd funding and grew from the needs of the founders to fund a play, a theatre company, and research for a cure for a rare disease.
There are more than 9 million backers representing 235 countries and territories who support diverse projects from around the world. Projects are not evaluated or otherwise curated.
Kickstarter helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality. In 2015, Kickstarter became a Benefit Corporation. Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that are obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society, not only shareholders.
Founded in 2013, Patreon allows creatives to get regular payments by running a subscription membership business for their fans. Fans pay you a subscription amount of their choice in exchange for exclusive experiences & behind-the-scenes content. You create the terms that work for your project or stream of work. On average, Patreon patrons pay more every month than people pay for other popular subscription services.
Patreon allows creators to establish an ongoing and predictable monthly revenue source. Patreon also helps fans connect in a new way with the creators they love most. Through Patreon, millions of dollars every month is distributed to the tens of thousands of creators who have Patreon pages, whether they are creating podcasts, music, fiction, game streams, online videos, photography, visual art, and more.
Rally.org helps people fundraise online and build social awareness.
Seed&Sparks offers subscribers a crowdfunding + streaming platform focused on storytelling via film and video. Each month, Seed&Spark allocates a portion of its subscriber revenue to give as grants to qualified crowdfunding projects. Subscribers offered the chance to vote on projects for these grants. Recipients of the Seed Fund grants also get a secured distribution option on Seed&Spark’s streaming platform.
Free online videos and classes help filmmakers launch successful campaigns. Seed&Sparks claims over 75% of their campaigns reach their goals.
European & International
Ulule enables creative, innovative and community-minded projects to test their idea, build a community and make it grow. Ulule claims to be the leading European crowdfunding website, with more than 20,000 successfully financed projects, more than 1.8 million members worldwide and a campaign success rate close to 70 %. Ulule offers personalized coaching to each and every project owner, before, during, and after his or her campaign.
Ulule is certified as a B Corporation, which means it is a for-profit company that meets standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
National and State Grantmakers
Main Office: Northeast - New York
32 Old Slip, 24th Floor
New York, NY 10005-3500
Foundation Center gathers and analyzes data, shares it worldwide, and empowers people to understand and increase philanthropy’s ability to improve the world. Its mission is to strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world.
Foundation Directory Online makes it easy to turn foundations into funders. It’s the only resource you need to search for the foundations most likely to give you grants and manage your prospects through to funding. Here you can find information about more than 100,000 grantmakers. Using the FDO requires a subscription.
However, the FC’s Funding Information Network distributes this important information to communities across the country and around the world. The program consists of hundreds of community-based organizations that house and provide—free of charge to the public—a suite of our trainings and databases to their local communities.
FIN Locations in Idaho
FIN Locations in Montana
- Bozeman — Bozeman Public Library
- Butte — Montana Tech Library
- Missoula —University of Montana - Mansfield Library
- Kalispell — ImagineIF Libraries
FIN Locations in Oregon
- Bend — Deschutes Public Library
- Eugene — University of Oregon - Knight Library
- Eugene — Eugene Public Library
- Klamath Falls — Oregon Institute of Technology
- Portland —Multnomah County Library
FIN Locations in Washington
- Bellingham —Bellingham Public Library
- Marysville — Sno-Isle Libraries - Marysville Library
- Port Townsend — Port Townsend Public Library
- Poulsbo —Kitsap Regional Library
- Redmond — King County Library System (Redmond Regional Library)
- Seattle —Seattle Public Library – Central Branch
- Tacoma — University of Washington - Tacoma Library
- Twisp — North Central Regional Library - Twisp Public Library
- Wenatchee — North Central Regional Library- Wenatchee Public Library
- Yakima — Yakima Valley Libraries
International Documentary Association
3470 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 980
Los Angeles, CA 90010
The International Documentary Association supports nonfiction filmmaking and filmmakers. The IDA provides resources, creates community, and defends rights and freedoms for documentary artists, activists, and journalists.
The IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund provides production funds to feature-length documentary films taking on in-depth explorations of original, contemporary stories and integrating journalistic practice into the filmmaking process. In addition to funds, grantees will receive additional resources and expertise tailored to the needs of the project. Inclusion and diversity, both in terms of the filmmaking team and subject matter, are a priority of the fund.
Seattle,King County and Washington
Municipal Research and Services Center Arts Commissions and Cultural Programs mrsc.org/Home.aspx
The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) is a nonprofit organization that helps local governments across Washington State better serve their citizens by providing legal and policy guidance on any topic.
[Note: The Actors Handbook added a few county and city arts commissions added not listed by the MRSC.]
Overview: Arts and culture contribute to a community’s vitality and economic development. Many Washington communities have developed local arts commissions and cultural programs. Sometimes these programs are found within the parks and recreation department, and, in other cases, they may be independent offices. In addition to arts commissions, these include public art programs such as a percentage for art works, arts and cultural plans, art in public parks, municipal arts collections, and the establishment of arts, entertainment, and cultural districts.
- Bellevue Arts Commission - The arts commission is established by the Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 3.56 and the municipal art program by Ch. 4.48.
- Edmonds Arts Commission - Includes links to cultural planning
- Everett Arts and Culture
- Olympia Arts Commission- See also Public Art in Olympia
- Redmond Arts and Culture Commission - See also the Arts & Culture page for information on arts programming, plans and policies
- Richland Arts Commission - Includes arts commission work plan
- Seattle Office of Arts and Culture - More details in listing below
- Seattle Arts Commission - Includes agendas, minutes, correspondence, and work plans
- Tacoma Culture -Information about the arts, sister cities, and historic preservation
- Walla Walla — ArtWalla - The mission of ArtWalla is to support and strengthen the Arts as an integral part of daily life, education and economic development in the Walla Walla Valley.
- Arts of Clark County (includes Vancouver) – Arts of Clark County encourages cultural and artistic opportunities that are an integral part of our community and contribute to the area’s unique character, identity and image as a desirable place in which to live, work, and visit.
- King County 4Culture – Public development authority providing cultural services for King County, including the arts, heritage, preservation, and public art (See additional listing for 4Culture)
- Kitsap County Arts Board – Administers the county's 1% for Art program
Arts and Cultural Districts
In addition to the districts below, several other cities including Bellevue, Burien, Mukilteo, and Seattle have been considering the establishment of arts or cultural districts.
- Bellingham Arts District: Making Places for People Project https://www.cob.org/services/planning/urban-villages/downtown/Pages/arts-district.aspx
- Bremerton Arts District
101 Prefontaine Place South
Seattle WA 98104
4Culture is a support agency for the arts in King County. 4Culture offers opportunities for all kinds of cultural funding and support in King County, with deadlines rolling out throughout the year.
It also offers project consulting services. (See also Film Production Guide: Business & Legal, Support Services)
Seattle Office of Arts and Culture
PO Box 94748
Seattle, WA 98124-4748
The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) manages the city's public art program, cultural partnerships grant programs, LANGSTON (formerly the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute), and The Creative Advantage initiative. Its work fosters a city driven by creativity that provides the opportunity for everyone to engage in diverse arts and cultural experiences. In alignment with the City's Race and Social Justice Initiative, it works to eliminate institutional racism in its programs, policies and practices.
The Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs maintains a website of listings for grants, arts jobs, arts news and educational and networking events. (See also Film Production Guide: Support Services)
Washington State Arts Alliance Foundation
6114 12th Ave NE
Seattle WA 98115
Washington State Arts Alliance, the statewide arts advocacy organization, works to promote public funding, legislation, and policy favorable to the arts. Washington State Arts Alliance Foundation works to increase knowledge, understanding, appreciation and practice of the arts through communication and education. A dedicated board runs the Arts Alliance and Foundation, and works with arts advocates around the state.
Washington State Arts Commission
PO Box 42675
Olympia, WA 98504-2675
711 Capitol Way S., Suite 600
Olympia, WA 98501
ArtsWA is the Washington State Arts Commission, a state government agency established in 1961. ArtsWA offers grants aimed at conserving and developing the state’s arts resources. ArtsWA programs and funding opportunities include grants to K-12 education, partners, special projects, and organizations.
ArtsWA is committed to values of inclusion, diversity, equity, and creative expression. It believes in diverse forms of artistic expression, and in access to arts and arts education for all individuals in our state.
Portland and Oregon
Northwest Film Center
Classes and Offices
934 SW Salmon Street
Portland, Oregon 97205
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205
Contact: Consult the Staff Directory
Established in 1971, the Northwest Film Center is a regional media arts resource and service organization founded to encourage the study, appreciation, and utilization of the moving image arts, foster their artistic and professional excellence. NWFC provides a variety of film and video exhibition, education, and information programs primarily directed to the residents of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.
The NWFC conducts an active year-round exhibition program of foreign, classic, experimental, and independent works that showcase a wide array of regional, national, and international cinema and video art. Several annual festivals, thematic series, special retrospectives, visiting artist programs, and free screenings of new world cinema for high school classes also highlight contributions to the art form.
The NWFC’s education programs provide classes, workshops, studios, and camps to working and aspiring video storytellers, and youth in 4th-12th grades.
Other services NWFC offers filmmakers include: administering the Media Arts Fellowship, serving as a fiscal agent for independent producers in need of non-profit sponsorship, and offering low-cost equipment access to community producers.
Oregon Arts Commission Media Arts Fellowship
775 Summer Street NE, Ste 200
Salem, Oregon 97301-1280
The Oregon arts Commission support the arts in the State of Oregon. OAC awards grants to individual artists and arts organizations, offers business and legal advice, manages a call-board for jobs, and lobbies on behalf of the arts in the State of Oregon.
The Oregon Media Arts Fellowship(s) provide financial and other support for production expenses to enable Oregon film or video artists to create or complete new work or works in progress. The Media Arts Fellowship(s) recognize and assist media artists whose work shows exceptional promise and who have demonstrated a commitment to film or video art.
Search page for local arts councils in Oregon: To encourage and enable community building and information exchange, the Arts Commission has compiled a list of almost 50 arts associations and organizations from all regions of the state. Get contact and website information by searching by agency name or city.
Oregon Cultural Trust
775 Summer Street NE, Suite 200
Salem, Oregon 97301
The Oregon Cultural Trust supports the arts in the State of Oregon.
The Oregon Cultural Trust champions and invests in the statewide cultural exchange and creative expression that make Oregon uniquely Oregon. OCT awards grants to individual artists and organizations and offers webinars on how to write an effective grant.
Regional Arts & Culture Council
108 NW 9th Avenue, Suite 300
Portland, OR 97209-3318
The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) receives funding from a variety of public and private partners to serve artists, arts organizations, schools and residents throughout Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties.
RACC awards grants to individual artists and organizations; manages a grant search engine for regional, national and international grants; manages a call-board for jobs and auditions; hosts an online resource directory of research publications, businesses and organizations that support the arts, available workspace and housing, and upcoming workshops and lectures; and lobbies on behalf of the arts in the State of Oregon and Washington D.C.
(See also Film Production Guide: Support Services)
* Also See Theatre Production Guide: Fundraising