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Documentary Fundraising: Steps To Finding Money For Your Film

Documentary Funding, Documentary Film Grants,
Fundraising Ideas

Documentary Fundraising Tips

So you're in need of funding for your documentary? Are you wondering where to start? Wondering where to find money so that you can make or finish your film?

Here's the great news. Money is everywhere! You just need to know a few tricks and tips to learn how to find it and attract it to you.

If you are baffled by the fundraising process, you're not alone. Funding is something every independent filmmaker worldwide must deal with at one time or another.

Mind Set

documentary fundraising

Believe it or not, documentary fundraising first begins with YOUR MIND.

Do you believe you are worthy of receiving gifts of money for your project? Do you believe money is good or evil?

How you feel deep down in your soul about money will ultimately determine your success at raising funds for your documentary.

As Carol Dean, author The Art of Film Funding, tells filmmakers, “get very clear on any confusion you have about attracting or receiving money.” Your fundraising success depends on it!

Your Mission Statement

The next big item on your list is to create your MISSION STATEMENT. This tip is from documentary fundraising guru Morrie Warshawski, author of Shaking The Money Tree. He says it's absolutely essential that you get very clear on exactly why you're doing what you're doing.

You'll want to create both a personal mission statement and your mission statement as a filmmaker. You can skip this step if you want to, but if your values, beliefs and goals are not super clear to you, then potential funders may not be clear either. You and your project MUST be naturally aligned to trigger the flow of money!


Documentary fundraising is nothing without relationships. This is perhaps THE biggest item to remember when you're raising money for your film.

Many filmmakers have the fantasy that one big check will come from one big funder, perhaps a government grant, to cover the full cost of their film. It rarely happens like that! Often times, funding will come in smaller amounts from a variety of sources. So make it a priority to build a network of friends and supporters.

Documentary Fundraising Tips

  1. Build Your Fundraising Team – Make it a priority to put together a team of 3-5 people who can help you strategize about fundraising. Get some “gray hair” or business-minded individuals on your team who have experience raising money and have an existing network of friends and colleagues. 

  2. Edit a Trailer - Fundraising is tons easier if you can SHOW a sample of your documentary idea. A trailer can be anywhere from 1-10 minutes. The key is to make it professional and compelling.

  3. Create a Documentary Proposal – In addition to the trailer, you should have proposal that clearly outlines your project. A proposal includes a documentary treatment, synopsis, crew bios, production schedule, detailed budget and fundraising strategy. Get a jump start with our Documentary Proposal Template.

  4. Facebook page and/or website – Start building a community around your film as soon as possible. Create a Facebook page for your film and keep people updated on your progress. Tell stories, upload video snippets, etc. A website, even just a one-page site, is an excellent place to post your trailer and a donate button. Make sure the donate button is right there next to your trailer because you want people to have a quick easy way to donate while they're still in “the moment” after watching your trailer.

  5. Documentary Film Grants – Search The Foundation Center (foundationcenter.org) for documentary film grants. Get ready to spend a lot of time researching!

    Get a copy of the Top 100 Foundations who give money to film/media projects as a FREE BONUS inside the Documentary Fundraising 101 Course.

  6. Prepare psychologically - Expect that you will get a lot of “no's”. This doesn't mean that your idea isn't valid or important. People simply do not part with money easily, especially if they're getting nothing tangible in return. There must be a pre-existing emotional attachment (passion for the cause, a strong belief in the mission, a belief that what you're doing will make a difference in some way, someone who believes in you personally, etc). As the saying goes, “every 'no' you get is closer to a 'yes'!

Raise Money!

There are so many fantastic ideas and fundraising strategies!

If you are SERIOUS about raising money for your documentary, a great resource is our popular Documentary Fundraising Tool Kit (3-Kit Bundle) which includes the three items below: Documentary Fundraising 101 Course, Documentary Proposal Template and Documentary Budget Templates Pack.

Documentary Fundraising Tools & Courses

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Faith Fuller

Hi friend! I'm Faith, chief instigator here at Desktop Documentaries. I've been in the filmmaking/TV/video biz more than 25 years and I started this site to help super cool people like yourself get their documentaries made, seen and sold! I hope you enjoy the site and if you have any questions, please just ask!  

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