Back to Back Issues Page
The fastest way to raise $3,000 for your documentary
November 18, 2010 – Documentary Tips Newsletter

Issue #1 – November 17, 2010 –

Congratulations! You are the recipient of the very first issue of the Documentary Tips Newsletter.

The goal of this newsletter is to provide valuable, specific and relevant information to help you in your documentary filmmaking journey. I am a real documentary filmmaker who has been through the trenches and understands every step of the process. If there is anything you would like to see covered in this e-zine or on the website, please drop me a line using the contact form.

The fastest way to raise $3,000 for your documentary

When I was visiting Austin, Texas this summer, I met a super talented, up-and-coming photographer. We happened to be e-mailing recently and she told me about a photo exhibit she wanted to do that had a budget of $3,000. She had produced a very simple 3:00 minute video to explain her project and uploaded it to a site called KickStarter.

She then invited all her friends and family to help her “kickstart” her project. Within a few days, she not only met her goal of $3,000 but EXCEEDED it by $1400! What I noticed is that she showed tremendous gratitude to those supporting her project. She expressed such a positive spirit, it was literally impossible not to want to help her! (Yep, I pitched in a few dollars to help). In addition, she offered to create little photo momentos as gifts to those who donated toward her project which was another great incentive to get donations.


On KickStarter, all kinds of artists and filmakers are raising money for their projects. One of the coolest things about KickStarter is that a deadline is created to raise your money -- you only get your money if the full amount is reached -- this creates excitement (and a crisis!) for the fundraiser and therefore is a fantastic incentive to get quick dollars for your project.

I've read studies that show people are much more willing to donate online if there's a specific event with consequences, for example a political campaign, that has an easily definable goal and end date. A person must feel that their involvement -- voting, donating, etc. -- makes a direct impact on the results. If they do, they'll participate and/or donate!

You should know KickStarter charges a 5% fee, but only if you successfully reach your fundraising goal within the set amount of time. So if you raise your goal of $3,000, they get $150 which seems fair considering they are providing the infrastructure and credibility for your fundraising campaign. In addition, Amazon charges a 3-5% credit card charging fee. So all total, you'll have to give up $250-$300 of your donations if you raise $3,000. Compare that with the time it would take to build your own site and maybe the price is worth it.

To get people to understand your documentary project, create a trailer as soon as possible. Once people see that you are serious about the project and they can see for themselves what you're trying to accomplish, they will be much more willing to jump on board to help you.

Here are a few more ideas for raising quick cash for your documentary project:

House party

Have a special event at your home or other location and “premiere” your documentary trailer. Use the occasion to “pitch” the full project and ask for funding. Make sure to have a budget, synopsis, crew bios and distribution strategy printed out in a professional packet to hand out to serious funders. The key here is to make a direct ASK for money, don't just hope that people will figure out what you need. Tell them exactly how much you need, what you need it for and when you need it.

Direct mail and/or phone call campaign

For those who don't live close enough to attend your house party premiere, consider a letter writing campaign. Send a personal letter and include a DVD copy of your trailer (or include a link to your trailer if it's posted online). Let them know you need their support to complete the project and suggest a donation amount. You could even set up incentives and freebies for levels of giving (free dvd, signed poster, name in the credits, invitation-only premiere, etc). A few days after the letter has been mailed, follow up with a phone call. It's one of the most uncomfortable things you will ever do, but this step is highly effective. People may be more willing to donate if they have a personal conversation.

VERY IMPORTANT: Once people have donated, keep your supporters up to date on your progress and to show your ongoing appreciation for their support. After all, you may have to go back to them again for another donation. ;)

Click here for more documentary fundraising ideas and to see an example of a trailer.

Recent questions to the Editor:

Q&A – “Who Buys documentaries?”
“Can I be a one-person documentary crew?”

Recommended Products:

Animoto – Edit gorgeous videos without any experience whatsoever
Site Build It! – Build an income-generating website
Netflix -- A huge selection of documentaries and movies – get inspired!

Check it out. Desktop Documentaries is now on Facebook!

Until next time,


Back to Back Issues Page