Documentary Funding Ideas:
How To Throw A Fundraising Houseparty

A great way to launch your documentary, 
create buzz, and raise some cash!

Documentary funding becomes much easier when you involve more people than just yourself.

If you’re like a lot of filmmakers, you have the fantasy that your funding is going to come from one big foundation or one big wealthy donor.

You think to yourself, if I can just write a brilliant grant application, send it off in the mail, a nice big $250,000 check is going to magically show up in my mail box.

This is a wonderful dream.

Did you know that the majority of funding for non-profit endeavors comes from individuals of modest means who share a common passion for a cause? And that the most effective way to get funding is to ask the person directly?

For a lot of filmmakers, there is perhaps no greater fear than asking someone to financially support their project. 

What if I told you there was at least one way to raise money without directly asking for the money yourself?

The Fundraising Houseparty

A fundraising houseparty is a great way to kick-off your documentary fundraising efforts, build buzz and raise some quick cash for your film.

I just got finished reading a great little book called The Fundraising Houseparty: How to Party with a Purpose by arts consultant and writer Morrie Warshawski. It’s an excellent step-by-step guide on exactly how you go about organizing one of these parties.

Here’s how Morrie breaks down the fundraising houseparty process:

  • Find someone who believes in your documentary project who is willing to hold a party at their house on your behalf.

  • Create a fun invitation that clearly states they are being invited to a fundraising event.

  • Invite people of a similar socio-economic background to the party.

  • Use the event to showcase your documentary trailer and/or tell people about your project (you’ll do that part).

  • Get someone who is a PEER of those invited to make the actual ask for money. Having a trusted friend ask is much more effective than having a stranger or “expert” make the ask.

The updated version of The Fundraising Houseparty was released in 2007, but the information and lessons are timeless. It’s a fun little read (just 58 pages) with real invitation samples, diagrams, timelines, sample scripts and exact instructions on what to do and when to do it.

Morrie is the first to admit that fundraising parties are not always money-makers (be careful not to overspend on refreshments). But he says, if done right, the average houseparty brings in anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000. So consider your fundraising houseparty just PART of your overall documentary funding strategy.

For a more comprehensive overview of documentary fundraising, Morrie wrote another excellent book that I highly recommend called Shaking the Money Tree: The Art of Getting Grants and Donations for Film and Video.

Documentary Funding Tips

Documentary funding is never easy. Just ask any documentary filmmaker who’s been through the process. ;) But it’s definitely doable and it’s just something you’ll have to think through and strategize.

Putting together a fundraising team is highly recommended. Try to get people who are in the business world who are not only passionate about your project, but who understand fundraising and have connections to money. Having this team will make your funding efforts MUCH easier instead of trying to carry the whole burden yourself.

Documentary Fundraising
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