Documentary Fundraising:
Ask Without Fear | Book Review

Although not specifically geared toward documentary fundraising, Ask Without Fear is a great resource if you’re looking to understand the basic principles around fundraising.

The author, Marc Pitman, is a professional fundraiser and seems to genuinely love the process of connecting people with causes they love.

He writes this book for non-professional fundraisers and breaks down the fundraising process into simple chunks that are easy for regular folks to understand.

I especially appreciated the chapter called “Seven Fundraising Myths” where Marc lays out the biggest mistakes when raising money. I also liked in Chapter 3 where he talks about how to deal with “objections”.. and how they can actually be a GOOD sign!

From the viewpoint of documentary fundraising, here are a few key points from Ask Without Fear I found helpful:

Tips for Documentary Fundraising

  • He talks about taking potential donors “behind the scenes” of a project. For a filmmaker, that could be inviting a donor to come on a shoot, or view a rough cut, somehow be part of the filmmaking process.. this helps them understand the process, makes them feel they are getting “insider treatment” and helps make them feel vested in the project.

  • Bring a “Prop” when meeting with a potential donor (an artists rendering, photo of completed project, etc)… for filmmakers, this is the trailer! You want donors to visualize and understand what the completed project is going to look like. You can do that with your trailer and/or showing other documentaries that have a similar style of what you’re going after. For example, if you are trying to raise money to shoot a reenactment scene that will cost $30,000, show the potential donor a similar type reenactment from another documentary to illustrate what you’re trying to accomplish.

  • Everyone wants to be part of a winning cause, so make donors feel they are part of a successful project. Show what you’ve already accomplished and boast the successes you’ve already had (either past projects, a recent successful shoot or a recent successful fundraising campaign… “We’ve already raised $10,000!”). Make donors feel confident the project will be completed.

  • Make gifts of money tangible. Marc gives examples from where $20 will buy a flock of chickens or $120 for a milking goat. In filmmaking terms, you could say $120 will buy a hard drive or $10,000 would pay for a fim crew to travel to Botswana. The point Marc makes is to break your fundraising down into tangible chunks that donors can relate to.

  • Look at people as human beings, not ATM machines.. Fundraising is about RELATIONSHIPS. You’re in a hurry to raise money so you can do what you love, making films.. but taking the time to get to know people, develop relationships will make all the difference.

Interview with Marc Pitman on Fox 25 Boston about “Ask Without Fear”

Ask Without Fear Book Review Summary

In summary, Ask Without Fear provides an excellent foundation for your documentary fundraising efforts. It focuses especially on building relationships and how to make the “ask”. It is geared more toward the volunteer fundraiser of a small non-profit organization with the idea in mind that they are developing longterm relationships that will help the organization and its mission for many years to come.

Since it is not specifically geared toward documentary fundraising, you’ll need to think creatively about how the lessons Marc teaches relates to your specific film project. But overall, this is a good primer to get you started on your fundraising efforts.

If you're looking for more info about fundraising, Marc Pitman runs a very informative website all about fundraising called the Fundraising Coach. Click here to visit

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