My name is Melissa Malone. I’m the creator (among other things) of the web series, “Or So the Story Goes,”- an anthology series that takes classic children’s literature and adapts it with a modern, horror twist. The series began as a project to teach teens about filmmaking and has grown into a full-fledged award-winning web series.
My bi-monthly column ''Or So the Web Series Go(es)" will discuss all the things that we “work” with throughout the web series world and my experience/advice in each. Obviously, take it with a grain of salt but… I’m happy to offer some insight (and take any questions along the way)!
If you prefer a lengthier look into who we are, check out my previous post It Better Make Your Heart Sing (aka If Not, Don’t Bother).
As we are knee deep in budget proposals and pre-production for our upcoming season, it’s clear to say I have fundraising on the brain… So, it only made sense to incorporate that into this week’s mini-column. I wanted to offer some fun (and sometimes not so fun) ways to raise funds for your series.
First off… the obvious- crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has become to norm in raising funds, it seems. There are plenty of options out there to set up your campaign and begin sharing it with the world, fingers crossed that you reach your goal.
Our previous seasons, Happy Thoughts and Golden Rule were both crowdfunded through Kickstarter- so that’s where most of my info stems from but I think it’s safe to say the advice rings true, regardless of your platform…
Make sure you have a built-in audience + strong social media ties PRIOR to crowdfunding. This will help with spreading the words and also take less pressure off of getting your friends and family to fund your series.
Have creative perks that DON’T cost you a ton of money to produce. There’s nothing worse than hitting your crowdfunding goal and realizing you didn’t budget for having all those t-shirts and mugs made and shipped! Creative goals help set your project apart from the competition. For “Golden Rule” we added a ‘Letter from Rumplestiltskin’ reward where you could give us a name and address and we would mail out a riddle from Rumple himself to a person of your choosing. We even personalized them in case people wanted them for a specific reason (birthday, date proposal, etc). Make the rewards fitting for your project.
Timing. Timing is everything. Make sure not to launch your project too late- you want to know you have secured your funding in time to MAKE the season happen but also not so early that people forget about what you’re doing. Plan ahead and launch your campaign with enough time to cease some of your panic…
There’s obviously good and bad to be said about crowdfunding and there’s a TON of info out there about it. But this sums it up best (The Best Crowdfunding Advice You Need To Read).
Additional Fundraiser Ideas
Old school bake sale/car wash/yard sale. This is obviously easier said than done but doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity (especially if you don’t live in a city). Everyone has some stuff they’re wanting to get rid of. Get together, put some price tags on it and find a free day to stand outside! It won’t fund your season but at the end of the day, it could certainly help!
Auction. This can be done many ways- live auction, silent auction, online auction. A dinner with a silent auction or an app and champagne night is always best as far as networking and mingling. I’ve heard of people throwing house parties with a similar idea- this does away with the costs of rental spaces, etc.
If a live auction isn’t in the cards, a virtual auction could also be a great way to raise some extra funds and with live video feeds now- it could still be a lot of fun. Contact local businesses about items they are willing to offer up for the auction- often times they will help out.
Sponsors. Put together a budget proposal and start contacting sponsors. It’s a great idea to have different sponsorship levels (much like with crowdfunding) that offer different incentives. It’s really hit or miss but you’ll never know if there’s a business or individual out there that would like to help you out as an associate producer or in exchange for some promotion through your series.
Merch. Create a merch shop online for fans to purchase items. CafePress doesn’t cost anything to have a shop and create your items. They also take care of printing and shipping items and you can set your own prices. The amount of money made tends to be minimal- due to Cafe Press getting MOST of the funds, but it’s a free and easy way to make some extra funds throughout the year. You can check out our shop if interested in some ideas. On top of our main series and season logos, we made a shop with logos from within the season. For example a Kingstown High School & Kingstown Police Department shop. Visit the OSTSG Merch Shop here for some ideas!
Conventions/Expos. I know I’ve already discussed this in my promotions article but it’s also a way to make a little bit of cash. We have merch for sale (glow in the dark series wristbands, shirts, fairy jars, etc, as well as our sponsorship page out. Additionally, we keep out a “donations” jar for anyone interested and raffle off a gift basket at the end of the day.
Workshops/Lessons. We started as a teen filmmaking workshop, so this is something that always comes up first in my mind. I coach young actors and put those funds toward future seasons. Additionally, look into schools and performing art spaces in the area- they may be looking for guest speakers and workshops for kids and adults alike.
Get creative. My favorite fundraiser OSTSG has done so far has to be our “Twisted Karaoke” night. I contacted a local bar and they were kind enough to offer drink specials for us that night as well as let us crash their karaoke night. We had people pledge money via our Kickstarter campaign (or directly through Paypal on our website) in exchange for choosing a song (and cast/crew member) to be performed. We streamed the event live on social media so people could tune in a pledge even if unable to make it out to the bar. Of course this also meant the videos live in infamy on our FB page… so there’s that downside… lol
Not only was this creative, people seemed to actually enjoy making fools of us (which is quite easy to do) and we had a blast. Did we raise an exceptional amount of money? No. But we did manage to pull a couple hundred bucks out of the event and get the word out while doing it!
Whatever the route you take be prepared and don’t let the negative aspects get you down. Is it hard to raise money? Yes, of course! Be ready for some rejection- but also be sure to take some time to soak up the gratefulness you feel when something comes though!
Have any ideas to add? Feel free to add them!