Research, crowdfunding, decision briefs … oh my!

This week, my assignment for the Taking Command documentary project – our film about women leading in the US Army Military Police – was to follow up with the Army public affairs offices we have contacted (so far, still working on this…) and to research possibilities for crowdfunding our initial, promotional film, as well as design some strategies for publicizing the campaign, what it will look like on the CF site, and some possible contribution levels and perks.

I started off looking at Kickstarter and Gofundme, given that I’ve contributed many times to others’ campaigns on these platforms. After Tweeting a bit about doing so, I received a Tweet from IndieGoGo, who I guess felt left out, reminding me of their option. So I went there and checked out their platform as well. There is some good information out there, both on the sites, as well as numerous posts about how to go about successfully crowdfunding a project.

As I started to list the pros and cons, and star next to the issues I found most important/relevant, I realized I was coming quite close to creating a decision brief, which is the Army officer’s guide to presenting information to commanders so they can make a decision with all relevant information. I guess I just can’t shake it – but for a documentary film about women in leadership in the military police corps, it’s fitting.

So, I thought I might lay out the blog version of a decision brief and throw it out to see if anyone had any expertise or guidance they could contribute that might help us when choosing a platform.

CRITERIA (In order of importance.)

1.  Fees: Upfront about fees and cost, actual fees/cost

Gofundme and Kickstarter were both upfront about the fees that they will take out and their schedule for doing so, and they were about the same. (One caveat: From contributing to another person’s campaign, I know that Gofundme takes out the fees every time you transfer money. So that can add up and be more than Kickstarter.) I had a hard time finding information from Indiegogo about fees they charge (someone’s gotta get charged, because credit card payments are involved…) — finally found it when I looking up funding models. On the other hand, they do offer the option to take your funding in through a fiscal sponsor. We don’t have one yet, but we are working on this, so it could be an option for the future. Given this information it looks like:

Kickstarter ≥ Indiegogo > Gofundme

2. Community: Do they have an established platform that people trust, and do they work to promote projects like ours through their site?

Kickstarter and Indiegogo both have strong name recognition (although I think Kickstarter is higher, because see above how I forgot about Indiegogo until they tweeted me.) Gofundme does as well, but not as much. In fact “film” is not even one of the categories of funding they offer on their first page. The Kickstarter and Indiegogo platforms have well-delineated film categories, and Kickstarter is currently promoting their 4th Annual Kickstarter Film Festival, with projects created through their site. Given that we are making a short film to support our fundraising for a feature-length documentary, this is an appealing aspect to the community criteria of our decision. Kickstarter positions their categories slightly higher on their page than Indiegogo, which positions their “trending” campaigns above the separate categories. Thus, if a person is browsing, they might make it to the film category and thus to our project slightly faster (if we get staff picked.) So, with this analysis, we’re looking at:

Kickstarter ≥ Indiegogo > Gofundme

3. All-or-nothing vs. Get-paid-as-you-go

While of course we hope to fully fund the budget for our short film, and are optimistic that enough people care about this topic (or can get excited once viewing our material and pitch), it helps to have options. Gofundme and Indiegogo offer the opportunity to receive money even if you don’t get fully funded (although as noted above, Gofundme will charge you if you take advantage of the option to withdraw money while the campaign is ongoing — one assumption is that Indiegogo will do the same.) For Indiegogo, this involves two models of fees (finally found those pricing and fee information…) Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing model. Thus, with flexibility and fees, it appears that:

Indiegogo = Gofundme > Kickstarter

4. Communication: Is it easy to communicate with all your contributors at once? Is it easy to communicate with the site?

Indiegogo gets points off the bat for sending me a Tweet. But really, we want to make sure that there is a mechanism for communicating with all of our project donors. The Kickstarter site is (for me, anyway) easier to maneuver around, and I found it faster to find things like a FAQ or some actual answers, instead of pretty graphics without a lot of information trying to get me to use their platform. So, with that, I would consider:

A DRAW.

After this first pass, it’s looking like Kickstarter would be the winner. But, like with any decision, there’s more to it than just a mathematical formula. So, I will be running this through my co-producer, and also inviting people to comment and leave feedback. And, if you have ideas about perks, please let us know!

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