Original goal: Raise $25k in 30 days. My aim was to reach 250,000 people via web. Mostly Hoop Dreams lovers. Get 1% of them – 2,500 people – to donate $10 each.

Result: Reached maybe 25,000 people. (My best guess; it’s hard to know.) $30k raised in 30 days from ~275 donors. Average donation ~ $100.

Work, work, work… that’s how I got this thing over the top. I spent at least half of each day over the 30 days working this thing: sending out personal emails to ~ 1,000 people, making dozens of phone calls, signing up for and visiting dozens of websites in any way remotely related to my subject matter (youth, mentorship, initiation, schools, parenting… because of Hoop Dreams even basketball – college, NBA, high schools…), then doing all the same on Facebook, befriending dozens of new people, working news outlets like CNN, NYT and others leaving messages in comments sections after the AZ shootings saying “this’d never happen if we initiated teen boys,” etc. and leaving a link… The list goes on and on. Tweets, asking people to re-tweet, etc., etc. Thanking people all the time for whatever they’re doing…

The key thing is to INSPIRE. That’s what leadership is in my view – inspiring people to join with you by offering them an inspirational vision of where you’re going, why, and how. Then keeping the fire lit by offering new and different variations on that vision, as well as deep humility by truly appreciating anyone who does anything at all in support.

It’s work; it’s web marketing; it’s humbling; it’s leadership.

Other points:

  • Kickstarter and Amazon.com (credit card processing) together took a total of 12.5%! So…
  • Figure that bite into your fundraising! But also:
  • Put the fundraising bar as low as you possibly can, and
  • Encourage people to contribute to you “offline” ie., use the campaign as a stalking horse to get donations directly through checks or your own online fundraising tools (we used Google Checkout which, because we’re a registered non-profit, returned to us 100% of funds! Ie., don’t use PayPal – they’re expensive, difficult to get customer service from, and very suspect politically!
  • We thought about using Indiegogo and other sites but saw that Kickstarter had far more traffic to their site. But there are other sites out there too. Meblitz.com and others that focus specifically on social profit companies. Check them all out and make the best fit for you. Because no matter what site you pick…
  • Probably ¾ or more of our donors were people we directly or indirectly knew. Very, very few donors were “strangers” brought to us from the Kickstarter universe. So you’ll be the engine driving people to the site.
  • Personally, I like having a shortened time frame. We went with 30 days because I didn’t want it to drag out. People like that sense of urgency, they like to see that progress is being made, they like the pressure of the deadline. The proof is…
  • That many people came back and donated MORE money as the campaign was nearing its threshold. Traditional logic has it that 50%+ of your funds will come in the last week! People like to join a success and be participants in making something go over the top.
  • At the same time, you must have donors lined up before you begin. Ideally, you’d have as much as 25% of the funds come in in the first week from them, proving to the world at large that you’re on your way with a great start and legit.
  • Be sure to grab every donor’s contact info when you’re done and incorporate them into your database.

That’s my advice. For another filmmaker’s advice, try this.

Above Photo Credit: Snapwire from Canva

Me at my desk when I saw that we went over the top!