Part of Theatre Bubble’s Crowdfunding Series, investigating the potential and pitfalls of Crowdfunding in the UK Theatre Industry today. This week, we apply what we’ve learned from speaking to companies with different experiences of crowdfunding to advising you how to create a killer crowdfunding pitch.
First and foremost, crowdfunding is not for everyone, and certainly not for every project. Whilst it is impossible to guarantee whether any project will successfully mobilise significant public support, there are common characteristics among successful pitches which help to evaluate how suitable a project is for crowdfunding. So, before you read the rest, take the test below to find out if your production has the potential to stand out on a crowdfunding platform:
(Note: the above is merely a guide to our own observations on crowdfunding, and does not constitute thorough business advice. We cannot advise you whether or not to invest the significant time and effort required to maintain a crowdfunding campaign)
Without any further ado, here are our top tips for your crowdfunding campaign.
“A lot of arts businesses, particularly in theatre, aren’t using the right marketing and communications techniques. We’re in the business of story, we should be using that to help people see what they’re supporting. You have to help them see it – what you see in the project.” – Simon Arrowsmith, Broken Caberet
(1) STAND OUT
Can you explain what is engaging about your idea in a short sentence? And has it been done before? Unless you are a company renowned for innovative remixes of classics, a Shakespeare play set in a different context is not going to cut it either with audiences or with backers. Charlie Tuesday Gates’ Sing For Your Life, however, was truly original – a musical featuring a cast of singing puppets made through taxidermy. More importantly, the show could justify why this idea needed to be made a reality. In her words, “successful projects are engaging: People want to feel like they are part of something, like they’re really making a difference to the world.” Sing For Your Life got the attention of both those drawn to its message, and those fascinated by its grotesque medium.
(2) KEEP THEM HOOKED
Consistency in the quality of updates was key to the success of Broken Caberet’s Something Something Lazarus. Parallel to their pitch, the company created a ‘digital storyworld’ of online content filling in the show’s backstory, with some areas exclusive to backers. According to Simon Arrowsmith, one of the creative minds behind Broken Caberet, a successful strategy was to “theme all our content around the songs we admire in musical theatre. It’s a relevant theme to our content and we tied in the language to really sell the rewards. We also included links, videos and regular updates. People often increased their pledge following a good update.” Charlie Tuesday Gates, on the other hand, posted updates of her more questionable methods of raising funds, including posting internet dating conversations had with strangers whilst hustling for money. She raised £50 through this method. “It wasn’t worth it.” (see below)
(3) ENTERTAINING REWARDS
According to Ardent Theatre, “a successful project is one that has a high-level reward benefit for the donor. They are more likely to pay for that, rather than the artistic product itself.” Once again, Sing For Your Life takes the gong in this category, offering perks that ranged from the highly entertaining (For £500, one backer claimed the reward “Charlie Tuesday Gates will take you to dinner at her favourite restaurant. She will sing for you and take off some clothes i.e. her coat”) to the genuinely tempting (£250 for 1 week’s exhibition at The Vaults, or £60 for personal DIY lessons in taxidermy).
(4) MOBILISE YOUR SUPPORT EARLY
It is undoubtedly true that the most successful crowdfunding pitches already have a strong network of supporters, either through social media or mailing lists. These are instrumental to giving your project early momentum. According to Kickstarter, “of the projects that have reached 20% of their funding goal, 81% were successfully funded. Of the projects that have reached 60% of their funding goal, 98% were successfully funded. Projects either make their goal or find little support.” What is certain is that the closer you seem to your goal, the more viable your project will seem and the more willing people will be to back it.
(5) DON’T DO IT ALONE
Crowdfunding requires a huge commitment of both time and effort, if a campaign is to successful. Don’t mistake the user-friendly interface for an easy ride – a lot of projects make their targets only in the closing days of the campaign. From Charlie Tuesday Gates, “Fundraising is basically a full time job. A hard one… Working on your own is extremely hard though. I can not emphasise enough how much stress I was under to drive this home every day. Having a group of people to help will make it mentally manageable.”
Later this month, we’ll be interviewing Les Foules Theatre, as well as reviewing their crowdfunded show Crude Prospects. This will be followed by our final say on the phenomenon of crowdfunding in theatre, accompanied with our guide of pitches to keep an eye on.