The Art of Creating Tantalizing Crowdfund Rewards – A Guide to What Works (and What Really Doesn’t)



Crowd-funding has become seriously mainstream in recent times, and it has arguably become one of the most democratic methods of film funding. Regardless of whether you’re a big-name Hollywood director or simply a passionate indie filmmaker fresh out of the New York Film Academy, you can (and will) find an audience on sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo – and that audience will vote with its dollars to ensure that the projects they want to see will be created.

Many people claim defeat before they even start. “Why would anyone care about my project? I’m a nobody,” is the defeatist lament of those who don’t appreciate that there’s an audience for absolutely everyone, and past success or celebrity status doesn’t always guarantee a winning campaign. More often than not, we see sincerity and clear-thinking succeed far more often than vain folly.

But putting aside the intentions of the creator, what exactly does invigorate possible backers?

For the most part, people support crowd-funded projects because they genuinely believe in the project and want to see it succeed. That said, rewards play an important role in consumer engagement. Backers want to feel like they’re really a part of the film-creation process, and they want to feel that their money was well spent. This means giving them rewards that are satisfying – and following up with an excellent product.

Rewards: What Works

– The finished product. It almost goes without saying, but remember that anyone who invests in your project will want to see it completed – and they deserve to get it for free. Assume that everyone who contributes a reasonable donation will get a copy of your film and budget accordingly. This reward is best offered around the $25 price point, which is the most common donation level among backers.

– Opportunities for the funder to get involved in the filmmaking process. Examples might include using a funder’s name for a character or creating a walk-on role. These highly personal rewards cost you nothing andwill be extremely valuable to the investor, who may never again have the opportunity to really be part of such a project.

– Chances for the funder to get a real behind-the-scenes glimpse. The people you attract to a crowd-funding project will fallinto one of two camps: They’ll either be true fans who genuinely want to see your project succeed, or they’ll be movie lovers who just want to help a new film be made. Either way, they’re bound to be the kind of people who would cherish a behind-the-scenes look at the film. Invite them onto the set, arrange forthem to meet the cast and crew for drinks. Send them postcards from every location you visit during a documentary. The more involved they feel, the more valuable their contribution will feel.

The value of your crowd-funding rewards should increase with the amount of the donation, but that doesn’t mean that the reward needs to be more expensive. You can make them more exclusive and personal instead. This will increase their value without the risk of exhausting yourresources.

Rewards: What Doesn’t Work

There’s no single reward that will never work. You’ll need to know your audience and what they’ll want, and you’ll also need to know how much time and money you can reasonably invest in delivering those perks. The one ruling guideline is this: If you can’t actually pull it off,don’t try it. The idea of sending hand-signed swag to every investor is a great one, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth – as seen by even the super-successful Veronica Mars campaign.

By and large, your viewers don’t want a generic t-shirt. They want to see the project succeed; they want some form of exclusive reward; and the highest backers will want even more exclusivity. Beyond that, the sky is the limit.

Of course, in the future, crowd-funding may change even more. Thanks to the JOBS act, crowd-funders may soon be able to earn equity from the movies they invest in. This means that people who back a movie can start receiving money if the film does well, which in effect will totally democratize film production and revolutionize the way movies are made.



A freelance writer, editor, charity gamer and video guy. Once totally landed a 720 heelflip in his local skate park. You should have seen it, it was awesome.


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