Nuts, bolts, hot tips, and road-tested information from Holly Million for indie filmmakers raising money

Tag Archives: thanking donors

Show Your Donors Some Love

So you’re drafting a fundraising prospect list for your indie film? Looks like it’s shaping up to be the most extensive list of individual donor prospects known to mankind. Good job!

Your list covers your personal connections (everyone from Uncle Ernie to your former Econ 101 professor), people your personal connections can introduce you to who care about the same issues your film covers, and known suspects in the community who just love film. You have really done your homework and you even know how much you plan to ask each one of these prospects for.

So what’s the problem? Well, I’ll bet you know what you want from them. But do you have any clue what they want from you?

That’s right. You know you want their money. But what do these fine people get for giving their cash to you and your film? Stumped? Here are a few tried and true ways to both entice as well as reward your individual donors, along with a few totally off-the-wall tips to demonstrate that the sky really is the limit when it comes to thanking your donors.

Tip One: Credit Where Credit Is Due
Some people would love to see their name on the big screen, even if it’s tucked somewhere far down the list past where you thank the caterer and your accountant. In exchange for people’s financial support, promise to include them in your film’s credits. Want to make things really interesting? Offer different levels of credits for different sized gifts. Somebody wants to be the executive producer? Or assistant to Mr. Waters? They’re going to have to pay.

Tip Two: Ask for Their Opinions
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want money, ask for advice, and if you want advice, ask for money.” It’s surprising, but very few filmmakers think to ask people on their lists for ideas, information, and advice. Do you need a location? Do you need a graphic designer? Do you want feedback on your screenplay? The more you ask people for ideas, the more they will feel connected to your film. And when people feel connected to something, it increases their willingness to put some skin in the game.

Tip Three: Put Them on an Advisory Board
I secured a gift of $5,000 from an individual who was an artist who was passionate about women’s issues for a short narrative film I was making that focused on these issues. Although most short narratives don’t need the support of an advisory board, I created one anyway, seeing how it would both attach known names to my project and reward the people who cared most about my film. I invited my major donor to join this advisory board, and she was surprised — and pleased — by the invitation.

Tip Four: Put Them in the Film
Oh, my God! Did I really just write that? Am I out of my mind? Quite possibly. At least where some potential donors are concerned. I don’t recommend putting just anyone in your film. And I’m not talking about putting them in a speaking role if they can’t act their way out of a paper bag. But is there some scene in your film where you need a bunch of extras? Can they blend into the background somehow? If you have a really big potential donor or investor, this may be the ticket to get them to write that check.

Tip Five: Did I Mention the Tax Write-Off/Investment Potential?
If you’re making a non-commercial film that is fiscally sponsored, then you can offer your individual donors a tax write-off for their contributions to your film. You get their money, and they get to take a tax-deduction for making that gift. If you’re making a commercial film, then be prepared to talk about the potential return on investment. How is the investor going to make back her money? What are the risks involved? What are the potential payoffs?

Tip Six: Invite Them to Your World Premiere at Festival X
There is that special category of donors who just love the concept of making a film. They are probably themselves closeted filmmakers, but they won’t or can’t make the leap into making a film of their own. However, you’re a filmmaker. By inviting this potential donor to become part of the film scene by coming with you to a festival would start them swooning. You don’t know which festival you may get into, but for some people, it won’t matter one bit.

Tip Seven: Tell Other People How Great Your Donors Are
Whenever you host an event, thank the people who have shown their support. When you put up your website, list those who helped you get where you are today. Proclaim publicly that these folks are your heroes, and they will bask in the glow of your appreciation.

Tip Eight: Show How Your Film Has Changed the World
For donors who give to your film because of its subject matter, knowing that the film went on to great things will make them feel good. Did your documentary about food safety change national policy on food safety? Did your expose of corporate malfeasance bring the bad guys to justice? Show that impact, and those donors will see your film as the greatest thing their money has ever produced.

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

(heart photo by Peter Kratochvil)