Years ago I wrote a blog post a pet peeve I had where crowdfunding campaigns for theatre projects are concerned, and how a lot of theatre crowdfunding campaigns entirely miss the mark when it comes to creating successful campaigns. Sadly very little has changed.
The issue is this: most crowdfunding campaigns for theatre do a terrible job at generating excitement. A crowdfunding campaign is a way to generate buzz for your project, but one of the most important tools a successful campaign had in actually raising funds are clever and well planned perks for backers. Perks are incentives for people to back the project, and as such should be attractive to a potential backer. When I have backed campaigns in the past, it has been primarily because I wanted one of the perks on offer. It was the perk, that drew me to the project, and encouraged me to back it. And I am not alone.
And yet, most theatre crowdfunding campaigns have a perk structure that goes something like this:
$10: Social Media shout out
$40: Thanks on our website
$75: Thanks in our program
$100: A letter of thanks, signed by the cast.
$125: A ticket to the show.
I see this pretty frequently. Even after eight years. So why is this ineffective?
Well, looking at the perks above, which of these do you feel you really want? My answer, is none. None of these makes me want them, there’s nothing here to want. And the problem with this is that without perks that someone would want, is that the only people who are going to back your campaign are people in your network. With these perks you will never be able to get your campaign to people outside of your personal network. You are essentially just asking your friends for money. And if you are doing this, why are you even bothering to run a crowdfunding campaign?
A successful crowdfunding campaign needs perks that are smart and relate to the show in some way. Offering thanks for any perks isn’t much of a perk, but if you need to do it, then put all the “thanks” into one perk. Don’t spread them over several perks, because none of those is a draw. A better way to go would be to thank all of your backers anyway. Better perks would be some custom merch, perhaps something exclusive to the campaigns. Stickers, buttons, t-shirts. Maybe there’s a prop that is iconic in the show? Have a replica available for higher levels. There are so many things that could be done that are better than the ones above. It just takes a bit of imagination.
So why do so many theatre crowdfunding campaigns do this? I think it happens because not enough consideration is given to these campaigns, and don’t seem to see that to have a successful campaign takes at least as much planning as their show itself. This leads to half assed campaign perks, and while it may be possible to meet your goal with this, since you are essentially getting funding from your friends and family, you will be limited in any future attempts at crowdfunding.
Theatre artists are creative people. It should be possible to have campaigns that are better than the usual. And we should not be seeing these same lazy campaigns after all this time.