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

Tag Archives: goal-setting

“Jack London: 20th Century Man,” Case Two: “Jack London Calling!”

My husband, Chris Million, has been an unofficial scholar of the great American author Jack London for the past twenty years. He was at a literary conference more than two decades ago and met Becky London, Jack’s daughter, who autographed a book for him. Meeting the author’s daughter made Jack even more real and tangible for Chris, and from that moment on, he was determined to make the world’s first-ever feature-length documentary about London, his immense literary legacy, and his fascinating times. Flash forward more than two decades to 2012. One of Chris’s academic advisors to the film emailed to say she had a wealthy donor who contributed to her university. This individual had endowed her faculty chair at the university where she was one of the world’s foremost London scholar. Now, the donor was potentially interested in funding Chris’s film, “Jack London: 20th Century Man.” He was a long-time fan of London’s writing who had made his fortune by owning a restaurant chain in the Deep South. He wanted to make a contribution to the film. But there was a catch. There was always a catch. There always IS a catch when it comes to major donors contributing to films, I can assure you of that. He wanted to make his contribution a matching gift. We would have to match his gift dollar for dollar in order to receive it. It was all or nothing. If we did not meet the match, we would not get a dime. His intended gift? $50,000. It was up to me to create a campaign that would take advantage of this offer and succeed. How did I structure the campaign? What did I tell the donor? How did this challenge test our nerves? Find out in my upcoming posts. — In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million

With You, Case One: Sky’s the Limit? Scoping the Campaign

Once we secured our lead gift of $22,000 for “With You,” our next job became scoping the fundraising campaign. To succeed with any fundraising campaign, you need to answer three questions: 1) How much money do I need to raise?, 2) Why do I need this money?, and 3) By when do I need this money? Having specific answers to these questions allows you to create a compelling, urgent, actionable case for potential donors. Sounds simple, right? Yes, and yet, it is so powerful. For the “With You” campaign, to answer question one, we decided $50,000 was the right goal. $50,000 would give us enough to complete the rough-cut of the film and support doing invited sneak-preview screenings at Frameline and Outfest. This seemed like a good goal to me, not only because it served our real needs, but also because it had some flash, some bling. It was a big, hairy, audacious goal, the kind that gets you noticed. But it was also not so big a goal that I feared falling short. In other words, it was achievable. Plus, we already had $22K to kick off the campaign, meaning we just needed to raise another measly $28K to reach the goal. Very good! To answer the second question, we had a simple response. We needed $50K in order to complete a full-length cut of the film. Awesome! Concrete need, grand in scope, but totally achievable. Inherent in that goal was a reward for potential donors — they would help the film reach a significant milestone, and there was the chance they could participate by getting to view that feature-length cut. Boffo! As far as the third question went, I did some mental calculations about the timing. First, we would be able to sustain the excitement level so long as we completed the campaign BEFORE the Frameline screening. We had received word that “With You” would screen on a Thursday evening at San Francisco’s famous Castro Theatre. Definitely prime time. Once that moment passed, so would the impetus for people to donate. So we had to be done before then. To be safe, I set the goal for June 1, a couple weeks ahead of the screening. That meant that we had about eight weeks total to finish the campaign. This was a good target, because it was a fairly quick campaign (which would keep the sense of urgency up), but not so short that we would run out of time to put the messaging and tools of the campaign in place. Next time: I’ll describe what tools we needed to run the campaign. In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million