A crowdfunding primer: Feminist media producers engage a community of backers

By Ariel Dougherty, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

“This is what feminism looks like,” shout young women in a contemporary street demonstration in the “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” video clip on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website. Film directors/producers Mary Dore and Nancy Kennedy are in the middle of a campaign, which started October 24th and ends November 28th, to raise $75,000 towards completion funds for their documentary. It is a history of the women’s movement in the late 60s, but with ties to many of the same vital issues today. “It’s a film about activism and how when people band together they can change the world. And these women did that,” explains Dore in the video clip.

A short video clip is usually a key element in many crowdfunding campaigns regardless of the platform. The book collective turned non-profit, Our Bodies Ourselves, currently projecting to raise $25,000 is an exception. Using the Indiegogo platform, this four-decades-old organization wants to raise the money so it can give each congressional representative a copy of its world-famous book. The current book cover is featured in lieu of a video in its campaign, “Together We Can Educate Congress.”

The point in crowdfunding, video or not, is to craft an appeal about your project and then encourage your online and real-life communities, and “the crowd” (i.e. friends of friends) to support it by ripple effect. Campaigners set a targeted amount of money to raise—and a time frame in which they expect to raise it.

New crowdfunding platform technology offers the larger women’s community two distinctive, fresh opportunities.

Foremost, they put the makers of feminist media in the driver’s seat when it comes to raising funds. These “producers” of media in all formats strive to bring a multitude of women’s voices into public view. A common complaint from many women’s media organizations is that foundations have restrictive guidelines that often have little to do with the needs of their organizations. Now, with a well-thought-out campaign and some people power to do outreach, feminist media producers can better control their destiny.

Second and more revolutionary is the new, dynamic role of members of the audience or “media users.” In effect, these audience members pre-buy a part of the production or product. Rewards are offered as incentives. Engaged as backers of a project, they are invested and can become the best agents to draw in more backers. The power of the many—even if many of these backers make small, individual contributions—can actually bring about change. Transparency of campaigns as posted on the various platforms stimulates community engagement. Building such a momentum through one’s community and the use of social media to inform and engage “the crowd” are central to a successful crowdfunding effort.

The excitement of hundreds, even thousands, uniting around women’s vision of creating empowering media with very modest contributions of $10 and $25 is exhilarating. In the late spring of 2011, I saw this up close with the Mosquita Y Mari campaign. Mexican-American filmmaker Aurora Guerrero projected raising $80,000 to direct her first feature dramatic movie. I gulped at the amount she hoped to raise.  The feminist media projects I had seen, at that point, were skirting at goals of $10,000 to $25,000.  Eighty thousand was a big leap. I avidly watched the campaign and did my own outreach. It moved along well, but 24 hours before the deadline they still had over $25,000 to raise. Then, as if by magic—we all must have gone into high social media gear—massive amounts of $25 and $50 contributions flooded in. In all, 888 backers stepped up to raise $82,468.

Read the rest here. 

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