An exclusive view into crowdfunding as a student and the academic institutions incorporating crowdfunding into their curriculum

At Crowdfunder we often work with universities and other institutions for higher education. These partnerships entail the coaching of student projects, presented to us in a cohort of different teams. It’s my job as a coach here to prepare them for the live date selected by their university and the subsequent 4 week crowdfunding campaign that ensues.

Whether it’s in the arts, conservation, politics you name it, the value in understanding how to identify finance for a project is universal and highly prized beyond the gates of education. 

The crowdfunding process requires us to teach students how to tell their story, identify their audiences and the channels with which to reach them. Crowdfunding is a marketing exercise, a short and sharp window in which to capture attention and inspire a financial decision. The digital fluency of this current generation, means that their navigation within the online landscape essential to this financial mechanism, is second nature.

The latest student campaign came to us from the National Youth Film Academy, which as declared on their website ‘was forged as a place to discover exceptionally talented young actors and filmmakers’. It’s no secret that the film industry is a tough nut to crack but as far as nut crackers go the ‘NYFA’ are pretty good at it.

(The team from the student film Program)

With only 1 week’s coaching 12 student film projects went live (see them here) on June 22nd. Each project was made up of 10-20 people, who because of COVID 19 had never even met each other. It was this spread of smiling faces on zoom from every corner of the UK which immediately won me over. A love of film knows no borders and this rare collection of life experiences and accents was sure to make for a very tasty dish indeed. 

(A concept trailer from ‘Heirlooms’ – winner of the £300 ‘best pitch’ award from the NYFA)

Due to what was to be a very short turnaround (1 week), we made a conservative estimate and advised each target to be set around £3,000. This turned out to be an underestimation, considering the average raised per project was closer to £5,500 and ‘Intrusion’ the leading film on the board, reached the dizzy heights of £11,463. Between them these 12 projects raised £71,329. 

(Mood boards from ‘Scarlet Souls’ and ‘Intrusion’)

The creative process for marketing a film not yet made is an interesting one. Any product orientated campaign requires a great deal of selling and a film at concept stage needs to be painted vividly to create a strong and lasting impression on the audience. Therefore by scanning through these pages you’ll see everything from poster artwork, costume designs and concept trailers.  

(Film poster art works from films `Novice, Hell or High `Water and In-Sight)

Often when universities or similar institutions turn to crowdfunding, it is because there is already some sort of grant system in place for student projects. Crowdfunding is used to water this seed of funding, allowing it to grow and therefore expand the potential of the project with it.

We work in a similar fashion with councils or corporates, their grants are increasingly available with us at Crowdfunder UK (see our full list of funds here) because, as in the case of the NYFA, the £800 they attributed to each of their 12 projects could be turned into £5,500. This £800 is the first pledge to hit the page and it serves as a useful building block of financial proof for the project to demonstrate its credibility. Further still, to work for a grant instead of purely receiving one, makes the end result all the sweeter for all involved.

Successful student crowdfunding

Over the years we have worked with lots of different student campaigns and the secret to those who find great success is ‘preparation’ and ‘delegation’. Creating a clear plan and managing your team will mean that everyone will know exactly what to do and when to do it. This will require a producer type role who can keep track of what’s happening and what needs to be done. Therefore a 4 week ‘crowdfunding plan’ is instrumental in ensuring that each day there are a variety of different promotional activities ensuring that visitors are continuously being driven towards the page. Remember, if the promotion stops then the pledging stops.

If you do not have an existing audience to lean on, which is true of most student projects, then it is essential to leverage the support of personal networks to get the ball rolling. In this sense, the larger the team – the larger the network. If everyone therefore has the task of finding 10 friends and family to pledge on day 1, with a team of 10, that will equate to your first 100 pledges. With the average pledge for a rewards based campaign coming in at £50, this could be the first £5,000 you raise.

Let’s hear some tips from Emilia Barry – the Producer of ‘Young Adults’ and the winner of the £500 ‘Most Supporters Award’ from the NYFA (a whopping 788)

I’d say the most essential thing was regular contact and updates with the entire team. I did have to send out a bit of a bollocking at the start and to be honest I sent out several bollockings throughout the entire campaign but I did this in a way that people respected, encouraging them to want to do better.

I also sent out regular positive reports, I broke down everything into a lot of figures and statistics to better explain things to everyone so it seemed easier and therefore motivated them to try new things. I sent out at least one email every few days with new tasks from my list to complete and I’d contact them regularly to ask how they’re doing with it and how many new supporters they’ve brought in for us. 

Zayn and Adam – Producers of ‘The Last Rites

Working with Crowdfunder to raise money for our film project was a very educational and eye opening experience and one we will never forget. To put it simply, we found the most effective fundraising method was to focus on the CROWD rather than the FUNDING. Applying the age old adage of “If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves”. 

The moral of the story being, Crowdfunder is a great tool for simultaneously raising money while building a community around your project and if your project has passionate people on board, it will surely be a success. 

Rob Earnshaw – NYFA Founder

The learning ethos behind our origination enables our students to ‘learn by doing’. Often new filmmakers find it difficult to convince traditional funders to finance their film, therefore it’s imperative that they learn the skills on how to crowdfund to ensure their content is made. Working with Crowdfunder our students were able to raise over £70,000 in 4 weeks. Each and every one of them will walk away from this training with a deep understanding and real life experience on how too, position, pitch and secure funding for a project. 

Get in touch

Have you got a creative project? Start crowdfunding with us here

If you’d like to discuss a partnership for your own student projects – send us an email at: [email protected]