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FC Fundraising Workshop

May 22, 2017

We had a great turnout on May 17 for our “Developing Your Film Fundraising Strategy,” hosted by FC Board Member and Independent Consultant, Ronn Smith. Ronn talked about demystifying the process of fundraising and shared some very useful ideas, tools and resources with the Workshop attendees around how to begin raising the funds to make a dream project an attainable reality.

Following the Workshop we caught up with Ronn to get his thoughts on a few topics.  

How would you describe what you do?
I’m an independent consultant with 30+ years of professional experience. Basically, I like to provide organizational development and fundraising services for mission-driven humanitarian, educational, and cultural nonprofits that focus on creating positive social change. I also like to mentor individuals with fundraising needs. My specialties include strategic planning and implementation, governance, group facilitation, fund development, project management, individual and group coaching, grant applications, and all aspects of the fundraising process. In the past I’ve worked with organizations such as WGBH, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Rhode Island School of Design.

Can you say a bit about how the fundraising process of independent filmmaking has changed over the years?
The process has changed a lot since I started in the 1990s. The larger foundations are playing a less active role in supporting filmmakers. And for those foundations that still provide support, they, like corporations and federal agencies, are all about the numbers. A lot of attention is given to budgets, for example. But they also want to know how many people will see the film, how the filmmaker plans to reach those people, and how the filmmaker will extend the reach of the film. Showing the completed film in film festivals isn’t enough anymore. Prospects want to see a carefully thought out distribution plan, which may or may not include an educational outreach component. This is where partnerships and alliances can be helpful. The other thing that has changed significantly for independent filmmakers is that donations from individuals, which tend to be in smaller amounts, are taking on greater importance. Smaller donations means many more donors, and that means more management. It also means fundraising through various social media platforms, which can be a full-time job in and of itself.

–What should filmmakers be thinking about as they prepare a fundraising strategy?
First, filmmakers must think creatively. We live in a very competitive and fast culture, so “creativity” can set the filmmaker and project apart from all those other great filmmakers and projects that need and deserve funding. Then give some thought to how you will present yourself professionally. And finally, ask yourself the following: “Does this film need to be made? Why? Why now? Who is the audience for this film? Why do I want to make this film? What are my–and my team’s–credentials?” Then start working on the budget. The budget will play a critical part in the fundraising strategy.

– Are there, in your opinion, untapped funding sources for filmmakers?
It really depends on the project, but it will always depend on the filmmaker demonstrating how the film will further the organization’s or individual’s mission. Establishing partnerships or alliances with organizations, a corporate entity, educational institutions, professional associations, and/or individuals can be helpful in opening doors to nontraditional funding sources that otherwise might not be available to the filmmaker.

How do you see the Go Fund Me and Kickstarters of the world impacting the fundraising process for filmmakers?
These and other social media platforms can play an important role in the fundraising process, but they need to be given careful consideration within the larger fundraising strategy. It’s a little naive to think you’ll be able to raise all the money you need with a Kickstarter campaign. Plus, they need a lot of time and attention–far more than a single individual may be able to give to the effort. Still, they’re now an important mechanism for fundraising for a lot of projects, so they can’t be ignored in searching for film funding.

Keep in mind that, in an ongoing effort to support independent filmmakers, FC presents an array of programs and workshops, year-round, to offer learning opportunities in the creative and business areas of filmmaking.

We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Lowel Cultural Council
Cabot Family Charitable Trust
Liberty Mutual Foundation
City of Boston Arts and Culture