Guest Post: Three Lessons I Learned Crowdfunding “But Not For Me” (10 days left!)

Thirty days ago, on September 23 at 8:04am, my creative partner Ryan Carmichael and I launched an ambitious $100,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund his feature directorial effort – a philosophical hip hop musical love story called But Not For Me. We knew our goal was substantial (and the research made it clear the odds against us were…stacked) – but after six weeks of thorough preparation and planning, we felt confident enough to jump in. As confident as a skydiver who knows her parachute would open – no guarantee, but you’ve prepared, so there’s not much else you can do.

With less than two weeks to go in the campaign, I wanted to share the top three things I’ve learned thus far:

1) Preparation Matters – But Getting Dollars Isn’t Like Getting Views

Last summer I made a film called This Is My Body and released it online. On the first day it was viewed over 3,000 times – crashing through my total view goal for the film – and we were off to the races. Since its release last July, it’s been viewed over 630,000 times, has been featured on MSNBC, and yielded a Facebook group of over 7,000 people.

Before releasing the film, I did extensive planning – pre-arranging social media posts, building lists of people to help spread the film, reaching out to organizations working on issues the film addressed – that was directly responsible for the film’s success. The hard work, detailed planning, and extensive outreach enabled me to go from having a previous film that was viewed about 2,000 times to having a new film that has been viewed hundreds of times more thanks overwhelmingly to people watching and sharing the film on the sites that I reached out to.

When approaching the Kickstarter campaign, I believed the same strategy could work – planning, outreach, and sharing. And what I realized is it does, but it also doesn’t. Without the planning we did, the press we’ve generated, and the near 1,000 shares of the project on Facebook, we wouldn’t have raised as much as we have. But donations are not like views. You can get a short video in front of someone and get them to watch much easier than you can get a Kickstarter campaign in front of them and get them to donate. Crowdfunding has been around long enough that some people ignore a campaign as soon as they see it, knowing they won’t give. And crowdfunding is new enough and esoteric enough, that a lot of people don’t understand how it works. And one thing that’s true in all endeavors that require you to get others to do something: the harder it is to do – or better yet, the more it’s not exceedingly easy to do – the fewer people are going to do it.

Organizations are also much less likely to share a fundraising campaign than they are a video. I positioned This Is My Body as something I was offering to the organizations I contacted to use however they wanted to advance their causes. But no matter how hard we positioned the But Not For Me campaign as offering something – even by not asking for donations, but just to spread the word about the campaign – organizations consistently responded with interest in the project, but not willingness to share it. They want to see it, but won’t or can’t help get it made.

That feels like a common theme of this campaign: people want to see the work we’re doing, but they’re not that interested in helping make the creation of that work possible if it costs them even a $1. People watch the video, and many share the page (the amount of video views we’ve had is very close to the total number of times the project has been shared), but they won’t pitch in. Times are tough, everyone is running a crowdfunding campaign these days, people view the whole thing as giving you something they think you should earn on your own – whatever the reason, the going has been tough and has not been at all like getting people to watch my previous film. If there is a way to get around this, I think it lies in finding a way to give people something: photos, videos, access, etc. We did that – maybe not enough – but I can’t think of another way around the “views are easy, donations aren’t” problem.

2) Donations Will Come From You and Your Network

Another challenge that further complicates lesson number one is that overwhelmingly our contributions have come from within our network. Ryan, the writer/director, me, the producer, and Maria Vermeulen, the lead actress, have worked nonstop on the campaign and most of the donations have come from our networks – but about 80% of the backers are from Ryan’s network. People can sense that Ryan’s investment in the project is different than ours and his network has stepped up to show him support. When doing research before launching the campaign, I read that 1% of people who see a Kickstarter campaign will contribute to it. So based on our goal and the average donation amount, we were able to calculate how many eyeballs we needed to get the campaign in front of to reach our goal. I don’t think we’ve reached that target number – but I also don’t think we’ve been capturing 1% of the non-Ryan’s network people that have been seeing the campaign either.

I haven’t done the numbers, but my sense is that we’re not reaching that 1% and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe the 1% figure was wrong to begin with. Maybe it doesn’t apply to film projects. Whatever the reason, the tweets we’ve had from Spike Lee and people with hundreds of thousands of followers, the articles written in newspapers and on blogs, the distinctions of IndieWire Project of the Day and Project of the Week, and the emails sent to hundreds of people on our behalf have yielded maybe two dozen contributions. If anything, the most likely outcome of getting a campaign in front of people outside of your network is that some of those people will share your campaign – and either that continues, and your campaign gets shared over and over with no significant increase in pledges – or maybe eventually it does reach a tipping point and 1% of some amount of non-network people start pledging. Bottom line: calculate your goal based on your immediate network (family and friends and Facebook friends, where nearly all of our contributions have come from) and don’t waste time working to get Retweets. They feel good, but I don’t think they do much to bring in more donations. Concentrate on your network and then put in effort to expand your network.

3) Prepare For Your Plan to Fall Apart

Preparation is essential. If you don’t plan, don’t even bother to launch a campaign. It’ll be embarrassing and potentially insulting to the people who you’re asking to part with their hard earned money. But be further prepared for your preparation to fall apart.

It’s hard to get too detailed about this as our campaign is still underway, but let me just say that a number of the tenants of our campaign – including the choice to use the Kickstarter platform – were predicted on specific commitments (people involved, networks we could access, resources at our disposal) that fell apart in the week or two after we launched our campaign. We had a solid game plan, lots of content, and tons of passion, so we trucked on, but as we neared and passed the midway point of the campaign and our momentum had totally stopped, we realized how much we were suffering from the promises that were broken, the introductions that weren’t being made, the shares that weren’t happening, the networks that weren’t being pitched to, and as a result the contributions that weren’t coming in.

It might be impossible to prevent things outside of your control from going bad, but you should try to plan for the possibility. Evaluate what you have (your experiences and past successes, your public profile, team members, the size of your social media network, wealthy friends and family, personal access to the media, school and work networks, etc.) as pieces of the puzzle when determining how much you should attempt to raise (clearly the amount needed to complete your project should be a major factor), but also ask yourself if your goal would still be possible if you removed one or more of the resources at your disposal. If not, if the goal becomes completely impossible (which I think for the most part ours did when our plans fell apart), then consider a lower goal amount in preparation of the worst case scenario and once you reach your goal keep hustling to raise even more. There are downsides to this strategy, but from my current vantage point, I wish I would have listened more to the feeling in my gut that was telling me not to rely so much on the potential of others and to base our expectations more on the people and resources solidly at our disposal.

I’m a big believer in hard work eventually, painfully, slowly, frustratingly yielding positive results. But I’ve learned through this process that when it comes to raising money via a crowdfunding platform, I don’t think that’s true. Hard work doesn’t equal success, not even a marginal amount if the platform is all or nothing. The people you know, the people you can get to, the resources you and they have, and their willingness to help will determine much more so the amount you raise than the hard work you put in. Hard work is necessary to activate those resources, but hard work won’t replace those resources if you don’t have them. So be honest when deciding on your goal, evaluate your resources and what can be done with them and without some of them, and plan as much as you can – especially for when your plans will fall apart.

After a ton of work, ups and downs, disasters and some exciting opportunities, a 48 hour round trip drive from New York to Ann Arbor, MI, and more fun and passion than I’ve experienced working on a project in a long time, we have 10 days left to raise approximately $70,000. Unlikely, yes, but as we keep on keeping on, I like to think of that number differently: we’ve raised $30,000 in 30 days from 225 people amidst unrelenting odds, selfish onlookers, failed plans, and painful rejection. That’s an accomplishment, even if we don’t walk away with that money. Because now we know there are at least 225 people who care about us and the work we’re doing – and that counts for something. That outweighs the indifference. That’s more valuable to us. This movie will get made. And we’ll get the money needed somehow. To make those 225 people (and more) proud of their investment in us and our dreams.

(Note: Kickstarter is all or nothing, so if you don’t reach your stated goal, you don’t collect any pledges)

***Writer/Director/Producer Jason Stefaniak is a thesis student in the NYU Graduate Film program. – Faceboo – Twitter


Photo Credit: But Not For Me

Facebook privacy tips: Part III

I realized that I forgot the most important thing about Facebook privacy.

Did you know that anyone who can see your photos can download them? That means that photo you took with your child in the bathtub that you thought was super cute; anyone can download that. That photo you took of you partaking in underage drinking; anyone can download that. That photo you took of you and your partner on your honeymoon; anyone can download that.

You get the point. Well, most of you don’t. Because if you did, some of the photos uploaded would not be online. I’m not saying don’t share photos ever, but be mindful that everyone on your friends list, may not have your best interests in mind. Also, if you didn’t heed the advice of the previous privacy posts, your settings might allow people who are not your friends on Facebook to have the ability to download your photos. social media privacy 2

People can download photos by:

  • Clicking  ‘options’ under the photo and clicking ‘download’
  • Taking a screenshot of the photo
  • On the mobile phone clicking ‘save photo’
  • Right clicking and pressing ‘save photo’

Using social media is all about judgement. Like I said in the previous posts, does it really matter? NSA and corporations are collecting our data anyway, so why not just do what we want online. But not everyone feels that way and hopefully these tips have helped you be more mindful about how you move online.

Your thoughts? Do you posts photos online?



An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre; Kurtis Garbutt

Facebook social media tips: Part II

I consider myself a writer and for me to build a brand and a following, I use my Facebook as an extension of my blog. I do this, because I don’t mind that my statuses can be viewed by strangers. But, some people do care if private events can be seen by others, but sometimes they just don’t know what can be seen.

During one of my mastermind group meetings , I pulled up Facebook profiles and everyone was shocked. They didn’t realize so many things were available to the public. And it’s not their fault, Facebook tends to change things, but it is up to you to every month or so go into your account and privacy settings and make adjustments.  It is also up to you, to be mindful of what you post and what groups you join. Make sure you check the privacy of the group and do know, all brand pages are public.

Below are some ways you can adjust your privacy settings on Facebook or just be mindful of what people can see.

Check how your profile is viewed



activity log

If you go to your profile and click the wrench next to activity log, you will see ‘view as’ click on ‘view as’

timeline looks like to another person


You now can view your Facebook how the public sees it. This is a good starting point, because you can decide what you don’t want to be seen and make adjustments and you can adjust your privacy settings accordingly. Also based on what you view, you can decide to add friends to different lists. Maybe you will put your coworkers under one list. You can adjust your Facebook so that certain people can only see certain parts of your Facebook. But, above all, it is important to see what your profile looks like to others, especially the public (people who are not your friends on Facebook).

Check if the post is public, friends only, friends of friends, or custom

public post

I would say 95% of my posts are public. The other 5% are probably statuses about a sporting event or something that is not relevant to my blogging audience. Why is this important to know? Knowing the visibility of a post will determine if you make a comment or like.  You can tell the visibility by looking next to the time stamp. If the symbol is a globe, it means the post is public. If the symbol is of two people it means only friends can see it. If the symbol is of three people, it means that friends of friends can see the post. If the symbol is of a wrench, it means that person customized their settings. It could mean only a certain group can see the post- maybe just classmates or relatives. You can’t tell what the category is, but you can tell based on the symbol it is a select group of people.

There are several ways you can make adjustments to your Facebook

privacy settings 2


timeline settingsClick the wrench in the upper right corner and go to account and privacy settings. Here you can adjust everything. Play around with the settings. Make sure you go through every singe option. It is tedious, but there are random options and it is easy to miss the different ways you can make your account more private.

Check your activity log

activity log

activity log 2

If you want to take the time and go back and check what shows up on your Facebook, go to your activity log on your profile page. In this area, you can see based on the symbols what can be seen by people. Maybe you didn’t realize the link you liked could be seen by friends of friends or the pubic, etc. But, in this area you can delete or hide the activity from your timeline. It is important to know, even if you hide something from showing up on your profile timeline, it will still show up in the news feed area.

Check your about section


editing privacy


If you go to your profile and click ‘update information’, you can click on the drop down arrows and choose what shows up on your profile and to who. You can also pick and choose what categories can show up on your profile.

Keeping your life private on Facebook takes finesse

If you are worried about what people see, you might want to become a lurker on Facebook. Just watch, don’t click, like, comment, or join anything; but that ruins the fun of social networking and communicating with people all over the world.

But, I wonder if any of this finesse really means anything? The NSA is collecting all our data. Even if you hide from your friends, you can’t hide from the government. You also in some cases can’t hide from corporations who are purchasing your data, adjusting advertisements to suit your interests, and coercing you to make purchases.

It is almost a lose-lose situation. You might ask what was the point of reading this post? Well, the point is, even if you comment on a friends status, you can rest easy that if a person clicks on your name to investigate more, they won’t get to far because you have adjusted your settings.

I hope these tips helped you learn more about privacy on Facebook. This was not an exhaustive list, but it does highlight the most frequent ways I’ve seen people’s information on Facebook.

What tips can you share?


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre





We never met, but I know you: Facebook privacy tips – Part I

You don’t know me, but I know you. How you ask? Well on Facebook your profile is not as private as you believe.

Below are some ways I (and other people) have gotten to know you, your family, and your friends. 

We know the type of articles you read

buzzfeed fb comments  

Did you know if you are logged into your Facebook account and ‘like’ an article, it shows up in your friend’s news feed? Did you also know, when you comment on an article while logged into your Facebook account, anyone who reads that article can click your name and browse your profile? Oh, and if you list your place of employment or school, people can see that too.

We know the type of companies you like

sponsored ads

On the right side of your Facebook are advertisements that companies pay to have seen by target demographics. If you ‘like’ that company page and they have an advertisement, it will show on your friend’s Facebook advertisement section.

sponsored ads 2

Facebook allows companies to sponsor their page statuses. These pages show up in your friend’s news feeds and show that you ‘like’ the company page.

like pages 2


When Facebook suggests pages for your friends to join, it also shows how many other friends ‘like’ the same thing, including you.

We know what groups you have joined


There are many groups on Facebook and each group has their own individual settings. Groups that are ‘secret’, cannot be found via search and members/posts can’t be seen.  Groups that are ‘closed’, can be found via search and members can be seen, but posts can’t. Groups that are ‘open’,  can be found via search and members/posts can be seen.

We know how opinionated you are

news articles


Remember that news article that got your blood boiling and you made that inappropriate comment? Well, it showed up in your friend’s news feed. Also, anyone who follows that news outlet read your comment and probably visited your Facebook profile to learn more about you (because that’s what nosy people do).

We know where you hang out and who you were with

tagging friends and location

Though you may have set up your Facebook to prevent people from tagging you without permission, people can still see a photo, click on your name, and visit your Facebook profile. Now people know that you went out last Saturday and had a great time.

We know your friends


You may think no one can see your information, but if your friends has not adjusted their account settings, your private photos may appear on Facebook. This particular person liked photos on Instagram and those photos appeared on my news feed. If I’m nosy enough, I can now go to this person’s profile and view their photos.

We know who you are even though you go by a fake name

Even though you go by a fake name on Facebook, I bet you didn’t use a fake email to sign up for the account. If I decide to do a search for who in my email contact list is on Facebook, I can still find you. So if your boss or coworker or grandpa has your email, they can still find you on Facebook.

As you can see there are many ways people can learn more about you on Facebook. This post was getting super long, so I decided to split it into two.  Tomorrow, I will post some ways you can avoid the above happening to you.

Do you have any other ways you can see people’s information on Facebook? Share in the comments.


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

Facebook  – Instagram – Pinterest – Twitter – YouTube


Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre