Crowdfunding comparison shopping: Kickstarter vs. Indiegogo

As a filmmaker in the preliminary planning stages of my first crowdfunding campaign, I’ve been doing some basic research trying to determine the best platform to use.

As most indie filmmakers probably know, the two biggest crowdfunding sites are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. There are others out there: sites like Pozible, Peerbackers, RocketHub, and an interesting upstart called Seed&Spark that will not only help you raise money but also distribute your film too (read an article about them here). There’s also USAprojects, a wild-card contender I have to seriously consider (more on that later). But you’ve got to start somewhere. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Indiegogo and Kickstarter, compared

The biggest difference between the two biggies is that Kickstarter users must use the “All-or-nothing” funding model. If a project campaign doesn’t hit its goal, it fails, and no money changes hands. On Indiegogo, however users can set a goal and choose between the all-or-nothing option or a “Flexible Funding” campaign, where any amount raised they are allowed to keep (but Indiegogo keeps a larger cut in this case).

The all-or-nothing campaign structure is generally recognized as the better model, for a couple of reasons. Having a make-or-break goal adds a sense of urgency that helps encourage donations. It also helps reassure donors that their money won’t be wasted on a project that is poorly executed or never completed because it only raised a fraction of the needed funds.

chart: kickstarter and indiegogo compared

(Note that 501 (c)(3) non-profit projects get a 25% discount on fees at Indiegogo.)

Maybe the most important distinction between the two: KS is a bigger brand. It is, as one blogger put it, the Coca-Cola of crowdfunding. They have name recognition. They have more projects, more members signed up, and more web traffic. Here’s a comparison for the last 12 months:

KS-IG traffic

Success rates

Total size notwithstanding, it appears from the numbers I was able to compile that IndieGogo actually sees a higher rate of successful film/video campaigns (see below). Not in total numbers, of course, but in the percentage that succeed:

chart: kickstarter vs. indiegogo success rates

What I’ve not been able to obtain so far is the average goal amount for successful all-or-nothing Indiegogo film projects. But it’s commonly said around the internet that IndieGogo projects raise less money. So for projects with smaller budgets at least, it appears IndieGogo has the edge. Larger-budget projects might benefit from the higher visibility of a Kickstarter campaign.

And then came USA Projects

USAprojects is another crowdfunding platform, however, it will probably not be relevant to all filmmakers. It’s a curated site, tied to philanthropic arts organizations. Participation is by invitation, and because I was fortunate enough to receive an Artist Award from the Arts Council of Sonoma County in 2009, I’ve invited to participate. They offer a bunch of advantages: donations are tax-deductible, they actively consult with you in planning and promoting your project, and they even kick in matching funds. And fully 75% of projects there succeed! The downside is that they are not well-known, and that they take a much larger fee: up to 19%. I am still weighing my options!

READ PART II

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10 comments

  1. videohead (@videohead)

    Thanks for the info, John. I’d be interested in learning where you got the success rate statistics sited in the table above since apocryphally I’ve found the actual success rate to be much lower, and I’m on guard from a lot of BS in the crowd-funding space.
    For me, there is a constant trade-off throughout my filmmaking – level of effort vs. outcome. For example, obtaining that ideal camera package, crew member, actor, location, vehicle, prop, music element, etc. should be carefully weighed against the actual impact that this is likely to have – constantly asking “is it worth it?” is the most invaluable tool that I have as a producer.
    The same thing is true for me with funding. It’s easier for me to be careful with my funding process, ask for favors, friends and family gifts, etc. etc. than to go for crowdfunding and hope that I can collect the 88% of some anonymous dollars.
    Once I take a project through the planning process, I’m simply going to adjust the expectations to match the level of effort and not seek external validation via a “crowd” – but that’s just my approach.
    I think crowd funding would be most useful as a secondary/tertiary funding source, or even as a source of “bonus” word-of mouth marketing rather than a direct source of funding to complete/not complete the project. I think that’s what many filmmakers are probably doing. Maybe taking 50% of the marketing budget for a project and seeking to fill it in with crowd-funded source would be appropriate for my projects – that seems to be what Iron Sky accomplished.
    Of course, I’m not producing international film festival projects or anything with a scope beyond a $15,000 small festival short at this point. Still, I think crowd funding would be even less likely at a $150,000-$300K project scope (my target), and I don’t feel that it would be useful at all for funding a feature (which is my eventual goal).
    Anyway, thanks for the post.

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    • johnharden

      Thanks for your comment! As to where I got my stats: Kickstarter publishes all kinds of data on their site. IndieGogo not so much, in fact, I got my numbers by asking their film guy @indiegogofilm in a Twitter Q & A. Keep in mind these are success rates they claim specifically for FILM campaigns. And I have no way of verifying those claims.
      I also think your “is it worth it?” commentary about your funding process is very valid indeed, and something every filmmaker should think about. Crowdfunding is not a magic bullet. There are tradeoffs in getting into it, not the least of which is that running a successful campaign is a big undertaking in and of itself. I, too have been thinking about other sources of funding, monetary or in-kind, like sponsorship for instance. FYI The project I’m gearing up for is in the budgetary realm you speak of, and I’m looking to raise something in the low 5-figures.
      Thanks again for reading & contributing your perspective.
      -John

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  2. Pingback: USA Projects (Crowdfunding comparison shopping, Pt. II) | Random Blood Polka
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  4. Evan

    This is a great resource! I am trying to put together some data on a number of crowdfunding sites myself. We’re trying to put together a CF campaign for a documentary – I’d love to chat with you about how you put together this analysis sometime.

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    • johnharden

      Thanks Evan. I got the data about Kickstarter off of Kickstarter: they are pretty thorough about publishing their statistics. Indiegogo was harder, but some of the information I got by asking questions to @IndiegogoFilm during public Q&A periods on Twitter.

      Like

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