MDJ 018 Develop your fundraising strategy

  1. Write your mission statement
  2. Get a fiscal sponsor
  3. Create a trailer
  4. Start applying for grants- this is a long game, so if you think you’re going to film this next month and edit it the month after, forget about this for now
    1. It takes a lot of time, and you have to apply several times before you really have a chance
    2. There are benefits beyond money, like connections to distributors, film festivals, and labs
  5. Build your community
    1. Create a spreadsheet of your entire circle of influence and start talking to people
      1. In-person request for help is always going to be the best way to get support, and widen your sphere
      2. Make sure you keep notes on all your meetings and follow up
    2. Create an “advisory board” of friends and mentors
    3. Create a social media plan (figure out best sites to post on) and post regularly
    4. Find newspapers, magazine, website related to your topic- submit articles for publication (build awareness and credibility)
  6. Develop your pitch
    1. Short and sweet (20-30 sec) makes them ask, oh that’s interesting, tell me more
    2. Be passionate
    3.  Pitch 10 times a day
  7. Events – 
    1. Build community, raise awareness
    2. 2 ways to raise money here: get sponsors (put logos on stuff), have an auction
    3. Online events during covid- no overhead, people can attend from anywhere in the world

Where to find them?

  • In your head
  • Address book
  • Family
  • Local newspaper: look for ppl w/ interest in the topic area; business & society columns
  • Brainstorming party
  • Net: websites, blogs, social networks

How to approach?

  • One-to-one direct, in-person ask
  • Fundraising houseparty
  • Direct mail
    • Personal letter from you to a few people you know, or by avid supporter who will write their friends
    • Mass mail appeal sent to a list you’ve acquired 
  • Email

How to approach them?

  1. one-on-one
  2. Fundraising House Party
  3. Crowdfunding
    1. Before you do this you must have already done the work of building your community and email list, so if you’re a first-time filmmaker…
    2. Go to and watch their fundraising class!!!!

Where to find

  • Professional journals
  • Conferences
  • ITVS
  • VFW, Knights of Columbus, Lion’s Club, Rotary International

National sources

  • Natl endowment for the arts
  • Natl endowment for the humanities
  • Corp for public broadcasting
  • Misc (e..g. Forestry, IRS)


  • State arts agencies
  • State humanities councils
  • State tourism board


  • local/regional arts council
  • Commerce & growth associations
  • City tourism board

Where to find

  • Libraries (Foundation Center)
  • Look at end of PBS docs

How to approach

  • Try to make an in-person meeting or at least phone call with program officer

Where to find

  • Foundation records
  • Newspapers (look for companies with good quarter earnings)
  • Magazines: Fortune, Forbes, Inc, Fast Company

How to approach

  • If foundation, follow foundation rules
  • Or identify right person (marketing) and BE PREPARED to tell the corp exactly how it will benefit from being association with your project (strong correlation between your audience and the demographics and/or psychographics of their customers)

A corporation will always want something in return for its donation- almost always exposure with a specific audience

  • Specific demographic of intended audience (facts & figures for exactly whom the program will reach, where they live, how many people will end up viewing the program in what settings)
  • What’s in it for them (enumerate opportunities for exposure: where will name/logo appear in the film, in its packaging, and promo materials? What kind of community outreach and marketing/PR will be done and prominently will filmmakers display corporation’s level of involvement? Are there ways the corporation can use the program internally with staff, clients, as promo took or perk for employees?

Where to find

  • Chamber of commerce
  • BBB
  • Walk around neighborhood

How to approach

  • Start with an inquiry email, ask if you can come by and give them more info about your project 
    • Very brief description of the project w/ info on your crew
    • The benefit to the donor: could be free publicity through a credit in the film or on packaging, free copies of the program, or invitation to local premiere where business will be thanked in public


Shaking the Money Tree by Morrie Warshawski

The Art of Film Funding by Carole Lee Dean

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