I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta in a log house with two amazing parents and one big sis. I was a fat kid after one too many donuts. Summers were spent at the Six Flags White Water park and being a fat kid didn't help come time for recreation. By the time I was 12 and after years of ridicule and name-calling, I was motivated to clean up a little bit and shed some pounds.
Those pounds came back with a vengeance when I first joined the military. I enlisted in Uncle Sam's Air Force at 21 and quickly rediscovered my love for sweets. Can you relate to eating a whole bag of cookies in one sitting in lieu of a proper lunch? I'm that guy, if I don't have discipline. Six months into my Air Force career, and I was back on sweets after having sworn them off 6 years earlier. My weight swelled by 30 pounds, and at 6 feet, that put me at a large 215. One of the young men in my auto mechanics group always encouraged me to reign in the sweets. Towards the end of our schooling at Port Hueneme Naval Base, he just about had it with me and declared "You have to want it Keenum!" That fall, a little male ego started an abs contest with another airman, and I finally shed that weight for good.
That idea of "you gotta want it" was a recurring motif in my Air Force days because my best man clung to that one-liner like Alan Greenspan on interest rates. God used that reminder to mature me in my walk. In Jeremiah 29, we're told that we will find the King when we search for him with our whole heart. You gotta want it. And this same mindset applies to crowdfunding. It applies to our faith. It applies to hearing God's voice. You gotta want it. You will have a good start (if you start and you start well) and a huge dip in the middle, and you might not make it. Don't give up on yourself. Don't quit. And don't forget what God can do. Whatever you do, like it says in Proverbs, commit your ways to the Lord.
The common expression is that hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back on the two crowdfunding campaigns I did with the team this past summer, I can say I wholeheartedly agree. If you're starting a new adventure, ultimately it's up to you to develop a strategy and avoid some pitfalls. You'll find a lot of similar musings on the web, but like everything else here at Church Films, this is a place where you'll hear how God fits into the picture.
Here are 6 mistakes to avoid:
1. No Countdown On Your Home Page
When folks went to churchfilms.com, they were not given that sense of urgency. In this day and age, you can easily search the web for free code that will count backwards until a set date. I did, and I included it in the landing page for the "Films For The Broken" campaign, but I failed to capture all of the people that went straight to the home page with a definitive reminder, "Hey, we're launching this campaign in _____ days."
2. Not Growing Your Email List
This one is pretty simple. If you can't grow your list, then you are unlikely to have people sign up for what you are offering on the crowdfunding page. For us, we wanted to connect care and recovery ministries with monthly downloads on relevant recovery topics: videos that were not cheesy or full of bokeh or tired old testimony videos. The landscape for quality "faith-based" videos and films is still a fledgling scene. We have to meet people where they are at and oftentimes, that's a narrow window of 5-10 seconds. When our first impressions fail in those critical few seconds, our message is wasted. We want to reach the hurt and the broken through film and video. These are great intentions, but if you don't have people lining up in your newsletter (your queue), you will find an empty storefront when it's time to cut the red ribbon.
3. No Guest Blogging
This is something in today's sharing culture that should be a regular part of your routine when you are starting an enterprise. I didn't get my first guest blog published until the final week of the Kickstarter campaign for "Films For The Broken." It's not about spamming someone else's community. It's about creating community. You can't take, take, take, and then take some more. You have to approach your campaign with the mindset of give, give, give, and then give again.
Ask yourself this, and this is an exercise I learned from Dale Partridge: how can I better the lives of one million people? Rather than chase after a million dollars, focus on improving a million lives. The money will take care of itself. Did I approach this last campaign with this mindset? No. But I ended with it, and I thank the Lord for His willingness to redeem and renew that which is broken at the drop of a hat. An attitude of "how can I serve others?" is an attitude that leads to guest blogging. Take your passion, your expertise, and ask around in your blogging community where you can contribute. Ultimately, it's an application of the Golden Rule, but the blessing you will receive in the form of traffic should not be your motivator. It's like tithing. We don't tithe so that God will boost our finances. We tithe because we love our Father, and it's an act of worship. It's what we do as an expression of our love and our trust in Him. God doesn't need our money; he wants us to have a giving heart, just like His.
4. Failure To Give Your Team Ownership
If you're starting out on your own like I did, in time, you will have friends and family that will help you. I'm blessed to say I have a growing team of volunteers. Every single one of them pitched in with this latest crowdfunding campaign. But I didn't give them full ownership of any one area. I should have. Rather than trying to do everything myself, I needed to delegate and trust them to run the ball downfield. Leadership is something I will always be learning, and I hope you will commit to learning it too. Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, and John Maxwell are my mentors, not to mention Jesus. I know that sounds like a given, but in roughly three years of physical ministry in a part of the world that's only several thousand square miles, Jesus proved he was and is the best of the best by impacting billions of lives, even today. Simon Sinek says, "It's choosing to look out for the person on your left and to look out for the person on your right." Make their passion yours. Sometimes, that's as simple as listening and then offering to help. I too am learning this. When it's time to handoff the ball, do it, and trust your team to get that first down.
5. Abandoning Your Trust In The Lord
Did I really just say that? Yes, I did. After a miscarriage, missing out on buying a home in Vegas in the 9th hour, and not finding our new home until two weeks before our lease ended with a baby on the way, you would think that we would have rock-solid faith. Even the good king Hezekiah who "did right in the eyes of the Lord" had his bout with an unhealthy dose of pride. But he gave it up and turned his heart back towards God. I'm human too. When the Kickstarter campaign hit its lull, it bottomed out at just shy of a quarter of its funding. I knew going into this campaign that I was to commit this project to the Lord, win, lose, or draw. I never gave up trying because you have to want it. You have to ask, seek, knock, and then ask some more.
I want people to have a visual Gospel right in the palms of their hands, and I know God is using film and video to share His story. I want people to know the God we serve is not looking to thump them over the head with a Bible. He's not. He's crazy about them. I want to see artists have space to share the message of hope in creative ways, which is why Church Films was born. I want and ask for those things because I know that God's heart is that EVERY man, woman, and child should have life in His Son Jesus. I know that, and when your heart is aligned with His heart, the good book says you just have to ask. So keep asking. Fight the doubt that the enemy and his fallen angels will try to hurl at you. Keep doing the good you were called to because the harvest is coming. That's God's promise. I came back around, and I never did quit on the campaign, but I had a run of a few dark days. By the final week of our 3-week campaign, my trust was where it should be. My hope is in someone that never quits. Where is your hope?
6. Trusting Numbers
This is by far the biggest mistake you can make. Numbers are a tool, just like in accounting or chemistry. Yes, they make your head spin. Yes, few of us like counting the beans. Numbers are a gauge, but they are not a substitute for faith.
The Bible is full of stories where God let someone walk the line until the last possible moment. Look at Abraham on the verge of knifing his boy Isaac. Look at Gideon and his small band of brothers that dwindled to a laughable number. Look at the 12 disciples and then how many of those guys you hear about after Jesus ascended. We have story after story of how the Almighty searches hearts and minds to find the few who are willing to stand with Him in the gaps. We are co-laborers with Christ; God doesn't do ministry alone. Stand firm, knowing that regardless of the outcome, He is in control. He has the 30,000-ft. view. We don't. We can't. Our heads would explode. Don't put your faith in numbers; they're temporary anyways. Put your hope in the King, and if it is in His will then and there, He might just humble you when you least expect it. We went from about 24% to fully funded in the last 24 hours or so of the campaign. And you know why? Because the donor said God moved him. God. Not Jake Keenum. Not a video. Not a fancy graphic. None of that. The Maker Of The Universe. Whoa.
We didn't connect with churches like we wanted to, but then again, that's the point of validating (or invalidating) an idea through crowdfunding. God blessed us anyways, and we understand better today than we did yesterday that He is in control of the ship. Take from these lessons this simple truth: you can fail the landing page, you can biff the newsletter, you can ignore your community, you can fail as a leader, you can pull a King Cyrus and ignore God, and you can bet on the numbers game like a Vegas bookie, but even then, EVEN THEN, our God is a God of second chances. All praise goes to Him brothers and sisters; we made it.