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It’s fairly well known I’m passionate about trust fundraising. Especially well-done, best-practice trust fundraising. What you might not know is I am also passionate about history, living history and costume making. Why do I bring this up you ask? Because I am involved in a really amazing project combining the two which is making me re-examine my trust fundraising practice. And a bit of table-top miniature wargaming on the side. Actually the table-top miniature wargaming is central to all of this.

To give you some context, I volunteer with the Clanranald Trust for Scotland, a living history charity showing people what life was like in Scotland primarily during the time of the Roman, Viking, medieval and Jacobite periods.

Aerial show of Duncarron village in the snow

Courtesy of Scotdrone

The village is based in a hand-built palisaded village and when I’m not portraying a typical village woman talking about textiles and weaving, I’m a member of our costume team. Our group is also involved quite heavily in the film industry. Chances are if you’ve seen a Scottish history documentary or watched a hand-to-hand medieval(ish) combat scene in a blockbuster shot here in the UK, you’ve seen us.

People acting a fight scene at Duncarron medieval village

Duncarron Medieval Village

Quite a number of the guys are also long-time fans of the Warhammer tabletop wargame which is based partially in the medieval period.

Last year, a few of them hatched a plan to combine their passions – medieval combat, Warhammer, and filming. The result? A three-part live-action fan film series to be released online. It’s important to know this game has a massive world-wide fan base and there are a lot of fan films set in this universe. All of which are animated. Live action is expensive and generally, we’re the players in the films that someone else is paying for! Whilst we are a group that makes magic happen, we don’t have any money-making spells and we’re going to need funding for some of the things we want to do. On our side, we have heaps of imagination, a ready-made set, costume and props, make-up skills, front-of-camera and stunt experience, and a lot of volunteers for whom this is an exciting adventure. We’ve worked with our directors before. They are Warhammer fans themselves and have been involved in Kickstarters to fund other film projects.

We decided to do a Kickstarter (Chaos Rising).

Poster of Chaos Rising trailer

Poster designed and created by Jack Fox

I’ve not been involved in this kind of fundraising before. I’m trusts through and through and this has been a revelation. With a 60-day deadline, our £13,000 initial target would get us the basics in our budget and we didn’t know what to expect. 72 hours, massive publicity by a few YouTube Warhammer channels as well as through our own networks, and a lot of PMs among the team later, we met that target.

72 hours.

Whilst there’s a worldwide audience, it’s niche. We had 5 other planned targets that were met in various time windows since then and about three hours ago we met our final target of £27,500.* 6 days before the Kickstarter ends. And money is still coming in! We’ve let our fans know what the extra funding will go to as well, and whilst this was a last minute decision, we’ve had a fair amount of discussion to get to this point. We smashed it. Not only that, but we smashed the daylights out of it.

Looking at it now, there are a lot of really important things we did which have parallels to the planning required in trust fundraising for a project:

  • We did our homework. We had a really clearand detailed picture of what we wanted to do, how much it would cost, and why it would be of interest to this audience (read beneficiaries). (Case for support and budget)
  • We are drawing on several decades worth of experience in front and behind the camera and with what is involved in the business of film-making. (Why are we best placed to deliver this idea)
  • We were flexible and had overarching strategic, back up, and crisis plans along with a team which met (online of course) almost daily for strategy and checking-in meetings (very useful when some unexpectedly negative issues cropped up). (Strategy and crisis planning)
  • We had a USP – live-action over animated filming. (Value of our solution)
  • We had proof of concept. Around 50-60 of us volunteered one cold December day and night in front and behind the camera to film the live action portions of a trailer for the Kickstarter (following COVID guidelines). With appropriate CGI effects and excellent editing, we gave our audience a taste of just how fabulous the full film will be. It’s had 129,442 views so far on YouTube. (Evidence of need/ability to deliver/proof of concept-solution)
  • We knew our audience and tapped into the influencers and their world-wide networks as well as their desire for memorabilia and Warhammer/medieval combat treats (Kickstarter rewards). We spent a LONG time debating the pros and cons of each and every reward and their set cost. (Pipeline research and approach plan)
  • We set multiple and realistic targets which required a bit of stretch. (Staged goals)
  • We communicated at regular and planned intervals with clear messages and purposes. (Cultivation – preparation of our bids)
  • We harnessed social media for that communication and enticed our networks to do some of that work for us. (Engagement and stewardship for those who had pledged)
  • Funding achieved, we now need to make the film. (Project delivery)
  • On release, the finished film will take us back to the beginning as we start fundraising for the next episode. (Reporting, Stewardship, Cultivation)

Shoved out of my comfort zone with this project, I’ve been re-examining my own trust fundraising practice. The differences may be subtle in some cases and bold in others between crowd-funding and trust fundraising, however the processes are more alike than not. If you’re looking to improve or re-invigorate your trust fundraising, look outside your income stream for some inspiration.

* Our final total once the Kickstarter ended was £33,214.

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