Crowdfunding sites offer a different way to raise money

The Vampire Movie

Geoff Orlowski wants to take his filmmaking talents to the next level.

Geoff Orlowski wants to take his filmmaking talents to the next level.

The Whitesboro resident has been writing and making his own movies — from short films in college to his first feature film that he shot last year in Utica.

To get to the next level with his second feature-length movie, though, he needs better equipment. And that means more money. The funds for his first film came straight out of his pocket, and it covered only meals and some equipment, he said.

“It’s a sad thing, when you see all the skills that the actors and the crew members have and they’re not going to get paid for it,” he said.

The second time around, Orlowski is asking for more money — $5,000 – by way of a crowdfunding website.

Crowdfunding is an Internet-driven initiative that allows people to raise money for causes, projects and just about any other initiative.

Individuals and small companies in the area are pursuing projects on sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo in hopes of reaching out to potential financial backers.

Some that have started these projects have high hopes but are finding it takes more than just a digital lick and a promise to get the money they need.

“You can equate crowdfunding to throwing a Hail Mary pass,” said David Griffith, a business adviser with the Small Business Development Center at SUNYIT. “The chances of success are probably slim, but if you’ve got the right conditions, you might make it.”

Many crowdfunding sites are similar: Someone starts a page describing their project and detailing what the money raised would go toward.

Page administrators can offer rewards for monetary contributions. For example, Orlowski is giving those who donate $5 or more will have their names in the end credits of his film “The Vampire.”

In a financially unstable time, crowdfunding can be more appealing to those creating the idea and those supporting it. Banks are reluctant to fund small businesses because of the high probability of them failing within the first five years, Griffith said.

Paul LaPorte of Utica is attempting his second Kickstarter project with his company, VA Comics. He said crowdfunding works on two levels: as a money-raising platform and as a built-in advertiser.

“With this Kickstarter, you can get the money right away and you also have a handful of people interested in the project,” he said. “It’s really a blessing for small independent things, like a music album or an art project.”
Risk and reward

As with many businesses, bigger risk means bigger reward. The crowdfunding process is riddled with risks that might not pay off, though.

One setback is for entrepreneurs to find the crowd to fund it in the allotted time.

A community playground in Ilion is just what Jessica Arsenault-Rivenburg thought would work for her growing family and those in her neighborhood. She started an Indiegogo page about putting up a playground set on South 5th Avenue but fell short when her Jan. 21 deadline rolled around, 60 days after she started the page.

She attributes the shortcoming to not getting the word out enough.

“The only people I could share it with were my friends, family and people I connected with through Facebook,” said Arsenault-Rivenburg, a 31-year-old Ilion resident.

She had one fail-safe. Indiegogo allows two different pages: And all-or-nothing option where the parent site takes out less of a cut from the total profits, but the entrepreneur risks losing all the money made. She chose a “take-what-you-make” option, and walked away from the project with a little more than $1,000, short of her $15,000 goal.

Now, she’s depending on more traditional fundraising efforts to achieve her goal.

The risks are not limited to the person behind the idea. Griffith said those willing to invest in an idea should do it cautiously.

Though most crowdfunding websites have rules and regulations about what causes can be funded and what happens to an investor’s money if the project doesn’t meet its goal, investors must use their own discretion.

“It’s very much the Wild West of financial online transactions,” he said.

Source: Observer-Dispatch, By SARA TRACEY

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