Flexible Funding is Not Your Friend

Bri Castellini
5 min readJan 24, 2024

Debunking the biggest lie in creative crowdfunding

I’ve worked as an expert in crowdfunding for nearly five years, four of those at a platform that specifically catered to filmmakers and artists. I’ve helped launch over $25,000,000 in campaign goals personally, with an 85% success rate, and I’ve run a few of my own as a filmmaker myself. I have seen every possible iteration of a campaign (I was even the consultant for the original Skinamarink campaign!), and I am here to beg you to stop using flexible funding platforms when crowdfunding for your creative project.

What is flexible funding?

There are a few different kinds of crowdfunding campaigns, with a few different kinds of funding (investments, equity, private donor, etc) but today we’re focused on the two most common campaign formats- fixed and flexible funding.

Fixed funding is where you set a goal for how much money you’d like to raise, and you have to achieve that goal (or, in some cases, a concrete percentage of that goal) if you want to keep any of the money raised. On Kickstarter (the platform I personally recommend more often than not- email me if you want to understand why!), for instance, if you set a goal for $5,000, you must raise $5,000 or more in the timeline you agree to (usually between 30–60 days). If you raise $4,999, you keep none of it. If you raise $5,000, $5001, or $10,000, you keep all of it. On Seed&Spark, by contrast, you just need to raise 80% of that total goal (so in the case of a $5,000 campaign, you only need to actually raise $4,000) in order to keep the funds. But it’s still considered fixed if there is a mark you have to hit first before collecting your payout.

Flexible funding, by contrast, is where you set a goal, but you keep whatever you raise regardless of how much you actually get committed. On IndieGoGo or GoFundMe, for instance, you can set that same $5,000 goal, but you can keep any money pledged whether it’s $1 or $4,999.

Important clarification- most campaign platforms do not process payments until after the campaign timeline has been completed. So in the case of a fixed funding platform, if you fail to raise your goal, money isn’t returned to the supporters because it never left them. Their cards were never charged. Even on most flexible funding platforms, payment is only processed after the campaign deadline is passed.

But flexible funding sounds safer!

You’re not wrong! But also… you’re not right either. Let’s put this a different way:

In fixed funding campaigns, all the risk is on the creator, because if they fail to raise the money they say they need to make their project (or move forward with it), they don’t keep anything pledged to them.

In flexible funding campaigns, all the risk is on the supporter, because if the creator fails to raise the money they say they need to make their project (or move forward with it), the creator pockets anything pledged to them anyways, even if it’s far below what was asked for in total.

Why should other people, especially strangers, be saddled with the risk of your creative campaign? Alternatively, if you gave someone $25 towards their film campaign, and they kept it, but yours was the only money they were sent, let’s be honest. They’re not making that film. They only have $25. So why did they get to keep that $25 that would have taken multiple hours of minimum wage work in the US to earn if they can’t actually deliver on their promise?

Because that’s what crowdfunding is. It’s a promise to an audience that for the amount of money you set as your goal, you will make something. A movie, a proof of concept, a trailer, a web series, or at least the beginning of the process of making something.

What you are telling us, the audience, when you set a crowdfunding goal, is “this is the minimum amount of money I need to raise to make good on the promise of the rest of this campaign page.”

But I can make the thing with less money!

Then why is your goal set so much higher than your actual budget? No crowdfunding campaign penalizes you for raising more than your goal! Tons of campaigns raise over 100% of the goal they set, and crowdfunding platforms love that, because that means they make more money than they anticipated when helping host your campaign!

Your campaign goal should not be an arbitrary number, or what you think you can raise, or even what you hope you can raise. It should be the number, which you can back up with a spreadsheet or pie chart, that is the minimum viable budget to follow through with your promise. You can have a secret goal that’s higher, or a stretch goal with a concrete additional promise attached (“if we raise $1000 more, we can film an extra episode!” etc), but the initial goal, the one you’re primarily focused on, should be no more or less than exactly what it will take to make the thing you want to make.

If you can’t raise your minimum viable budget, you shouldn’t be keeping people’s money in the first place!

The most important thing when setting your goal is to be transparent. If your initial crowdfunding goal is simply to get production started, but won’t be enough to get through editing, tell us. Be specific in the promise you’re making, and if you can, tell us what else you need ideally, so there’s a clear reason why a person may help fund you beyond that starter goal!

Ok fine… but I’m scared

Extremely fair reaction! Crowdfunding is a lot of work, and should be treated like a complete production the same as your eventual film. You’ll need to develop it, do pre-production, and then spend a month or more of your life running the dang thing!

But you don’t have to do it alone.

Bri Castellini is an independent filmmaker, an aspiring romance author, and, regrettably, a podcaster. She’s known for the 2017 short film Ace and Anxious (writer/director, 160k+ views on YouTube) and for her podcasts Burn, Noticed and Breaking Out of Breaking In, covering the USA television show Burn Notice and practical filmmaking advice, respectively. She can lick her elbow (not clickbait). Full work history and ways to hire her as a consultant can be found on her website BriCastellini.com



Bri Castellini

Freelance indie film and crowdfunding consultant. Writer of mystery TV and romance novels. Human bulldozer. www.BriCastellini.com