Fundraising Tips: Money Trees and House Parties

I was speaking with a fellow filmmaker the other day who was asking me for tips on finding grants for fiction films. I’ve been successful at finding grant-based funding for my work (“Gina, An Actress, Age 29” was supported by the sadly now-defunct Aperture Film Grant), but I had to break the disappointing news that those sources are few and far between for fiction work these days.

Having said that, if you’re developing a not-for-profit film/video project — say, a social-issue documentary or a youth video project — there is money out there. A great introduction to finding money is Morrie Warshawski’s Shaking The Money Tree, 2nd Edition.

I read Shaking the Money Tree years ago when it was still in its first edition. Since then I’ve probably raised close to $100,000 in grant monies for various projects (my own and others’) since reading it. Documentarians will probably benefit from it the most, but I strongly recommend it to filmmakers that need help raising funds for their films, or fund-raisers new to film and video production, regardless of film genre.

One fundraising strategy that’s discussed briefly in Shaking The Money Tree is given its own extended treatment in Warshawski’s newly revised The Fundraising Houseparty, 2nd Edition.

As Warshawski points out in this slim volume’s introduction, individual donors account for 87% of all non-profit endeavors. Fundraising houseparties are a way to bring such individuals together and introduce them to a project that might deserve their support.

I’ve never hosted a houseparty (nor had one hosted for my work), but I have attended a couple, so I have a decent grasp of what works and what doesn’t. Warshawski’s guide is the best I’ve seen on what can be an intimidating process for the uninitiated. The basics are spelled out in easy-to-read prose, with straightforward diagrams and illustrations helping to walk you through the process. The appendix even includes sample invitation letters and a worksheet. Yes, some of this stuff is common sense (“Thank People as They Leave” states one heading), but other topics aren’t (“taxes”).

As the saying goes, you gotta spend money to make money. At $20 (or less) each, these books are a pretty good investment for anyone considering or pursuing the not-for-profit realm of moviemaking. If you have other tips or reading suggestions, share them in the comments below.

3 Responses to “Fundraising Tips: Money Trees and House Parties”

  1. stephen v2 Says:

    I have recently picked up both these books after a couple of years of chasing grants, then private equity which I turned down as they wanted to gut my project and leave me no control or rights ownership at all.

    The stuff works so far. By following some tips for just a couple of months from Shaking The Money Tree, I think I will get at least $15k in donations via private individual. And I have not really started working hard at it.

    Just reading the Houseparty book and plan to do several of those as well.

  2. Jon Says:


    Don’t know if you want to put this as a response or a new post, but I just saw on that Warshawski will be speaking in Philly on Feb 13th.
    Here’s the link:

    I plan on going.

    Take care.
    Jon Barr

  3. K S La Boca Says:

    The concept of building a group of strong supporters behind you project is the real aim of the houseparty in my view. I have seen it in action. It is like building a political movement that not only provides financial support but can build a powerful network for getting your film know about and discussed. It has helped me raise seven figures for the indie comedy “Once Upon a Wedding” and finding a distributor at the script stage. I’m putting together an online master mind group on fundraising and invite anyone who wishes to join to keep posting on this thread. What has been the thread’s experience of networking to find sources of cash from peers to the baby boom generation?