Crowdfunding is one of the most popular new trends in raising money, and it has become especially popular as a means of supporting projects in the arts. If you're looking for new ideas on how to fund your art project, this might be a great option to pursue.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, crowdfunding involves an online platform that allows you to collect donations from a broad pool of individual donors – often people you already know – in order to fund a project within a finite span of time (typical funding timelines range from 15 days to three months), hitting whatever specific fundraising goal that you have set for your project.
On all of these sites, you will need to create a profile page for your project, set a funding target, and begin promoting your campaign amongst your entire social network. However, each site operates in slightly different ways. Fees vary depending on the site, and some will allow you to keep however much funding you have raised regardless of whether you reach your goal (RocketHub and IndieGoGo operate this way), while others hold donors' contributions in escrow and return their money if your goal is not reached (this is how Kickstarter functions).
If you plan to try crowdfunding, it will be important to compare the features of each site before deciding on the option that best fits your needs. A helpful comparison of 13 popular crowdfunding sites is available here.
As part of our Funding for Arts Month here at the Foundation Center, we offered a seminar on October 19 to discuss the finer points of crowdfunding for art-related projects. The panel, titled Stand Out in a Crowd: Crowdfunding Microgrants for the Arts, featured Jed Cohen, co-founder and COO of RocketHub; Dianne Debicella, program director for Fiscal Sponsorship at Fractured Atlas; Adam Pogoff, producer at Meerkat Media Collective; and, as moderator, Esther Robinson, founder of ArtHome. Based on their discussion, below are a few suggestions about what you can do to make your crowdfunding campaign more visible with a greater chance of reaching your fundraising goal.
Reach out to potential donors early and often. By far, most of the work that will go into your crowdfunding campaign is going to involve communication. Your prospective donors are the lifeline of your project, so you need to make sure that they don't forget about you, and conversely, that you don't forget about them.
When your campaign begins, obviously you should send out an e-mail blast to everyone you know. (Our panelists even suggested that your old classmates from childhood might even be better donors than your peers in the arts field, as there's a chance that your project may seem especially exciting to them if they don't already know very many artists!) If things go well, your friends can pass along information about your project to their friends, thus expanding your network.
It is also very important to send steady updates along the way, letting everyone know how much you've raised so far, how much more you need to raise, and any new information about your project overall. This will help build momentum for your campaign and keep your supporters engaged and willing to help you reach your goal.
Finally, it is extremely important to thank your donors. You should thank them immediately after they have given a donation (this could generate enough goodwill that your donors will encourage others to donate!), and you should thank them again after you've reached your goal and your fundraising campaign is complete. Any professional fundraiser can tell you that building strong relationships and working on donor stewardship is vital to successfully raising money.
Hold an event to kick off your fundraising campaign. This does not have to be anything expensive or fancy – a casual gathering at a local bar or restaurant will do the trick – but an event can bring a bit of extra attention to your campaign and make it a little more memorable for your attendees when it comes time to contribute to your project. What also works well is to plan an event for the end of your campaign, and offer exclusive invites as your rewards for donors.
Create a short video for your profile page. An eye-catching video will be very helpful for promoting your project, and can be easily shared amongst friends on social media. It is recommended that your videos should be no longer than five minutes, as donors' time and attention spans are often limited, but make those five minutes count.
If you don't think your own presence is quite charismatic enough, choose one or more people who love being in front of a camera to be the spokespeople for the project. Make the videos personal and warm; people are more likely to contribute to your campaign if your videos feel amiable and authentic.
Think about what makes your project different. With so many projects posted on the crowdfunding sites, you need to work extra hard to make yourself visible. Find something about your project that is fun and surprising, and make it a focal point in your promotion and your reward options. As an example, one of our panelists was working on a documentary in Serbia for his project, so his reward for donors was to write each of them a personalized postcard from Serbia. Whatever is a little bit different about your project has the potential to attract extra attention.
Because crowdfunding is such a new trend, the best place to learn more about it is on the Internet. A helpful overview of crowdfunding is available on Mashable, and you can also watch online videos explaining how crowdfunding works featuring representatives from RocketHub and IndieGoGo. You can also find an informative interview with the creator of Kickstarter here.
Finally, stay tuned for the video recording of our October 19 event, which will be posted in GrantSpace's multimedia area shortly!
Foundation Center-New York