Jo's Web Wizardry

Jo Atherton

This month I take a look at crowdfunding and how this collaborative means of fundraising is benefiting artists.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding, also known as crowd financing or crowd-sourced fundraising, refers to the collective effort of individuals who pool their money via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organisations.

It is easy to see how crowdfunding is a popular solution to support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, political campaigns, scientific research and of particular to us, artistic endeavours.

The traditional channels for artists to raise funds for projects have largely been through grant applications or appealing to generous benefactors. Applications are often very lengthy, demanding a huge amount of detailed information, and when Arts Council England state that  individuals only have around a 32% success rate, perhaps crowdfunding might be a more suitable way of funding your small scale project.

The minimum grant available from Arts Council England is £1000, but perhaps you don’t require this much money. Maybe you simply need some extra funds to enable you to organise an exhibition, buy a piece of equipment or materials to create that new body of work you have been planning.

How does crowdfunding work?

ArtQuest describes crowdfunding as the opposite of the usual funding schemes - ‘instead of asking for large amounts of money from a small number of people, you ask for small amounts from a large number of people.’

To give you an example, last month I had work in an exhibition which had used crowdfunding to raise money for essentials, such as printing and publicity. Not A Drop set up a page with Indiegogo, another example of a website serving as a fundraising platform for arts projects.

People were asked to pledge a small amount of money to support the event, and in return for their generosity were offered a small gift. A hierarchy of donations had been set up, with corresponding gifts, depending on the amount donated. For example, those people donating £20 were promised ‘a beautiful water-themed lino print, hand crafted by our artistic organisers.’

The people supporting the event elect to donate as much or as little as they can afford and receive something in return, be it a mention at the event, or a more tangible thank you, such as the example above.

Where can I find more examples of artists using crowd funding?

One of the biggest crowd funding for the arts in particular is Kickstarter. Favoured by a large number of creatives, they describe themselves as ‘a home for everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people like you.’

Since their launch in 2009, 4.9 million people have pledged $805 million, funding 49,000 creative projects. A browse through the Arts section of the site will give you a flavour of the kind of artists who are using Kickstarter to finance their work. Be warned, I lost a few hours roaming round the site reading about the wonderful range of projects that are listed!

I’d like to set up my own project - do you have any tips?

The benefits of the Internet are obvious when you think about publicising your crowdfunding project. Online we can reach people across all areas of our life - family, friends, colleagues and professional organisations. Linking from Facebook, Twitter, your blog and website, mailing list and other digital networking sites will make it more successful.

ArtQuest have some great tips for setting up your project online, some of which include:

Be realistic - make a budget and explain in your proposal exactly what you will do with the money you raise. It might fund your whole project or only part of it, but if you keep the amounts quite low (up to £2000) the target will seem reachable to your funders. If you need a great deal of money it might be better to split the projects into different phases, and fundraise for them at different stages (for example, start fundraising for research, then move on to production).

Present your project in a way that's compelling and simple to understand - a short video seems to be the preferred medium to present the projects, but a video will only be engaging if it's well done. If you don't have the technical expertise or equipment, and can't find a friend to help you, you could use a blog to allow people to feel involved in your project and find out more.

Interesting project - This may sound obvious but there really are a huge amount of projects / campaigns with a very limited interest band. Projects need to really engage your audience, interest them, make them want to see its completion enough to convince them to fund it. It’s primarily the project they will back, not you.

Rewards - Have to be enticing but idea behind contributors is that they want to back your project because they want to see it completed. See rewards as perks to help entice and make contributor feel special. They must not cost you so much to produce that you have nothing left to make project.

There are some products that Kickstarter won’t allow you to raise funds towards, but as long as your project doesn’t involve surveillance equipment, genetically modified cells or firearms, you’ll probably be fine.

If you decide that crowdfunding is something you are thinking about to fund a future project, do let us know as we’d be interested to see how it works for you, and can also help promote your project through our online channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.