Crowdfunding for the Arts – Part One

One of the most recent and exciting developments in the world of arts funding is the rise of web-based crowdfunding. Using websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo (the later being more popular here in Canada), the method first gained wide use among independent musicians and tech start-ups.

The process works as follows: a company has a project, idea, or invention that they require funding for. Rather than approach a single corporation or government body, they create a page on one of these websites and ask their supporters to make smaller contributions. In exchange for their contributions, the supporters are rewarded with certain perks or benefits, depending upon how much they contribute.

As arts organizations move to make use of this opportunity, we find many of our clients coming to us with questions about best practices for using Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Having shared these thoughts in meetings and on the phone, we thought we'd also take a moment to set them down here, so that they can be of benefit to the broader community.

In general – there are four key areas an arts organization should look at before launching a crowdfunding campaign. In this post, we'll look at the first two:

1. The Company

The philosophy underpinning crowdfunding is that through many small contributions something exciting and new can be brought into existence. In addition to receiving perks and benefits, funders feel as though they are responsible for a project's creation.

This is brilliant for emerging organizations, co-ops, and collectives, but represents a challenge for organizations who have been around for more than a few years. Since they already have a proven track record of creating work without crowd funding, it can be difficult to make a case for its necessity.

Organizations possessing such a track record must instead focus almost entirely on…

2. The Project

The project is the most important component of any crowdfunding campaign. A common mistake in this component is simply describing what the project will look like. While it is important to accurately represent it, your description must also answer the question, “Why should funders be excited about this project and what will their support accomplish?”

As mentioned above, crowdfunding is about bringing things into existence. It is therefore important to articulate how this project is new and different and also to create a sense that – without this funding – the project cannot happen.

For organizations who have a history of successfully mounting works without crowdfunding, they need to show not only how the project is new, but also how it is different from everything they have done before. Without marking this differentiation, it is difficult to make a case that the funding support is greatly needed.

A good example of this is SHIFT Theatre, who have been in existence for years, but used the launch of their first full season as a new endeavour for their Indiegogo campaign.

This is part one of a two-part article on Crowdfunding for the Arts. Click here to read Part Two.

Categories: Musings