Artists: Answers to Your Crowd-Funding Questions

By | 7:10 PM
Source: Mike Krzeszak (CC BY 2.0 )
The 90s had its crowd-surfing craze and now there is the growing crowd-funding trend, both of these involve getting uplifting support from many individuals. Recently, I helped run an Indiegogo campaign which was a wonderful learning experience. Many Independent Artists have heard of online fund-raising campaigns, but only a small percentage truly understands what they are, why they would benefit from them, and how to use them effectively. Commonly referred to as crowd-funding or sometimes crowd-sourcing, these online campaigns are unique tools for building foundations for new ventures. Aside from Indiegogo there is Kickstarter and GoFundMe all of which have helped launch many art-related projects as well as other endeavors. Not everyone automatically sees the incredible advantages that these campaigns can provide. Discover why creatives need to utilize these awesome tools to help with special project expenses! 

Three key things dictate your success in crowd-fund campaigning: the value you are creating in return for contributions, the quality of your artwork up to this point and the number of people you reach out to by sharing on social media and direct contact. Online fund-raising can increase your reach and will help you discover support for your art you did not know you already had.

With that thought in mind, here are answers to some of the common questions many have about these powerful tools.

What are Crowd-funding Sites? 

Sites like Kickstarter that provide a solid template on which you add content about your new art project launch or event along with an outline for the reasons you are seeking people’s support. Add media such as photos, video or sound files that will boost interest by allowing people to see and hear what you are proposing to do. You want to tell them who you are and why you are excited about getting to make your plan a reality.  You want to fill in the blanks with your compelling story that is unique to you and avoid creating a cookie-cutter campaign site that lacks style and does not promise quality returns.

Keep in mind that running a website and hosting thousands of campaigns and drawing millions of backers will not sustain without a price.  The host site will require a percentage of your total amount raised as payment for use of their services. I recommend you shop around and find the site that has a take that is reasonable in regards to the amount of funding you are seeking out.  The general consensus is that Kickstarter has a good track-record for those that are doing larger projects with higher sums of seed-money (over 10,000 USD). Indiegogo is becoming more popular for the under $10k goals which are centered on sole-proprietorships and small partnerships as opposed to the larger businesses. GoFundMe has a solid history, it tends to come to mind for hardship cases and personal needs as opposed to business related start-up funds.  There are also musician-specific sites such as PledgeMusic.

Find out for yourself by searching for artists that are doing similar work as you on here then compare with results on the other sites mentioned. 

Why should I use them?

Since it is better to have experience on your side rather than going it alone, these crowdfunding sites give advice and ideas in their support blog or FAQ for how to best approach your intended backers. You may have direct support as well. They also give you a clear structure and provide tools and that will help your campaign flow smoothly from start to finish while preventing that "What do I do next?" challenge. Benefits such as handling the payment transactions, giving you a way to reach all your supporters and interested followers with updates by email, keeping a running spreadsheet of who contributed what, site analytics to show where your campaign page visitors are responding from, etc. will assist the process while also improving your image and professionalism immensely.

How do I use them?

Many people report that a video of your heartfelt plea for aid is indispensable. This was a factor that in a short 16-day campaign, without any videography skills on our side, I admit was a wee bit of a concern. Although not having a campaign video did not sink us, it probably would not have hurt.  My thought on the inclusion of a video is that if you can make a good quality video that won’t be tragically dull or poorly done to the point of putting off your audience then do so.  If not, try to make up for it with plenty of photo images of your artwork.  If your medium is film, then that is a case where there is going to be an absolute expectation for a video.

Here’s what is important: make sure you explain how the funds will be applied towards realizing your goal.  People want to know how you are going to utilize their contributions so they know what to expect.  It is strongly recommended that you break down the details that make up your objective.  In essence you are inviting others to become directly involved in your creative success.  Show them how you value their help by giving a play-by-play or basic budget list to show what costs are being covered by the campaign funds.

Perks, bonuses, rewards – who doesn't love to be thanked for going out of their way to help someone advance towards a goal?  Whether it is a mailed thank you card, a postcard, sticker, print or other unique gesture such as an actual piece of your art it is important to add such an interactive element to your campaign.  It shows that you are an active artist and have a will for follow-through. By doing so you offer assurance that you are not going to just raise the funds and do something other than intended with it.  Rewarding those who support your work also spreads rewards back to you as they will now have an item to share with and talk to others about creating new interest.  There are tier levels easily built-in to award higher contributions with greater bonuses.

Writing high-quality updates as part of your campaign will help you show accountability and encourage new contributions. Reflect the outline of your plan by showing steps taken and new obstacles overcome. Simply write your update about any developments that relate to your new project. When your campaign is done, you may use the updates to announce when perks will be sent out, or to give news on how it went and what is on the horizon for new artistic plans.

Shared image generated at keepcalm-o-matic

Who should use them?

All artists, craftspeople, musicians, writers, and any small businesses that produce things which have a base cost factor should consider using crowd-funding online. No matter how long you have been at your work you can significantly improve the fund-generation stage while also speeding up the creative process. In the end, you'll have both supporters and a timeline schedule to work with.

When should I use them?

Anytime you have something you need to do in a certain time-frame that requires funding you have not already saved for in advance. Also, you may have multiple admirers all clamoring for you to make something specific or create something that is different from your usual way of doing so.  If you find enough people who are willing to invest to have this new art come into being so that they can also purchase it from you this is an ideal situation.  Create a campaign and see how much additional support there might be for you to tap into.  If you already know people who are willing to be part of your venture there is no reason not to take the opportunity to create a campaign.  It will give you everything you need, and make it easier to keep everyone in the loop. Simply go through the different sites and find one that best suits your cause. Then let the campaigning begin!

Hopefully, that answers all of your Crowdfunding questions. The bottom line is that sites for raising funds online can help you cover costs and reach out to more people faster than you could alone. So why aren't you using them? Have any more questions - please post a comment to ask or share your experience.
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