How to crowdfund

How to crowdfund

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 28/02/13

As arts cuts bite, funding and investment can be hard to come by. If you’re after a grassroots approach, crowdfunding is a great option. Read these tips... 

This week, Inocente became the first Kickstarter-backed film to win an Oscar, confirming what many have known for a while: crowdfunding is a creative-industry finance model to be reckoned with. But what should you keep in mind when starting your own campaign?

 

Why crowdfund?

There are many ways to fund a creative product or project, from loans to grants to equity finance. The biggest perk of crowdfunding is the freedom it gives you. “It’s good for niche projects and for companies that don’t want to give up any equity but need an injection of cash,” says designer Ben Redford, whose campaign for Projecteo, a mini Instagram projector, met its Kickstarter target in less than 24 hours. “If you want to test the financial viability of an idea, it tells you whether there’s demand for it,” says Ben. Plus, “It’s easier to get small amounts of money off lots of people than a lump sum from one investor.” 

Tap into communities of interest

“Don’t make assumptions about who’s going to support you,” advises Robert Douglass, who ran the crowdfunding campaign for the Open Goldberg Variations, a project by pianist Kimiko Ishizaka to record Bach’s Goldberg Variations and release them for free. After approaching potential backers from the music world with limited success, Robert and Kimiko rebranded the project as “open-source Bach” and took it to a more “internet-savvy crowd”. By then end of the campaign, they had achieved 158% of their original target of $15,000. Kimiko and Robert’s experience shows your potential funders aren’t necessarily your friends or contacts – often they aren’t even in your creative field. Instead they are, as Charlie Phillips, Marketplace Director at Sheffield Doc/Fest says, “people who are interested in the cause, in what the film [or other creative project] is going to do in the world.”

Pianist Kimiko Ishizaka - Open Goldberg Variations

Get a headstart

Once you’ve identified relevant organisations, networks and individuals, prepare mailing lists and start to build relationships. As Charlie says, “If the first time you contact them you’re asking for money, they’re less likely to engage with you than if they’ve had a few emails from you already or you’ve @-ed them on Twitter.” 

Gregory Vincent, CEO of crowdfunding site Sponsume, recommends securing a core of project backers before you even put your campaign online. Otherwise, “If it’s close to zero funding when the general public – who don’t know the project or the people involved – first look at it, it has no credibility in their eyes.” A crowdfunding platform is more likely to promote a project that already seems to be doing well, because potential funders will respond better to it.

Make a good promo

“You need to have a really good video,” says Charlie. “The best ones are where the filmmaker addresses the camera directly.” Gregory agrees that a personal appeal is most effective. “The video is there to explain the project but also to establish a rapport with the public,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be technically amazing – we’ve had great videos with someone just using their laptop camera but doing something funny.” 

Set a variety of pledges and rewards

When deciding pledge amounts, “Use as many different price points as possible because people might come and think, ‘I could give £20’ but if there’s a £40 or even £50 level they might think, ‘Oh go on, I’ll give a little more’, whereas if the next one up from £20 is £100, you’re not going to get that little bit extra,” says Charlie. “Equally you want one really low-priced one and one really high-priced one, to bring people in at each end.”

According to Charlie, the best rewards are “exclusive items people would never normally have access to. It doesn’t matter what the actual monetary value is, people will pay over the odds for something that feels unique.” Gregory concurs: “They’re emotionally involved and want to feel they have some sort of relationship with the creative team.” This might be in the form of an exhibition poster signed by artists or a day on a film set with cast and crew. In Kimiko’s case, higher-level funders were given the chance to dedicate one of the 32 small pieces in the Goldberg Variations to someone close to them.

Build – and maintain – momentum

With many crowdfunding campaigns, there’s a flurry of interest at the beginning and again at the end as the deadline approaches. “We often see a dip in the middle and that’s not good for sustaining the viral element,” says Gregory. To avoid this, Charlie suggests planning ahead. “Spread your contacts consistently throughout the campaign. Don’t wake up and think, ‘Oh God, I don’t know what to say today’. You should literally plan what you’re going to say every day like you’re going into war.”

 

Useful resources

Crowdfunding platforms: Sponsume, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Wefund 

NESTA’s 10 ½ tips to help you reach your crowdfunding goal

Sponsume getting started page with lots of helpful guides.

For a comprehensive live of Crowdfunding sites, check out http://www.crowdingin.com/.

Have you crowdfunded for a creative project? Let us know your tips below.



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