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First of All…

In Autumn 2011 I took one of the biggest leaps of faith in my whole career: I pitched my work to the general public in a bid to raise funds to complete a project. It worked! I raised just over £2,000 through the crowdfunding platform WeDidThis.

Ok, so now for the reality check: most of that funding came from loyal friends and family. It wasn’t an easy process. I was overwhelmed by the support that I received and naturally extremely grateful too, but I also realised that I needed to have a much more varied network if I ever wanted to raise the same amount again.

Crowdsourcing involves a lot of hard work, and some degree of tact in how you put yourself forward, inform people and keep up the momentum without pissing off half your friends and family.

In my eyes, successful crowdfunding is not just about raising the money, even though that bit is also very important. The key is to inspire people, beyond your immediate circle of contacts, to back your work. This way not only do you avoid over-taxing the generosity of your near and dear ones, but you also gain a wider public through the exposure and interest generated by your pitch. So my first pointer is this: Crowdfunding is not like raising money for charity. It is a professional endeavour, so treat it as such!

Update 07/02/2013: Following the publication of the original article in January, a number of readers pointed out that creating a Platform from which to launch yourself is actually the first step to successful crowdfunding. Whether you are an established company, or a new venture, creating an online profile, either via a website or blog, is the essential FIRST STEP. It’s important to establish your identity and your vision, seperately of the project you are looking to run. Once you have done this, now is the time to begin recruiting followers, before you start asking for money!!! I think this is an important contextualisation of the notion of crowdfunding: it works within the social networking world and is most successful when this online platform / presence has already been established.

This post is an amalgamation of advice from the different websites, together with my own tips and pointers, to help you get off on the right foot.

Check out my pitch here: http://www.peoplefund.it/strange-loop/

How Does Crowdfunding Work?

An individual, or group, pitches their idea to the general public via a crowdfunding website. Entering a pitch is normally free. Often a pitch involves both a video and a written statement. Members of the public can browse pitches and select to support an idea by offering a small donation. In return for their donation they are rewarded with a “gift” that reflects the size of their donation and is related to the outcome of the work.

The website deducts a commission on all donations received to support its own running. Websites will either have an ‘All or Nothing’ or a ‘Keep it All’ policy. In ‘All or Nothing’ you have to reach your target amount in order to receive any of the money. ‘Keep it All’ allows you to keep any money you have raised, even if you have not reached your target amount. However, in the latter case you are normally charged a higher rate by the website and you need to work out whether or not it is possible for you to achieve the stated goal with less than the full amount of funding needed.

In addition, there are credit card or paypal charges which are sometimes added to the funder’s bill rather than to the person pitching, so watch out for this as donators can be put off if they feel that they’re paying paypal rather than paying you.

Donations cannot be ‘giftaided’ because officially speaking contributors are buying rewards so the donation is technically not charity.

Whilst setting up a pitch you specify the time-frame and target amount. You normally receive the money you’ve raised at the end of the campaign. Any fees required are normally deducted from the amount you receive although in some cases you pay the website separately.

Once you have received your money you will also be able to access a list of contributors with their contact details. Be aware that the best way to keep in touch with your patrons is via e-mail, and some websites do not collect this information! So check with the website before you pitch.

How to choose a Site

The crowdfunding site charges a percentage of the total amount raised. It is therefore in their interest to help their pitchers raise as much as possible. Every site you visit will have comprehensive notes on how to run a successful campaign. In addition it’s worth checking out sites who have the highest success rates since this reflects the amount of work the site’s team put into marketing and outreach which will help you access a wider public.

According to Crowdsourcing.org,  Kickstarter  was the most successful company of 2012. It’s success is linked to the fact that it enables users to “…reach beyond friends and family for capital. These campaigns are clearly interesting distant contributors that are not directly connected to the person or team running them.” – Crowdsourcing.org founder Carl Esposti.

Click on the link here to read the stats:

http://www.crowdsourcing.org/editorial/kickstarter-in-2012-the-numbers-you-need-to-know/23124

It’s important to shop around and find a site that you feel will support you and engage your target audience.

  • Ensure that the site you have chosen is CAPS accredited.
  • Look at the kinds of projects that are successful on the site. This will help you gauge whether your project would fit in to the site’s community.
  • Know what the charges are to you and to your funder.
  • Be clear about what the site will do to help you with your campaign.
  • Check for credibility of the site. ie: what is the project success rate? Is the presentation fun and engaging?
Company Website Based Fundraising Structure Fees to you Fees to funders Other support
GoFundMe www.gofundme.com International Flexible: You can set a time frame yourself, or choose an All or Nothing option. 5% of each donation + PayPal Charge of 2.5% + $0.30 per transaction. No The site is full of useful tips and information and offers comprehensive tools for you to manage your own fundraising. However it does not offer any more personal support.
Indiegogo – best known site www.indiegogo.com International Flexible: You can set a time frame yourself, or choose an All or Nothing option. Flexible Funding: 9% charge on each transaction, but if you reach your target you receive 5% back. All or Nothing: 4% charge if you reach your target, but you get no money at all if you don’t reach your target. There is also a 3% credit card processing fee on each transaction and $25 wire fee for non US based campaigns No The site is full of useful tips and information and offers comprehensive tools for you to manage your own fundraising. Depending on the interest you generate around your project, it could be featured by the site in media and other advertising.
Crowdfunder, recently merged with Poeple Fund It to become the UK’s biggest crowdfunding platform www.crowdfunder.co.uk UK Fixed: All or Nothing structure with a choice of 30, 45 or 60 days to raise the full amount. 5% fee on total amount if you reach your target. If you do not reach your target all monies donated are refunded. Paypal charges 1.9% + 20p for each transaction. Payment via Direct Debit is 1% of your transaction but with a minimum of £0.10 and a maximum of £2.00. Donations over £500 can be transfered directly so as not to incur fees. Limited Support
Kickstarter – Highest funded projects to date www.kickstarter.com US based but with operations in the UK Fixed: All or Nothing structure however you set the time frame (up to 60 days) and target amount. 5% fee on total amount if you reach your target. Funders are only charged once the target amount has been reached. + 3-5% third party payment fees. No PayPal no The site is full of useful tips and information and offers comprehensive tools for you to manage your own fundraising. Depending on the interest you generate around your project, it could be featured by the site in media and other advertising.
WeFund www.wefund.com UK All of Nothing but the time frame is open for you to set. 5% fee on total amount if you reach your target. Funders are only charged once the target amount has been reached. Paypal charges 3.4% + £0.20 per transaction. no Limited Support
Sponsume www.sponsume.com UK Keep it All structure. You determine target amount and time frame up to 90 days 9% fee on all transaction. If you reach your target 5% is refunded. + paypal fees of 2% plus fixed amount depending on currency. no The site is full of useful tips and information and offers comprehensive tools for you to manage your own fundraising. Depending on the interest you generate around your project, it could be featured by the site in media and other advertising.
We Did This – arts leg of the PeopleFund It company http://www.peoplefund.it/arts/ UK All or Nothing. You determine target amount and time frame. 5% fee on all transactions go to WeDidThis. GoCardless deduct 3% fee on all transactions. no The site is full of useful tips and information and offers comprehensive tools for you to manage your own fundraising. The team also actively tweet and promote projects. There are some regional events too where creators can pitch their ideas personally to potential investors.

The Pitch

Once you’ve chosen your preferred site it’s time to get your pitch together.

a.)    Have a clearly defined goal:

“What are you raising funds to do? Having a focused and well-defined project with a clear beginning and end is vital. For example: recording a new album is a finite project — the project finishes when the band releases the album — but launching a music career is not. There is no end, just an ongoing effort…

With a precisely defined goal, expectations are transparent for both the creator and potential backers. Backers can judge how realistic the project’s goals are, as well as the project creator’s ability to complete them. And for creators, the practice of defining a project’s goal establishes the scope of the endeavor, often an important step in the creative process.” – Kickstarter

b.)    Creating your Pitch.

Whether working as a group or individually, it’s important to introduce yourself and get across what your idea is in an upbeat, clear and preferably fun way.

“Tell people why your campaign deserves to be funded. Contributors fund ideas they’re passionate about and support people they trust. Introduce yourself and your background. Describe your project and why it’s important to you. Explain to contributors what you’re hoping to achieve. Keep it concise, yet personal. And be sure to include a pitch video!” – Indiegogo

It’s best to use the pitch video to illustrate the actual idea and show your face. Don’t go into too much detail about how you will use the money in the video.  Making the pitch video fun will help attract more people, but don’t get lost in complex animations and filming, especially if you don’t have much filming skills. It’s best to keep it simple and be yourself.

“Check out what successful projects have done in the past and how they’ve done it. Be shameless about copying what they’ve done well!” – Sponsume

c.)    Writing a statement

Support your pitch video with a clear plan of action providing more detail on your background, your idea, how you will develop it, how the money will be used. Be aware that in crowdfunding platforms artists do not normally use the money raised to pay themselves.

I guess most people think that there may be something a little cheeky about asking for money that will pay your groceries bill, even if needing to eat is an important factor when being creative. The old mentality that artists should scrape by is very much still current. In fact you often come across pitches that clearly state that the money will be completely used to pay for the resources needed to carry out the project and that all the artists will work for free. You may just need to be sensitive to this. Perhaps just pay artists a small percentage to cover travel and food costs during the project, or just use this funding as seed funding and later apply to the Arts Council to cover artists’ fees.

When donating money people prefer to feel that they are contributing towards something sustainable. Don’t make this money just about this project. Be clear about how this contribution will be an investment in your future work. For example, perhaps it will help you to learn a particular skill, or buy equipment that you can use in future projects. It’s worth thinking about how you can move from purely asking for subsidy towards asking for investment.

d.)    Rewards

Recognising why someone might fund you will help you to come up with rewards that will suit your target audience. Crowdfunder lists some possible reasons why people might fund your project:

  • To get a unique Reward or to get a unique gift for a friend
  • To support a community, business or industry you believe in
  • To help a friend launch their project
  • For the fun of it

When choosing Rewards remember that these are the outcomes that you will need to deliver by the end of the project. Offering interesting options can help to engage your audience and may appear to be more attractive to funders. However, be wary of putting people off. Not everyone wants a cameo role in your dance piece, however if you were making a filmed dance piece this might be more possible. Generally anything that involves your funder’s time may be off-putting. With most performance works, a mention in the credits is quite a good option. Here are some other ideas:

  • Naming a funder in the production credits
  • Signed Photo and thank you notes – remember you’ll need to pay for postage for these!
  • Part of the dance dedicated to them
  • Invitation to a performance or work in progress

“Rewards are what backers receive in exchange for pledging to a project. The importance of creative, tangible, and fairly priced rewards cannot be overstated. Projects whose rewards are overpriced or uninspired struggle to find support. Rewards ensure that backers will benefit from a project just as much as its creator (i.e., they get cool stuff that they helped make possible!).” Kickstarter

Launching and Managing your Pitch

Once your pitch is live you’ve got to get things moving. Here’s some advice from PeopleFundit:

Top 10 Ways to Promote Your Project

–          Tell friends, family & everyone you know

You’ve created your first project and now you’ve got to tell the world!  Start with those closest to you.  Your friends and family are those most likely to help you out and promote your cause so make sure you tell them how important this is to you!

–          Make a poster!

Make a poster and get it printed and put up in local shops and businesses.  Are there any businesses that match your project, get in touch and give them some flyers!

 –          Use Twitter & Facebook

Assuming you have the worldwide average number of friends on Facebook (130) and you tell your friends about your project, if just 10% of your friends tell their friends then over 18,000 people will hear about your project.  The numbers add up quickly!
It’s well worth using Facebook as much as you can.  Twitter is equally as powerful for quick messages.  Tweeting at least a few times a day, retweeting other peoples messages and responding to tweets will keep this momentum going.

–          Target Online Communities

If you’ve been interested in the area surrounding your project for a long time then you probably know where people talk about the subject.  Get on those sites and start telling people about your project.  If you want to search forums then try boardreader Just make sure that you post a link straight to your project so everyone can see it.

–          Start a Blog

If you don’t have a blog already it might be worth starting one.  This way you’ll meet lots of people that have similar interests and you’ll be able to tell the world about your knowledge surrounding your project.  Why are you doing this project, what’s your experience, why will it work, all these are examples of possible blog topics.  WordPress or Blogger are great sites that offer free blogging.

–          Look for Relevant Bloggers

Once you’ve established yourself as a blogger find out who else blogs about similar topics.  See if you can highjack their followers.  Email the blogger and suggest a guest blog (i.e. You write a post on their site).

–          Keep Commenting

Everywhere you visit online that allows you to comment you should leave a trail.  Keep posting the link to your project page and crucially, check back to see if anyone has posted a question about your project.  Address people individually and they are more likely to respond favourably.  Reply to people who post on your own blog, keep on updating your project page with comments and keep your current pledgers happy.  The more you engage with people the more likely they are to do some promotion for you.

–          Earn people’s trust

This is all done in your project page.  If you write expressively and show your passion for the project people are more likely to back you.  A good video and honest words will do more for you than any amount of advertising.  When someone pledges for your project then send them a message through Peoplefund.it thanking them.

–          Offline press

Have you considered approaching your local paper?  If you’re doing something that might just change the world then they might be interested.  Email a few reporters with your project details.  Look for relevant magazines and publications that are in your subject field.  Write them a letter or drop them a line and let them know what you’re planning to do.  Have you got any local radio stations that might help promote you?  Will you plan a launch day with a local celebrity?

–          Share your widget

You can put your project anywhere on the web with your widget.  It’s a great device for people to see how much you’ve raised.  Just copy the code and paste it in your blog/website/forum and watch people click.  Why not approach some larger websites and ask them to do the same?

And Finally…

Crowdsourcing should not be seen as a failure to raise funds from conventional means. If anything it’s a powerful statement against institutional funding that is often tied up with specific political targets or industry expectations. It enables artists to achieve outcomes on their own terms.

Crowdsourcing is a means towards grass roots production. It allows artists greater freedom to question and critique mainstream work, which leads to a richer, more varied and more subversive arts scene.

Most importantly, being crowdfunded means having third party validation, in itself a powerful motivator. It’s an invaluable tool, so don’t destroy it for everyone else. Be honest with your supporters, fulfil your commitments to your funders and champion your peers’ work alongside your own.

Goodluck! 😉