August 2013 – Crowd Funding, An Artist’s Review

I figured it would be worthwhile to talk about my crowd funding experience and recap the process in my blog so that it may be helpful to others, especially my fellow artists.

Choosing a Crowd Funding Platform

Can artists benefit from crowd funding?

Early in the year I began researching crowd funding platforms. I decided that when the time came, I would chose to run my campaign with Indiegogo because unlike Kickstarter, you can keep the funds raised even if you don’t meet your target. In my case any donation would help and would simply alleviate the amount for which I would have to “come out of pocket”. Solo exhibitions can be rather expensive for artists. The other plus is that Indiegogo allows people outside of the USA to run campaigns. The only downside perhaps was that the campaign could only run for 60 days max. (Kickstarter offers 90 days max).

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Drafting the Campaign

Around mid June I began drafting my Indiegogo Campaign. I completed an initial draft which was pretty comprehensive aided by the guides and suggestions offered by Indiegogo. It took me a little while to come up with campaign “perks” which would be rewards for those that donated to the campaign. I managed to come up with a few that I believed would be of great value:

  • Shout Outs
  • Hand Written Thank-You Cards
  • Set of Note Cards: set of packaged blank notecards which could be used for any occasion
  • Art Catalogues:  signed limited edition copy of my first fine art catalogue.
  • Personal Tours: personal tour of the exhibit by me as we discuss the exhibit in more depth.
  • Gift Certificates:  $100-$350 gift certificate toward your purchase of artwork or a commission.

These are pretty good right?

Once the first draft was done. I then completed a 2nd draft making the campaign a bit more personal for viewers and myself. I wanted it to stand out and not simply be “here’s my aim please contribute blah blah”. There needed to be a greater connection between myself and my sponsors, like the connection you have when talking about your artwork in person. This was perhaps the most difficult part of drafting the campaign but was perhaps the key factor in its success. For me, that connection was made by talking about my artist philosophy/statement.

Now the third and final draft was pretty much completed by reviewing other artists’ campaigns and comparing their strategies to mine… “here’s what I got, but what are other people doing”…I did quite a bit of research, and artists Kesha Bruce and Jaimee Todd were kind enough to share their own experiences and advice with me.

Setting a Goal

Believe it or not I drafted the campaign before setting the goal. I needed to give that more attention becasue it wouldn’t matter what my goal was if I had a poorly drafted campaign.

I was a little weary about what goal (target) to set. I had completed a breakdown of the costs for the exhibition and also factored in the costs of shipping the “perks”.

In the end I set my goal as follows:

  • Venue Rental & Display – $350.00
  • Fine Art Framing Costs – $2800.00 <— The Big Monty
  • Exhibition Invitations – $100.00
  • Advertising – $50.00
  • Fine Art Catalogues & Posters (published catalogues of the exhibited work)- $250.00
  • Misc. (i.e. shipping) – $200.00

I determined that whatever I raised would firstly go towards the framing costs and everything thereafter would come out of pocket.  In all honesty I had never done something of this nature before and even if I only raised $250 from immediate family, it would still be more than I started out with.

I was going to put my all into raising the funds but had no expectations of what would come out of it.

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Launching the Campaign

I had to really get over the “Omg I’m asking people for money” mindset. If you don’t ask you won’t receive. And if I didn’t ask I wouldn’t be able to run an effective campaign or say in the end that I truly put the ego aside and tried.

I ran the campaign for 60 days, starting on July 1st and running through to August 30th. A side note, pay attention to the dates and what holidays/pay dates fall like around those days as it can have an impact upon the ability of others to contribute.

Maintaining Momentum

Social Media: Social Media played a HUGE part in this campaign! On facebook I posted status updates daily to my fan page thanking participants by tagging them in my status where I could. I also attached images of artwork in progress. This way I was able to thank supporters and advertise at the same time. Whenever I hit a milestone mark ($100, $500, $1000)  I also posted it to facebook. My facebook is linked to twitter so any posts on FB automatically went to twitter as well. On the odd occasion however I would send a special tweet. Many of the donations which were received by stranger  were foremost due to social media and simply spreading the word as far an wide as possible.

Donation Sources & Timing: The first 20% of the campaign came from family, the next 20% from close friends, and the remaining from fellow artists, art appreciators, newsletter subscribers, facebook likers etc. I raised approx. 50% of the funds raised in the first 30  days and the remainder of what I raised came in gradually over the duration of the campaign.

Fueling the Fire: I found there was a huge push at the beginning and lots of excitement over “something new”. But I admit it was difficult ot market it consistently without sounding like a broken record.

Campaign Closeout

By the end of the campaign I managed to raise $2,146.00 (a lot more than I had to begin with which was $0). Yes!! Anything is better than nothing and goodness wasn’t I happy for that when the framing invoices came in. Granted the framers (Frameworks) always do such an amazing job! I wouldn’t have anyone else touch my work except them.

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Lessons Learned

With all of the above said and done (goodness are you still with me here?) there are a few things I learned along the way. I’m not sure I will do another campaign in the near future but nevertheless I thought a recap would be helpful for anyone reading this post:

  1. Keep your expectations realistic – don’t expect every single one of your friends or subscribers to donate
  2. Don’t take it personal. Sometimes people won’t donate for various reasons or may donate very little. Regardless don’t take it personal!
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for money! If you don’t ask, you won’t receive. You will not pass out if someone says no. And as I already said above, don’t take it personal!!
  4. Did I say don’t be afraid to ask for money. You may in fact be surprised how much support there is out there!
  5. Plan your campaign updates in advance. Know in advance what messages you will send out and how often and to whom. This keeps people engaged and keeps your campaign in front of peoples faces.
  6. Use social media like it’s going out of style. Blast it someway everyday to as many as you can, but strategize your messages so you don’t become annoying
  7. Research similar campaigns – have a look at those who have done something similar and see how you can make it even better.
  8. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Face to face discussions are  far more influential than any other form of communication

I hope some of my fellow creatives find this recap and reflection helpful. Does anyone else out there have prior experience with crowd funding art projects?