We noticed a large number of Massachusetts artists launching crowdfunding campaigns this month, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to update this previously published article about crowdfunding as an artist.
So, you have a creative project (a yet unfinished film, music album, novel, interactive crochet installation, etc.) and you want funding so you can adequately – nay, spectacularly – realize your vision.
Instead of relying solely on traditional grant programs (such as our Artist Fellowships or Local Cultural Council grants), which may or may not match up with your project’s timeline, you might consider using a crowdfunding Web site as part of your fundraising strategy.
Artists crowdfund by soliciting donations from many individual supporters, directing donations to one central online presence. There are a number of crowdfunding sites for artists to choose from, which generally have these things in common:
- they make it easy for individuals to make tax-deductible donations;
- they ask artists to set a fundraising goal;
- they provide helpful and novel ways to interact with supports, including the ability to offer rewards to donors;
- and a certain percentage of the donations go to the crowdfunding site to pay for the service.
What sites are out there, and what are their particular facets and emphases?
The most prominent crowdfunding site is Kickstarter. Anyone from tech entrepreneurs to working artists can use the site to create campaigns for their project, with a funding goal. Kickstarter campaigners then offer creative rewards (say, an embroidered t-shirt or a DVD of the project or a personalized portrait) to donors, increasing the appeal of the reward based on the donation amount.
Things to keep in mind about Kickstarter: if campaigns do not meet their fundraising goal, the artist gets nothing, so the incentive is high to drum up support. Also, project campaigns need to be approved by Kickstarter to launch.
Want to see some samples? Look no further than these Massachusetts projects:
- Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry have a campaign to match grant funds for their Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project
- Alice Bouvrie crowdfunding her new documentary A Chance to Dress, about an MIT geologist and the complexities of gender identity
- Grace Kelly, a saxophonist/composer living in Brookline, raising funds for her new EP Working for the Dreamers
Another major crowdfunding site is Hatchfund (formerly called United States Artists Projects). Hatchfund is similar to Kickstarter in many ways, with tax-deductible donations, creative rewards, and an all-or-nothing fundraising goal.
Unlike Kickstarter, Hatchfund is specifically focused on artists. Originally, the site focused solely on artists who had won awards from nationally-recognized organizations (an MCC Artist Fellowship enabled artists to launch a project). But more recently, any artist can enroll and apply to launch a project. Another interesting difference is that some projects may receive matching funds from Hatchfund for a portion of their campaign. And perhaps most significantly, Hatchfund offers one-on-one coaching and support for artists, by Hatchfund staff, when running a crowdfunding campaign.
- Evan Ziporyn and Christine Southworth raising funds for their In My Mind and In My Car project
- Candice Smith Corby & Leslie Schomp raised funds for a catalog for Self-Fabricated, the exhibition they curated (past)
- Cristi Rinklin raised funds to support Diluvial, her solo exhibition at the Currier Museum of Art (past)
Another crowdfunding site is IndieGoGo. What differentiates it from the others? Unlike the all-or-nothing approach of Kickstarter and Hatchfund, you can elect to keep all of the money you raise (minus site fees), even if you don’t meet your goal.
- Boston Public Works, a Boston-based playwrights collective, raising funds to produce nine plays by its member playwrights
- MassPoetry Poetry raising funds to buy ad space on the T to display poetry
- Michaela O’Brien and Melissa Langer raising funds for the documentary In Crystal Skin about sufferers of a rare skin disease
- Peter Harris, a 12 year old Tewksbury filmmaker, raising funds for Bully Beat Down, a film he’s creating about bullying
And, another site, RocketHub, is similar to IndieGoGo in that no invite is needed and you get to keep all funds raised. RocketHub has a partnership with A&E’s Project Startup.
Go Totally DIY
Not a joiner? You could also take the principles of crowdfunding and set up your own campaign. You’ll need a PayPal account, a home base (like a web site homepage or a blog), and a group that will act as an organizational fiscal sponsor so that donations will be tax deductible. In film, the Center for Independent Documentary and Filmmakers Collaborative both serve as fiscal sponsors for film projects, and the New York organization Fractured Atlas serves as fiscal sponsor for artist projects in all disciplines, and throughout the country.
You can even include creative rewards and frequent updates to your donors – you’ll just have to handle the infrastructure of these actions on your own.
Image: still image from the Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry.