Still from THE WAKE, a film-in-progress by Jesse Kreitzer, fundraising on Kickstarter
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 web presence. There are a number of crowdfunding web 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 small 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. Artists create campaigns for their creative project with a funding goal. Artists offer creative rewards (say, an embroidered t-shirt or a DVD of the project or a personalized portrait), 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:
- Jesse Kreitzer (Film & Video Finalist ’11) is raising funds for his fascinating feature film project The Wake, a unique and uncompromising story about grief, secrecy, and mortality.
- Tod Machover of the MIT Media Lab is raising funds for a new album.
- Matthew Mitchell of Amherst has a campaign to support his powerful 100 Faces painting project.
- Curator and Panopticon Gallery owner Jason Landry is raising funds to publish a Harold Feinstein photography retrospective.
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.
Where HatchFund differs from Kickstarter is that it has a distinct focus on highly accomplished artists. Instead of needing to have projects approved by the web site, artists need to have won an award from one of its organizational partners, such as Creative Capital, Guggenheim Foundation, Pew Fellowships, Pollock-Krasner, and many others (BTW – winning a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship enables artists to use HatchFund!). So HatchFund does have a special prestige. Some organizations offer matching funds when “their” artists raise funds on HatchFund. Also, HatchFund offers one-on-one support for artists, by HatchFund staff, when running a crowdfunding campaign.
Yet another crowdfunding web site is IndieGoGo. Originally just for films, this site is now open to all projects. What differentiates it from the others? No invites or prior awards are needed to create a project campaign. Unlike the all-or-nothing approach of Kickstarter and HatchFund, you get to keep all of the money you raise (minus site fees), even if you don’t meet your goal.
Local projects include a stage adaptation of George V. Higgins’s seminal Boston crime novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle, to be staged at Club Oberon in Cambridge, and a children’s book project by artist Peter Simeti. Past MCC awardee Shawn Cody (Playwriting Fellow ’07) has a campaign to bring his musical theatre work The Water Dream to Broadway.
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 Documentaries 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 from THE WAKE, a film-in-progress by Jesse Kreitzer, fundraising on Kickstarter.