I recently launched my first crowdfunding campaign for my art project, Eye of the Corvus: Messengers of Truth, with the intention of trying to offset some of the costs of spending time away from home working exclusively on the project in regional NSW and Iceland over the coming year. It’s my biggest and most ambitious work to date and it’s requiring a corresponding level of commitment.
It takes a degree of courage to put yourself out there with a dollar figure on you or your project, on the chance someone will consider you worth investing in.
I spent three days preparing over a long weekend with the idea my Australian Cultural Fund (ACF) campaign would launch at the end of the next week. So, it was with some surprise I was emailed on Tuesday morning telling me it was live.
Monitoring the campaign over the following 48 hours, I was both humbled and thrilled to see it hit 25% of the $5,000 target so quickly. I’m also well aware that as a 60-day campaign, there’s still a long way to go.
I’ve got a plan for the next two months, keeping people informed without hopefully overwhelming them, communicating with my donors about the progress of the project, and encouraging people to consider making a tax-deductible donation if they think the project is worthy.
It’s the new normal
There’s no doubt, crowdfunding has become the buzz word in the cultural funding sector over recent years. Diminishing buckets of public money for the arts across the board has meant arts bureaucrats are pushing crowdfunding as a means to relieving the pressure on the remaining grant programs.
Creative Partnerships Australia is an organisation that facilitates partnerships between the cultural sector, supporters and investors, and assists artists and arts organisations with the fundraising and development skills to successfully raise funds. They provide a lot of information on how to create a campaign and support through their crowdfunding platform, the Australian Cultural Fund.
Yet, I still don’t know too many artists with professional creative practices who have undertaken a crowdfunding campaign. Seems I’m right. According to the Australia Council for Art’s report Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia, by David Throsby and Katya Petetskaya, only 11% of artists surveyed chose to crowdfund in the years 2011-2015 (yes, it’s a bit dated), despite a success rate of almost 80%. ACF report seeing an increasing number of campaigns being launched by artists and arts organisations over recent years. Those who do, need to have business skills and make time to rank amongst the successful.
Putting together a crowdfunding campaign requires a business mindset.
You need to cover the following:
- Planning – lots of it and in detail;
- A clear purpose and concept – answering lots of whys;
- Time – for planning, deadlines, writing, editing, getting advice, budgeting, revising, rewriting, communicating, and following up;
- Money – you’re required to invest in your own projects either in time or financially be it through social media advertising, travel, equipment etc.;
- Communications – you need to be able to communicate your concept and your plan succinctly and clearly in both a written and verbal form (including video);
- Market research – you need to know who your audience is, where they are, and how they communicate;
- Public relations – you need to communicate your campaign to your chosen audience in person, via video, social media posts, media releases, interviews, photographs;
- Budgeting – you need a budget and it has to be detailed, flexible, updated regularly, realistic, and yes, it needs to balance.
These are business skills that do require a degree of creativity, but it’s no longer enough to just make art. It probably hasn’t been for some time.
There are benefits to running successful crowdfunding campaigns or being a grant recipient. It looks good on your resume and says you take your practice seriously. If you’re professional and want to take risks with your work and your practice, being able to compete at this level shows a level of competence many artists don’t have. It sets you apart.
Have I got it right? I won’t know for a couple of months yet even though I’d like to think I’ve dotted and crossed everything that needs dotting and crossing. So, if you think Eye of the Corvus is a project that speaks to you, I’d be humbled to accept your donation.