106% of the campaign target funded!
My two-month crowdfunding campaign with the Australian Cultural Fund has come to an end…and what a two months it was.
This was my first fundraising campaign for an art project. I knew what I had to do, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the intensity of it, or the emotion of having people close to me support the project so generously.
I watched other campaigns on the ACF platform sit idle for days and weeks, with no donor movement. I knew that the only way of running a successful campaign was to have a plan, to be prepared ahead of time, to make it interesting, accessible, personal. It required me to use my networks and social marketing skills to mobilise interest.
My target was a modest $5,000 to assist with some of the technical expenses I was facing such as the purchase of a virtual reality camera and a laptop for editing ultra high-resolution video, as well as smaller costs such as fuel for field trips, spare batteries and SD cards. However, there were times when the goal posts looked a long way away.
The beginning, middle and end
You have to have a plan that addresses every stage of the campaign.
I’d read all the ACF blog posts, read the FAQ, and watched the videos. It didn’t really tell me much I didn’t already know as a professional communicator and marketer. It did make me wonder how many did read and watch these resources before starting a campaign. The key takeaway from all of this information was the knowledge most donations are made in the first and last two weeks of a campaign, which leaves you wondering how to work through the middle period of the campaign.
When you’re so close to a project, and emotionally invested in it, it is sometimes difficult to know if you’re going too hard with updates and requests. I know the importance of getting the information mix right – not too much about the campaign, but enough to keep it front of mind, with background on the project including blog posts, graphics with ‘bird facts’ – the Corvid Curios, project updates from the field, and finally, other posts relevant to my practice. It was probably a mix of 60 campaign: 30 project: 10 other in this case.
Putting established digital assets to work
Utilising all available networks is critical to reaching as many people as possible.
I used my Facebook Page and Instagram account (Goldsmith’s Studio), my personal Twitter account, my LinkedIn profile, and shares to my personal Facebook profile. The project has its own website and blog, as well as this site and blog, with external links to each site. I also had a great ‘army’ of supporters who regularly shared my posts with a call to action to donate.
Donor contacts were downloaded into Mailchimp as often as twice a week, with a personalised thank you email sent within days of donations, if not immediately, along with end of month updates on the project (Corvid Capers). My promise to donors was to bring them on the adventure (without bombarding them) and to ensure they got their invitation to the exhibition at the end of the year, but also encouraged them to share information about my project to others who may be interested.
I made an effort to provide regular campaign updates (below) on my ACF project listing using the Artist Dashboard – something I noticed very few other project admins did.
I did talk to the media about the project and crowdfunding efforts, distributing a media release at the start of the campaign, which resulted in one online story. While I was going to issue another release in the final two weeks, I decided not to bother given the lack of general interest in the project from media aligned with my target audience – this is where you need to know who your audience is. Media are not really a priority if you have strong digital channels working for you and you know who you’re talking to.
Making the numbers count
Facebook & Instagram ads are great awareness boosters but they don’t always convert into donations.
There were also Facebook and Instagram ads – two rounds of ads based on a 5-second video I put together with hero images for the project. I spent just over $180 in two lots of ads over a total of 17 days (the first round was a split test with two different audience profiles). I had great results in terms of reach and cost per engagement. While Instagram generated more engagement than Facebook, the conversion (donations made) from these ads were low, which has to be accounted for in the total budget.
The analytics provided by ACF were useful in monitoring where the biggest returns were in terms of conversions from social channels. This was also cross-referenced with analytics for the project website, where there was a prominent link to the ACF site on the home page.
What would I do differently?
Less than 2.5% of my donors made donations of $30 (6 coffees) or less.
One of the first things I’d let people know is that even the small donations count. I started to use this tactic in the middle of my campaign – letting people know that for the cost of a week’s worth of coffee they could make a tax-deductible donation to an art project they care about.
The big donations are important though, and you should go into your campaign with a good idea of where they might come from. You’d be naive to think they’re not going to count. Without them, the work required to hit the target is even greater.
I’d also ensure my project partner was on board at the start of the campaign. While they were on board enough to be named, for various reasons they weren’t ready or prepared to help promote the campaign until well into the second month. I didn’t have the luxury of delaying my campaign.
Having project partners ready to mobilise greatly assists amplifying your message across digital channels, reaching people you don’t normally have access to.
Now, I’m waiting for the Australian Cultural Fund to do their thing, which will include deducting 5% of the donations raised for administration.
Through Creative Partnerships Australia, they review the donations preferenced to my project and then send through a grant agreement with the net amount. From there, I need to invoice them and the funds are then transferred to my account. This all takes time.
Eventually, an acquittal will need to be completed as well. In the meantime, I have to prioritise what the money will be spent on. The laptop for editing the terabytes of data I’m now downloading from multiple cameras and sound recording devices is becoming the most critical purchase for my project, as I need to start post-production by June.
The kind of money I’ve raised really doesn’t go very far in funding ambitious, high-tech projects but what it does do is creates a support base for my work, so essential for any artist regardless of the medium. It says to me that people believe this work is important. In my case, 45 supporters have said my Eye of the Corvus project is worthwhile.
To find out more about Eye of the Corvus: Messengers of Truth follow the project’s development on its dedicated website.