It doesn't quite matter what you're working on, at some point you'll need to capital, money to get started. Your goals may be big, but most often our budgets are not. Gathering funding for your creative projects is no small task, sure to uncover ideas and skills you never know you had, as well as trigger some sleepless nights and maybe even a little hair loss (lets hope not) But despite the possible set-back or two, raising money for your projects or business is completely achievable.
It's important to note that this isn't about how to write grant applications. Grants are government tools for funding ideas and projects that provide public services or benefit the community. Grant applications are no small venture and do take a significant amount of concentration, research and help. Not every person or project qualifies for grant, but anyone can raise funds for their ideas using public platforms like the ones below.
Here, are some of the most successful and commonly used platforms that anyone can use and some ways to get your ideas off the ground:
Think of your project as a startup or small company.
Spreading the word about your project is the first step towards gathering funds, resources, and collaborators. As an artist, you are a self-employed freelancer. This means you have to constantly sell yourself and your work to different kinds of people.
Take some time to write a few pitches.
Find the right words to pitch your project to:
Investors who don’t know anything about art
Artists who work in your field
Your parents who know you might not really know much about your work
Your friend who knows you and has been to your show but needs to be reminded
Thinking of the different “selling points” or vocabulary needed to explain your project to different levels of involvement will help you build a profile, a public-facing platform that many people might access and have questions/comments about.
Think of other people that might be willing to get on board. Perhaps it’s not at the artist level, but you might have a friend who is really good at numbers/accounting and is willing to lend a hand or run you through the basics of expenses, budgeting, and fundraising.
Connect with similar minded artists or people in your community.
Find places that might be willing to host you for free or pay you to show your work. You might build collaborations or co-host events as a way to begin making noise about your upcoming fundraising campaign. The more people that you share your project with, the more people that will be willing to fund you the minute you begin fundraising. It’s a way of doing market research, finding out who is interested in your work and who might be willing to donate or host a fundraiser for you.
Once you know how to talk about your project, it’s time to start thinking of the different ways to raise funds for it. Here are some ideas:
Host a party
Good old fundraising still works! Creating an event or party either at your home or local pub can get friends and family together and help you raise awareness as well as make some money for your project. Maybe it’s an arts night, maybe you get someone to perform or do a drink-and-draw session and pitch your project to your inner circle. Running a fundraising campaign can take many shapes and styles, and there is nothing embarrassing about asking for money for a project you believe in. Sometimes we only show our passion and dreams to our closest circle, but you’d be surprise how many people – and their parents, friends, or even bosses – would be happy to hear about them too, and pitch in! This might also be an opportunity to recruit some interested folk as collaborators.
Barter for goods
What can you trade for help? Get collaborators on board by offering your skills in exchange for theirs. Make a list of the things you can do – teach a language, an instrument, a technique, design a website, advice on CVs, take photographs, etc. and make a list of what you need from others – space, materials, coding, costumes, performers, models, etc., and see where you can make a trade! Not all fundraising is money related, some of it is resourcing through unlikely routes.
Raising money for your project doesn’t always have to come from the project itself. Picking up some freelance work can help sustain you while you fundraise, or give you some extra cash to put aside for your project. Websites like Fiverr allow you to pick up work here and there in many different areas. You can pick up work in design, animation, illustration, coding, and even proofreading others’ writing. Build your profile and show others what you got to offer!
Online fundraising is very effective. It allows you to reach out to interested contributors beyond your circle of friends and even internationally. Big campaigns, companies, projects, and films have been crowdfunded like that. There are many sites for online fundraising, but here are four of the biggest players.
The cool thing about Kickstarter is that it focuses mainly on art. From music to comics to performance, its motto is “bringing creative projects to life.” You’ll find indie zines, food carts, tech products, and web series. On a quick browse, it looks like their art section has more sub-categories, and their projects have a higher amount of funding that in other sites. It also seems more global, having projects located around the world and allowing you to search by country and find projects near you. The big caveat with Kickstarter is that they are an ‘all-or-nothing’ fundraiser, and if you do not reach your goal in pledges, you don’t get any cash and Kickstarter takes 5% cut from your funds.
According to Kickstarter stats, people have launched 31,750 Art Projects and 41.92% of them successfully reached their campaign goals.
Here's an example of a successful Kickstarter campaign by Byrony Kimmings & Tim Grayburn. Almost £7,000 pledged towards a £6000 goal for a performance on mental health.
Branded as an entrepreneurial launch pad with a focus on tech, Indiegogo is invested in helping you get from idea to product to business. It’s very startup oriented and mostly geared towards small business owners and less towards artists, but there’s always a few artistic projects and products that are worth getting inspiration from. My favourite thing about Indiegogo is that they give you guidance and try to coach you through the fundraising process. Indiegogo takes 5% cut from your funds.
Here's an example of a successful Indiegogo campaign by Benny Sanders
Raised over $10,000 to paint 60 works on location across the American North and Southwest.
I love Patreon’s focus on community. Through Patreon, you can launch a business or project that requires a constant influx of cash, whilst simultaneously building a network of supporters, fans, and friends. It brands itself as a membership platform rather than a funding platform. The issue is that backers have to commit to recurring donations, which might keep some folks from supporting your project. On the plus side, the membership commitment ensures that people interested in your work will provide a constant source of funding. If you are working on a long-term project, consider Patreon as an online fan base growing platform where you can build relationships with like-minded artists and audiences. Patreon takes 5% cut from your funds.
As of Oct 23, 2018 Patreon has $97,437 pledges in Drawing & Painting, and makes $323,626 in monthly payouts.
Here's an example of a successful Patreon campaign by media company Dead End Hip Hop
Dead End Hip-hop is a media company raising over $6,000 monthly to produce videos, podcasts, and panels about hip-hop.
Click to view the whole chart
GoFundMe is the go-to fundraiser for charities, personal projects, and need-based fundraising. It really is in the name. Through GoFundMe, you are asking friends, family, and fans to fund you, your education, health procedure, charitable cause, marathon, etc. They are usually very personal, charitable causes and one offs. They are a 0% fee platform.
Here's an example of a successful GoFundMe campaign by Jonathan Meiburg
Over $30,000 towards a $21,500 goal to fund a book and a tour with other artists.
Beyond these, I have also seen friends build their own website (paid or free on sites like Wordpress, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace etc.) and attach a PayPal account for people to donate money. This ensures they get all the funds directly minus the small PayPal fee. Additionally, in the UK, Arts Council does have small grants from £1000 - £15,000+ that you can apply for. Grant applications are a different kettle of fish from the above fundraising campaigns, but if that's something you'd like to some insight on, leave a comment below.
Hopefully by seeing these examples and how they formulated and worded their pledges and descriptions, you have just enough to get you started in the right direction for raising funds for your your creative project or business.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Valentina is a Colombian artist based in London. She is currently finishing her MA in Performance Practice as Research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and is interested in issues of race, representation, and contemporary performance. Before coming to the UK, she completed her undergraduate degree at NYU Abu Dhabi.