Crowdfunding for the Visual Arts

Crowdfunding is when a group of people come together to support a project, often in exchange for a perk or reward. Not just a one-off fundraising tool, an artist can expand their connections as well as bring their creations to life. Anna Maguire, author of Crowdfund it! shares her top tips to maximise your chance of crowdfunding success.

Harriet Body, one half of Thom and Angelmouse, used crowdfunding for their video installation at the Underbelly Arts Festival in 2015. Harriet said, "I think crowdfunding personalises a project from a community perspective. People who donate feel like they're a part of the project and have a sort of ownership of it and so will continue to follow and support it and the artists that they have donated to."

Unfortunately though, it can too often be a missed opportunity so it's important to understand what is going to make your project stand out.

Here are my top tips to maximise your chance of crowdfunding success.

1. Don't rush it

No, really, don't. I recommend crowdfunders work out every last detail before they launch. Research crowdfunding and learn from what worked or, what didn't reach funding. It's also useful to back a few projects so that you understand it from the viewpoint of a supporter.

2. Tell me a story

In order to connect with your potential supporters, make sure you use your creative talents in your crowdfunding campaign. Whatever your talent is, show, don't just tell! I want to know who you are, why you are running this crowdfunding campaign, what you've done previously and if I can trust you to deliver. Keep me interested and inspire me to be part of your creative journey.

3. Plan and prepare

That's not just your project page, video and perks, but, without wanting to sound too corporate 'Your Communications Plan'. If you're hoping to get any media you will also need to plan ahead and think about the angle. You should have your story planned and why it's worthy of attention. Crowdfunding exists online so you need to have social media set up in advance. Think about what updates you will need to do throughout your campaign and what you will include in your individual emails to people. Although you can run your campaign for longer, I recommend that a month is ideal. It's hard work crowdfunding and you want to condense the time frame. Remember most pledges come in at the start and end, so plan what to do to keep up momentum in the middle of the campaign.

4. Reward me

Naturally, crowdfunding works really well for a preorder campaign for the project outcome. Think also about what other rewards you can offer. I like receiving a little sketch on a postcard, a poem written for someone I love, an inscription of gratitude on a book or even learning a new skill in exchange for my support. Coming up with your rewards really is a time when you should brainstorm and be creative. Don't forget to include all aspects of the rewards in your campaign budget – the item itself, and packaging and postage within Australia or additional costs for overseas.

5. It's all about the video

Gone are the days when a shaky mobile video with poor sound and visuals would be good enough. Crowdfunding has evolved greatly and so has the expectation for a good quality two to three minutes pitch video. Although it can be a bit intimidating, you should be in the video so your passion and commitment can shine through. Although videos are not mandatory, having one greatly increases your chance of crowdfunding success.

5. Don't give up!

Crowdfunding can be full of emotional highs and lows. There may be a point where you feel you won't make your goal. Keep working at it and think of simple ways to convince people to support you. It may be by saying, "For the price of a week of takeaway coffee, you can…" Remember, you're not begging – you're offering something in exchange for support. I talked to artist and writer Greer Taylor before she launched her successful campaign for her book empheral. Taylor said, "Out of all the things you said to me, one thing stuck in my head - 'have no shame!'. You advised me to get out there and talk to people I might not otherwise talk to. That was my mantra during the period I ran my campaign. When I felt a bit low if I was not getting many pledges I'd hear those words in my head! Without your 'have no shame' advice I may have given up on the project!"

Above all, remember that crowdfunding isn't a life or death undertaking! If you don't meet your goal, then learn from the experience and ask for feedback. Crowdfunding is enabling dreams to become reality – Listen and learn and yours may too!

Anna Maguire

Anna Maguire, author of Crowdfund It!