It was a difficult and complex process and there is definitely a knack to it. We were really lucky with good advice from the start and this is something we would really like to pass on.
Heres a few things we learnt along the way, hopefully it can be helpful to anyone else using this route in the arts.
Why are you doing this?
Crowdfunding takes a lot more time and energy than most people realise, you can’t just write a blurb, sit back and wait for the money to roll in, it wont. it requires time, energy and a certain brash attitude to make it happen. unless you are a used car salesman this means you have to really BELIEVE in the project you are promoting, take a good look at your project and make sure you are certain you are absolutely desperate for this thing to happen and there is no easier way to do it.
Remember you can probably only get away with crowdfunding once so MAKE IT THE RIGHT THING!
It needs to be something that other people can believe in too, ask yourself the following questions;
How does the project benefit those around me? — Does it provide entertainment, charitable help, learning or jobs for people?
Will my project genuinely make people other than me happier or better?
Why should other people support my project?
What makes your project different to anyone else's? Why should I be supported and not somebody else?
Once you have the answers for this you have a pitch which you can present to people as reasons why your project should be funded.
2) Crowdfunding platforms
There is a range of platforms for crowdfunding out there and you definitely need to pick the right one. I'll write about Kickstarter because it's the only one I know well but I definitely think you should look at a few.
Kickstarter- great because its well known and shows up easily on google, don't think because of this you will get lots of donations from strangers though, like all crowdfunding platforms most donations come through links from social media or wherever else you have shared your campaign.
The big downsides are the massive fees Kickstarter takes (up to 20% of everything you get) and the fact that if you don't meet your target you get nothing. — This can be a plus too though because people know you have to get to a certain point and will help you get there — most of your donations will be last minute.
Kickstarter is also strict about what it will and wont fund and you should definitely read the rules through before you get going on your project. It can pull you're funding at anytime so don't blag it.
Kickstarter has strict time frames. You can do funding campaigns lasting 1 week, 2 weeks 1 month, 6 weeks and 2 months max.
You need to think carefully about what timescale you need to run your campaign, too short and no one will see it, too long and your campaign will run out of steam. 6 weeks is pretty optimal.
Everyones different, some have lower fees, will let you collect even if you don't make your target and are more relaxed about what they will or wont fund my advice is shop around but use a platform with a good financial system, you really don't want that messing up!
3) Writing your pitch
This will definitely take longer than you would think, its important to get it just right, you can make changes later but its pretty tricky.
The video is the most important bit, most people accessing your campaign will watch this first, make it interesting, clear, short, entertaining and snappy. If you can get a decent film maker to film and edit it for you. We were incredibly lucky to get ours made by Naomi Symth who did a wonderful job, our project would not of made it without her. Also, know that whatever you say will come back to haunt you so keep it realistic.
try and get some footage of what you would like to do, be it maquettes, drawings or bits of showreel. also get some footage of previous work. people will want to know that you are capable of doing what you say you are going to do. my favourite Kickstarter video i have seen is Alex Wreckage's lost tea party for Burning Man campaign-
Take a good look at other peoples campaigns and decide what you think is good, theres a lot of crap out there which will definitely make you feel better about your own project.
The importance of rewards, you need to think carefully about what you can and will offer;
Is it feasible-how much will it cost to make/produce ?
Is it interesting? Will people want it?
Is it worth doing? I.e. things like T shirts are a great idea if you get enough donations to make them worthwhile.
Is it realistic? Can you personally make and send 1000 postcards books etc?
Sit down carefully and cost out each reward, add to how much you are asking for on the Kickstarter, is it worth it?
Which leads us to - How much are you asking for? remember to carefully add up your costs, the fees that Kickstarter will ask for and your reward costs. often its better to ask for more, it's a rule of thumb that all artistic projects will cost double what you think they will. of course the more you ask for the scarier it is to try and raise the money. find a middle ground. in the end if you cant fund the project on the money you are asking for you are letting all your backers down.
Pick your launch date carefully. When do you want your campaign to end? Check the dates and times, like eBay selling you want it to be at a time when people are online with not much else to do. Sat nights are a big no no, weds afternoons are great! You want a few weekdays before your deadline to do the last big push.
4) launching your pitch
Before you launch write to your local papers and media outlets, a couple of newspaper reports about your project will help it get up and running. This might take a couple of weeks so do it early on.
Start a Facebook group (ideally an event group) that will help you with your Kickstarter countdown. If you invite people to the event then they see everything you post unlike in a normal group.
Use twitter. Build a twitter profile before you are up and running, make friends, follow and share.
- Social media is going to be your only friend for the next few weeks so get used to being on it all the time (it will totally do your head in!)
Write a marketing plan — this is vital! Make it interesting and fun. Stories are good, never say the same thing twice and add pictures as you go.
Share share share! Ask all your good mates to share. Direct personal messages are best (copy and paste if its easier) — ideally you need one or two of your friends to share this every day. Everyone needs to see it! And yes people will hate you. This is why you have to BELIEVE! — Think cult. because thats what you are now, an arts marketing cult.
5) once your up and running
Keep your eye on the ball and keep sharing! Try and do something everyday, be that sharing on a group page, messaging some friends or organising a benefit gig. But remember there is a fine line between sharing and spam do not spam! Be interesting!. Keep it fresh and exciting.
Now is the time for looking at arts grants or other funding sources — you are finding match funding! That means arts organisations love you. Big up your Kickstarter campaign, it shows your are entrepreneurial enough to make a project work.
Start up chunk, like buskers you need a little in the hat to start with. Ask a few close friends to donate first, you need to build up momentum in a project and to do that you want a couple of hundred in the first few days. — If some people believe, others will.
As you can see it still involves a large amount of time and effort. you are looking at a day a week of marketing probably, so either stop leaving the house or try to set aside a couple of hours a day and be mega disciplined
Thank everyone who donates no matter how little, it's amazing they donated at all. They are probably totally skint and you totally owe them for their support.
Thats the thing about Kickstarter, you basically now owe the whole world around you a favour. Be grateful. And make your project worth it.
6) The big dip
Its quite easy to see if a projects going well or not by looking at the Kickstarter mid way. Most projects have a good start, slow down loads in the middle and then suddenly get the last half in the final week. — If your projects got over a £1000 in the first two weeks dont panic you are doing well.
heres a few things you can do to beef it up in the middle;
keep it interesting
Save a few juicy bits till the middle of your campaign. — Perhaps start your project and do a build diary organise a fundraiser or do a PR stunt it will help spread the word and stop people being bored with you sharing the same old thing.
Invite people in, be open to talking to anybody, at any point. You have to be super sociable at this period because the more you get other people enthusiastic about your project the more people will share and donate. Open up your workshop or rehearsals or…go to the pub! — Yes the pub is a valuable networking tool. Enjoy.
Do a photo diary of your campaign. Make it fun and lighthearted, but dont do it in the pub!
7) the final push
Direct message people, this feels horrible but it will totally save your campaign. Do not ask directly for money! Thats spamming, but do ask for people to share and to take a look. Its incredibly useful but again you have to really believe in what you are doing otherwise you will feel a bit wrong!
You are now an unalloyed media whore — enjoy! Luckily you are nearly there now. Share everyday and do a countdown so that everyone knows how long you’ve got. Be brave, you will get there!
Ghost bidding, before I go any further remember that this is the kind of thing that will get you kicked out of Kickstarter. nevertheless its worth remembering that if you absolutely need to you can borrow money and get a friend to add it in to make it to your target. Just dont bid yourself.
Stick to your aims - Congratulations! You've made it. Now you have stuck your head above the parapet you definitely need to make your project work though.
a) Thank everybody — I cannot stress this enough!
b) Send out rewards as soon as you can and communicate with everyone who has donated. If some rewards are late or missing then just explain to people as best you can.
just try your hardest. one of the scariest things for me about doing a Kickstarter was the fact that i then had to live up to everyones belief in our project. we had to make it work and live up to our aims and ideals, we tried our best but i think its impossible to make everyone happy and somebody will always feel like you haven’t done enough. just try your hardest and remember that while its great that people donated it was their own free choice, be grateful but they do not own you or your project. it's your hard work that will make this thing happen and most people are just happy to of contributed to it.
A year after running our Kickstarter I still feel like I owe the world a lot of favours, I think you can only dispel this feeling by running the best project you can. Using the funding to pay for people and things and keeping our creative economy going. Thats what the money is for.
Enjoy what you have achieved and breathe. You've done it!