Fundraising For Your Record…Get Your Fans Involved!
Individual artists have always had it hard no matter what the medium. Finding grant money for individual creative projects is super difficult if not impossible and highly, highly competitive. This money has become even more scarce in recent years due to major funding cuts across the nation. If the funders don’t get funded…well, then everyone’s screwed. In the midst of all this funding shortage something new and interesting started to happen in the land of fundraising…it’s called crowd funding.
Crowd funding is pretty much just what its name implies…smaller donations from a whole bunch of average people instead of giant donations from just a few very rich people or organizations. This kind of fundraising was thrust into the spotlight with the Obama campaign in 2008. They used social media and crowd funding to take the campaign directly to the people and make that intimate connection with supporters who may not have wanted to or been able to participate otherwise. This is probably the most publicized example, but many artists have been doing this sort of thing for years.
Performers like Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses) started crowd funding before anyone had a catchy name for it. She offered (and still does, in fact) “normal” thank you gifts like free swag and unreleased music…but also really cool things like producer credit on the record, a house concert, hang out at the studio while we record…etc…etc. Of course in the 1990s if you wanted to have this kind of audience participation you had to invent your own way to do it because all the existing fundraising services/platforms were specifically for nonprofits. If you weren’t a 501c3, you were out of luck. That all started to change with a little service called Kickstarter.
What do you get when you make a donation to your favorite charity? Let’s see…you always get a tax deduction and you also might get a thank you gift…or two depending on how big the donation is. Kickstarter was one of the first online platforms to allow individuals to take donations for a creative project in exchange for “perks” (thank you gifts). Since regular people can’t offer a tax deduction, the thank you gifts are really important. As I said before, many artists have been doing this type of thing since the 90s, but there really weren’t any online platforms that took the idea to the mainstream. Kickstarter beta popped up on my radar in 2008 (beta is basically a test trial to see if a program will work and if people will be interested in using it…and to get feedback) and was open to the public by invitation only. It’s now in full swing…and it’s getting lots of company on the web.
Kickstarter is an example of all-or-nothing fundraising, which means you must set a deadline and a goal amount and if you don’t meet the goal by the deadline…you don’t get anything. Other services that have popped up relax this a bit, like Chip In. They make you set a deadline, but if you don’t reach your goal amount, you still can get the funds. Many of these services are specifically for creative projects (arts oriented) but several don’t care what kind of project it is…as long as it doesn’t break any laws. There are many variations on this theme, so I looked around, read some other blogs and news articles and found a couple platforms worth mentioning. Here’s a basic little summary of each:
Kickstarter– all or nothing fundraising, you must set a deadline and goal amount. If you don’t reach the goal amount, you get nothing. Projects must be submitted for approval by Kickstarter staff. Requires an Amazon Payments account. They and Amazon charge service fees only on funds collected…so if funding isn’t successful (you don’t reach your goal amount) then nothing gets charged to anyone…BUT you end up back at square one. They are geared toward creative projects.
Chip In– This is the one that Lynn Drury used to fundraise for her newest record, Sugar on the Floor, that just came out. Their service is totally FREE but it requires a PayPal account and they charge service fees. You must have a time limit and it’s a good idea to set a goal amount. You don’t have to, but according to them projects with goal amounts fair better than those without. If you don’t reach your goal amount by your deadline, you can still claim the money…or start another funding cycle to try and make up the difference. No preference for project type.
Indie GoGo– Similar to Chip In, but they charge a service fee. One cool thing, they offer a fiscal sponsorship program for groups and organizations who want to offer a tax deduction to donors, but don’t have their own 501c3 status. It requires membership in one of their two partner nonprofits and an application to that nonprofit for fiscal sponsorship… the nonprofit will also charge you a service fee. No preference for project type.
Go Fund Me– Similar to Indie GoGo in that they charge service fees, too. The big difference is that there is no deadline or goal amount requirement, which means that fundraising cycles can be ongoing. No preference for project type.
Rocket Hub– Very similar to those above, but with a rocket theme. They charge fees, require deadlines and goal amounts, but you get the money even if you don’t reach your goal. It isn’t clear, however, how payment is made when a funding cycle is over. They have a themed virtual community set up that I found to be kinda weird and unnecessarily complicated, but it might appeal to online role playing gamers who want to raise money for something. They prefer creative projects, but will allow other project types as well.
So, there you have it. Check them out and see what kind of cool perks you can think of to offer your fans…make that connection and get them involved in the process. Give them yet another reason to love and share your art with others.