byA. Richard Langley
Creating art can be a challenging, solitary experience. As Pablo Picasso noted, “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” Sometimes, however, you need to draw energy and support from others beyond family, friends, and colleagues. A well-designed, online crowdfunding art project can enhance your profile—and your bottom line—by attracting hundreds or thousands of potential backers to your project. Four platforms popular with artists are Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon, and GoFundMe.
You should treat launching and managing a crowdfunding campaign with the same passion and focus you bring to your work. The following tips and guidelines will help you learn about and navigate the campaign process.
Determine Crowdfunding Art Project Scope, Timeline, and Budget
Before choosing a crowdfunding platform, you should fully plan and understand the creative, financial, and technical parameters of your project.
- Develop a clearly defined proposal. Know your goal, the creative elements and resources the project requires, and its target audience.
- Set a project completion date. With a well-planned enterprise, you can set a realistic timeline to make it happen. Project backers on the platform you choose will expect you to honor the deadline. A shorter campaign of 30 days or less shows the community you’re organized and confident—and creates a sense of urgency to motivate backers.
- Calculate a realistic fund-raising goal. Consider costs for materials, resources, expenses (planned and unexpected), backer rewards, and fees (e.g., the platform’s funding fee and those from the payment processor). Backers will expect regular updates to see that the project aligns with the funding.
Create Content for a Homepage
Many crowdfunding platforms require you to develop a homepage for your campaign. This page introduces you and your project to potential backers in the crowdfunding community—and you need to make a great first impression.
- Prepare a concise bio. Briefly cover your creative background and past work (include links to or pictures of them).
- Describe the project. Develop a clear and succinct description of the project and your goals for it. Include an image or video (required for many platforms) to visually engage and inform backers.
- Provide backer rewards. Explain rewards at different donation levels. Rewards should align with the focus of your project and can include limited editions, digital downloads, or accessories.
Choose a Crowdfunding Site
This is a major decision. You should thoroughly research the following four platforms (and others—KissKissBankBank is an up-and-comer) to choose the best one for your project—and your budget.
One of the most popular crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter is a wide-reaching, user-friendly platform geared toward creative types. It has numerous categories (e.g., Art, Design, and Film), and is ideal to do a one-time campaign for a creative project.
- Funding facts. All or nothing—the project must reach its funding goal to collect money from backers. While it may not sound good, if your project isn’t meeting its funding goal, this model eases the creative pressure on you—and financial concerns of backers. (Otherwise, they may expect full results even if you don’t achieve full funding.)
- Setup and pricing. No setup fee. For a fully funded project, 5% platform fee for all funds raised and 3% to 5% payment processing fees. No fees if funding isn’t successful.
- Approval process. Rigid vetting to ensure your project falls into one of the Kickstarter categories and meets their rules. Review time is generally about 30 hours; allow two to three days in case your project requires any changes before it can launch. Approximately 80% of projects are accepted.
- Campaign duration. Up to 60 days. (Kickstarter recommends 30 days.)
- Interesting project(s). Marina Abramovic Institute: The Founders, and Meow Wolf Art Complex ft. The House of Eternal Return (“Meow Wolf and George R.R. Martin join forces to produce an art complex featuring the most insane art experience imaginable”).
Indiegogo supports a wider range of project categories than Kickstarter (e.g., Environment, Gaming, and Health), but it has less traffic and brand name recognition.
It has a diverse base, and if your funding goals are relatively low, Indiegogo may work for you.
- Funding facts. Fixed funding (“all or nothing”) or flex funding (you collect all funds pledged by backers—even if you don’t meet the full goal). For flex funding, you must always provide backers with promised rewards.
- Setup and pricing. No setup fee. Both funding options have a 5% platform fee for all funds raised and 3% to 5% payment processing fees.
- Approval process. No formal review process. This can be a good opportunity for you and your project to stand out or you may face intense competition to attract backers.
- Campaign duration. Up to 60 days. (Indiegogo recommends 30 to 40 days.)
- Interesting project(s). Temporary but preserved: chalk art by David Zinn (creating temporary street art—”art underfoot”—in public places, and MAMI (“an exhibition that reflects on the process of discovering the Others within ourselves”).
Patreon is ideal for funding personal, small-scale projects. It encourages creators to follow and fund other projects and prefers them to solicit recurring funding (subscription payment). This model, on a relatively easy-to-use platform, is ideal to fund a long-term project with ongoing creations.
- Funding facts. Patrons (backers) can pledge a monthly fee or pledge per creation. If you promise rewards to backers, you must honor them.
- Setup and pricing. No setup fee. Five (5)% platform fee for all funds raised, 3% to 5% payment processing fees, and small fees to receive funds (depending on payment receipt method).
- Approval process. No formal review process; Support performs audits.
- Campaign duration. No time limits or deadlines.
- Interesting project(s). Shannon McCormick is creating all kinds of projects (writer, actor, and web comic).
GoFundMe primarily supports campaigns for funding immediate personal needs, but artists do campaign on it. The platform has no existing community, so most of your backers will be people in your personal network (family, friends, and colleagues). However, you can create own fundraising website for GoFundMe—and your personal contacts—to share across social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter).
- Funding facts. You can collect all funds pledged by backers—even if you don’t meet the full goal. You aren’t required to promise rewards to backers, but if you do, you must honor them.
- Setup and pricing. No setup fee. Five (5)% platform fee for all funds raised, 2.9% payment processing fees and $0.30 per donation. Fees are the same whether the project is fully funded or partially funded. Understand that backers may expect 100% results even if you don’t get 100% funded.
- Approval process. No formal review process.
- Campaign duration. No time limits or deadlines.
While crowdfunding gives emerging artists a great opportunity to gather funds for new and interesting projects, it is necessary for you to ensure that your project has some sort of social or cultural value to it. Trying to start a campaign solely for personal gains is not ethical and has low chances of success.
Below is a list of projects and ideas that would NOT be suitable for crowdfunding –
Personal Financial Gain – Buying Art Supplies, Paying For Painting Trips and Purchasing Art
Personal Marketing – Gallery Representation Funds, Paying Artist Agent Fee and Reserving An Exhibition Space
Morally Wrong Projects – Funding For Projects Or Events That Target A Particular Race, Gender Or Religion
Needless to say, any illegal activities or projects that involve unethical methods, is also NOT recommended.
During your crowdfunding art project, be proactive. Promote your project via (brief) content and visual updates on your campaign homepage and on social media—especially at campaign launch and end. You can also use analytics and campaign optimization features to efficiently track and attract backers.
Yes, it’s important to choose the right crowdfunding platform. Ultimately, you will determine the success of your campaign. You must deliver and effectively market a quality project that captures attention—and backing—inside and outside the community. Be realistic—not every campaign reaches its fund-raising goal. But every donation, big or small, helps.
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This post is also available in: Spanish