The Art of Crowdfunding For Artists

The Art of Crowdfunding for Artists

crowdfunding for art projects


Each week I write a brand new article for members of our three wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take a quick look into crowdfunding and if this can be a useful route to raise funding for an independent visual artist.

We also take a look at some of the services you might want to use and give you the links to some of the most popular crowdfunding sites on the web. There’s some hopefully helpful advice and if you decide to give it a go, get in touch and let me know!

This article came a little out of the blue. had been contemplating ways to cover at least some of the costs of keeping this site updated for a while but a client of mine who I have been helping for a few years wanted to raise some funding for a future art project. Grants and art funding is often complex and especially when you are trying to manage and run projects on your own. 

I’ve worked with a number of crowdfunding projects over the years for different people and organisations and I’ve been involved in bid writing and contracts for as long as I can remember. It’s definitely something that is an acquired taste!

And we also take a look at some practical ideas for your first crowdfunding campaign. Many artists seek out art grants for projects and there are many artists who feel that the entire grants and awards processes are often overly complicated. 

They can be. Simply knowing what funding rules apply to any process can often prove to be challenging to the uninitiated. Crowdfunding is an alternative which is a little less complex but that doesn’t mean that you can essentially just wing it and hope for the best, you still need a strategy and you have to absolutely deliver what you promise. 

What is it?

Crowdfunding is a method that can be used to raise money for a project or venture from a large number of people who each contribute a relatively small (or large) amount of money via the internet although offline crowdfunding is an option in some cases too. 

Crowdfunding is often synonymous with rewards and sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow people to pledge money in return for products and other things, or in some cases the promises of products and other things which might or might not materialise. Others are just donations without necessarily bringing a reward.

There are many ways to crowdfund and it depends to an extent on what you are raising money for as to which of the major crowdfunding services you use. 

What crowdfunding is not, is a way to get people to pay for your poor life-choices! When I carried out the research for this article I was surprised at just how many people had set up a crowdfunding project which offers the person making the donation no reward, no value, and frankly they were asking for funding for things which were plain crazy. 

Whilst there were some notable exceptions where people could donate towards resolving or helping with medical issues which is where crowdfunding can be really useful, there were also a few that really were a little bizarre. There were the regular ones such as fund my breast enlargement for vanity rather than any medical need and there were some where you could tell that the person was in dire need of help and support and really were worthy. 

But crowdfunding has seen the very bizarre as well. Who can forget a few years ago when the NoPhone made an appearance. A piece of plastic that was shaped like a cell-phone but which was ultimately just a lump of plastic which acted as a useless surrogate device to put in your pocket where phones weren’t allowed. Then we saw the Grilled Cheese sandwich maker that embossed the face of Christ into every grilled cheese sandwich, “Grilled Cheesus” which I am sure someone will tell me is probably now a billion dollar industry and I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Crowdfunding when it works well is a great way to raise seed money but in many cases it is far from a start-up fundraising panacea. There are probably more crowdfunding requests on these sites that to date have yet to see anyone make a contribution to than there are that have been successful.

Many countries also have legal requirements in place for anyone who crowdfunds and some of which are perhaps a little too complex and too many to go through here today, but before you set up a crowdfunding initiative you might want to check out any applicable rules, laws and regulations that might be needed to be adhered too.

Essentially crowdfunding is usually split into different categories some of which will be regulated, others won’t be regulated at all. 

Loan-based where individuals or businesses crowdfund in the hope of a return on the form of interest payments and a repayment of capital over time tend to be regulated in most countries. 

Investment based crowdfunding where people invest directly in a business by buying shares or debt securities are also regulated almost everywhere. 

Donation based crowdfunding is where people give money to individuals, enterprises or organisations and causes with no expectation of any return tend not to be quite so regulated and in some areas this kind of activity isn’t regulated at all. But be warned to check the legal status first with someone who is a professional in this area in your country.

Pre-payment or rewards based crowdfunding is when people give money to receive a reward, service, or product and this is also mostly unregulated but again it is best to check the legal position and find out exactly where you stand before you start the process of crowdfunding.


crowdfunding for the community


Is crowdfunding right for you?

Crowdfunding might not be the best way to fund your project at all so you have to have a very clear goal in mind before starting out on this path. 

You also have to have a compelling story to tell in order to get people to part with their cash and be precise about what’s in it for them. 

To give you a better idea as to what type of projects win support and which don’t, it is important to carry out as much research as you can before signing up to a crowdfunding platform. Look at similar projects and see which ones have done well but also which ones haven’t done so well at all. 

There are hundreds if not thousands of crowdfunding advice blogs and websites online but they’re not always kept up to date and some of the information contained as with anything on the internet can quickly become outdated. So visit the actual crowdfunding websites and the communities within them as a starting point.

You also need time to prepare everything and have a well thought out business case in most instances. Pre-marketing to raise awareness is one of the best ways that you can start to work out what the levels of interest might or might not be to support a project and the best way to do this is ask similar types of people to those that might want to support what you want to do.

You need to create some excitement about your crowdfunding launch. An impassioned plea of “help me to live out my dream” might not be a convincer for most folk to part with their cash so you  need to have something that makes people want to be a part of your project. In short crowdfunding isn’t just about the, me, me, and me, it has to resonate and offer some value to those who commit to spending their hard earned cash or it needs to support something worthy. 

That value might be that they get something out of making the donation and it could be that they value comes from the person making the donation having a great feeling to have helped or it could come from some other kind of reward.

You need to plan everything down to the last detail…

So you have decided that you want to raise funds to open up a hypothetical high street art gallery that represents artists who wouldn’t usually exhibit in galleries. Sounds like a noble idea but there might be a million reasons why those artists don’t already have their work in galleries. Maybe they dislike the idea of representation and giving up some control, or maybe they have unsuccessfully applied to galleries in the past or have been refused. There are about a million reasons in between and it is your job to figure out if your concept or idea is going to get funded and whether or not there is really a need. 

It’s also easy to think that costs will be lower than they are. So in our hypothetical gallery start-up we would need to consider not just the rent for the accommodation, but the fixtures, fittings, electricity, services, marketing and insurance as well as the other things that one would need to set up a business and then there are taxes too. 

It’s easy to think that ten bucks will cover everything you need but if you find out down the line that you need fifty bucks, it is difficult to go back to your existing backers and tell them, “hey, we need more money”.

Something else which is easy to do in the excitement of setting up a campaign is to over promise and woefully under deliver. Many of the campaigns that I looked through on the various platforms and who had to date yielded no response also had a huge number of reward tiers where reward tiers were available.

If you pledged $30 then you would receive X, but there were so many options that it would be difficult to either find the time to provide X, or Y, or any number of the other options to the donor in return for their donation. It looked confusing and when I viewed one reward tier of one project it was the same reward as the highest tier which offered little incentive to those who were looking for rewards. Setting too many goals and rewards can create problems for you which you might be unprepared for. At the minimum, people want the reward or the value so it is your job to convey simply what the reward is and then provide them whatever that reward is.

Getting people interested…

If you are planning a Kickstarter or crowdfunding campaign then you’ll need people and telling a compelling story to get them interested is only a part of what you need. 

Social media springs to mind but most people won’t have the numbers of followers or the variety of audience that they need to gain much traction so you have to work on diversifying your social strategy to match your campaign.

We have covered so often in the past the need to know exactly who your audience are on social media but if you plan on a crowdfunding campaign it’s even more important to know exactly who your audience are and make sure what you offer resonates with them. 

Your existing followers might lend some support but depending on how much you need to raise will determine how many new followers you will need to stand a chance of even getting towards your first funding milestone and again unless you are offering them some value there’s a probability that you won’t even get that far. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd and my experience of crowdfunding is that you have to set fairly low expectations and then you have to build them up through hard work. 

So what are the platforms? 

There are lots of platforms and some have more specific niches and purposes than others. Some will be geared towards innovative new product development and there are some that really excel in creating campaigns for the arts.

Kickstarter…

Kickstarter is one such platform that seems to be full of creative types but I did notice that many of the campaigns were to produce books or for new music albums. Kickstarter is reward based and this can add significant workload to your already busy life. 

Unless you reach your goal you don’t get any money at all but there are enough categories to squeeze an idea into. 

Patreon…

Patreon is a crowdfunding home to many visual artists but it works slightly differently to many others in that it is a monthly subscription service where supporters pay a regular amount rather than a single one-off payment. 

The goal of Patreon is to provide ongoing support to the person seeking the funding and therefore a meaningful revenue stream. Fans of your work will pay an amount in return for exclusive experiences and behind the scenes content. 

On the Patreon website they mention that it is predictable income but I would expect that some people might provide a donation and then discontinue it after a period of time, so there are no guarantees. 

However, competition for subscribers is tough with more than 10,000 visual artists who are on the platform. But having said that and despite hearing from a few friends who have yet to get any subscribers it does seem to be the best of the bunch for visual artists. 

Go Fund Me…

This really does seem to be the place for those one off donations for good causes but some do use the platform for personal funding and emergencies too and it is the only platform that doesn’t charge a platform fee. It is also packed with creatives and worthy art projects.  

Millions of people turn to Go Fund Me in times of need to support themselves, friends and strangers. Donors can also pay a voluntary tip to Go Fund Me along with the donation which is how the platform survives. I love the idea that something so useful can survive through the goodwill of people. 

If you don’t meet your goal you still get to keep the already donated money. Once the goal is reached you have options to continue to accept donations and continue your campaign for as long as you need.

Many countries and currencies are supported and there are literally thousands of campaigns on the platform and most seem to have at least a small donation. 

If there is something that you need to make things easier in life or want to support a charity or even if you want to support the work I do through this website you can set up a Go Fund Me page by clicking the link above.  

You can allow whoever you are raising money for to access a portal so that they can draw down any donations so other than setting something up and sharing the campaign there’s not much that you need to do except continue to let people know the why and how and where. 

As I said earlier I am trying to move away from an ad-supported site to one which can be run without those pesky adverts getting in the way and so finally I added a Go Fund Me button to this website! If you want to support the work I do you can find out more by clicking the Go Fund Me icon in the sidebar. If you are viewing on a mobile device or tablet you might have to click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner of this site, and any support will be deeply appreciated! 

You can also click on this link right here.   

Indiegogo…

Indiegogo is geared more towards entrepreneurs who need to raise capital and validate an idea by tapping into a network of early adopters.  

The platform is suited to generating starter capital and to find customers for a new idea. There is no apples to apples comparison of sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter with Indiegogo being more suited to producing new businesses and products. 

They have a range of partners geared up for prototyping and manufacturing and they also have links with retail partners. Art projects are catered for on the platform as are things such as environmental and social causes. 

This may be suited to the hypothetical gallery idea but Go Fund Me might be more suited to other art projects. You can find out more about Indiegogo by clicking the link above. 

Ulule…

Never quite sure of the pronunciation for Ulule but it is squarely focussed on funding success of creators and entrepreneurs. The about us page of Ulule suggests that it is a pioneering crowdfunding platform enabling creative, innovative, and community minded projects to test their idea, build a community and make it grow.

More than 2-million members worldwide and more than 22,000 successfully funded projects has been achieved with personalised coaching bought to each and every project owner before, during, and after his or her campaign.

Individuals, associations, and companies create a project and detail their financial objectives, the duration of the campaign, and the non-financial rewards they offer in return.

We have looked at setting up self-organised artist shows in the past and given some of the creative projects which are currently seeking funding on the platform this may be a great place to take a look at.

You can find out more by clicking the link above. 


crowdfunding together we create


Worth having a go!

I had been seriously considering Patreon as an alternative strategy to help support this site rather than having any adverts and I even set up a Patreon account a year or more ago. Alas I never quite got around to pressing ahead with the campaign much to the annoyance of my bank manager, literally everything I do here comes out of my own pocket. 

As I mentioned earlier I have finally set up a Go Fund Me page. There’s absolutely no commitment to anyone to make a donation but any donations I do receive will go towards maintaining this site and will help towards some of the costs involved. The adverts I allow at the moment unfortunately don’t get clicked on enough and I have a feeling that online advertising is going to change to the point where it is totally pointless for small websites to rely on to support costs. If you’re relying on ads to support any of your own websites you might have already seen declines in revenue. 

Most people now view through mobile and use ad-blockers and new data protection rules mean that it is difficult to monetise through ads. Just the work involved in reviewing adverts to make sure there are no bad players is massive compared to the return. If I could ditch the ads I would be at least 2-3 hours a week better off, and financially I don’t think it will make a jot of difference. 

To date there are zero contributions to my Go Fund Me campaign but I will keep you updated. I am forever the optimist and desperate to drop the ads!

The link is also here

I really do think that these types of services and platforms can really make a huge difference to people who are in the creative industry or want to break into the creative industry and communities who support the arts by contributing to some of these projects really do benefit. 

Many have tried and many have failed, but I expect many have been successful too. Crowdfunding really isn’t quite as easy as people think when they blindly create an account often thinking that their financial situation will improve the moment their campaign goes live. If it was that easy I’m sure everyone would be doing it. 

I know a number of creatives who have gone down this route and despite having their accounts for a few years, some are yet to see any donations at all. So that self-organised event idea from three years ago is often relegated to the back burner. 

The big campaigns you hear about and which have truly been a rags to riches adventure and have managed to launch successful projects and products are relatively rare in comparison to the number of people who sign up with projects and funding requests. Many of the big ones that hit the headlines will have been backed by professional PR campaigns.

Some backers will be in it for the rewards and if the rewards are lacking then they will turn away. The promise of a copy of book you plan to write might not be enough to get people donating, and the size of the donation shouldn’t really be the primary focus. Get enough people donating a dollar and the funds will eventually grow.

Be prepared. One of the things that put me off running a Patreon campaign was literally the time I would have needed to commit to answering questions, emails and messages about the campaign, its rewards and its benefits. 

As a creative most of your time will already be accounted for and whatever spare time you do get will almost always be committed to creating new art. It would be wrong to ignore those who donate anything even if it’s a small amount and so you really do need to ensure that you have some availability to field messages and answer questions and of course send out any rewards if you are offering any. 

Luck has very little to do with any crowdfunding campaign. It really comes down to having a strategy and a good marketing campaign in place that resonates with people and makes them want to contribute. 

Donators are drawn to quality projects and not bad life choices. They often need to know what you have done yourself to take your project forward and saying that you came up with the idea is nowhere near enough to convince most people that you will follow through with any promises made. 

Project management is also something that many fail to recognise as a critical skill to have when launching a new project or campaign. If you don’t set key milestones and stick to them it puts off those who might have been tempted to come on board later and it will annoy those who have pledged or donated to date. 

Ideas for crowdfunding art projects…

Some ideas are better and more acceptable than others. Crowdfunding for new art supplies is not always a great idea and raising enough funds to start or grow your own art collection is something that very few people would probably donate to.

The costs involved in entering shows or paying your agent are unfortunately the cost of doing business in the art world, and it is your business rather than anyone else’s so they probably wouldn’t be inclined to donate or contribute to a campaign to pay those fees unless there was a compelling reason. 

However there is a bunch of stuff that might get people digging deep into their pockets. If you want to save or restore a piece of art and then make it available for public display that is clearly more worthy than asking people to top up your own art collection. Most of us would love an original Matisse or Renoir hanging in our homes but I doubt anyone would want to crowd fund a lifestyle choice such as this. 

If you are an art student or a collective of art students then raising funds for a collaborative exhibition which might be free for the public to attend is something that might gain some traction in the local area. 

Or perhaps you would like to run sessions for seniors or youngsters and introduce them to art. Again this might do well locally and there are options for businesses to jump in on crowdfunding and support the arts too.

One campaign I viewed had met its funding target and turned a local pub into an artistic hub for local creatives and the wider community to enjoy. Not only is this going to evidently support the creatives who use the facility it will benefit the business too. 

Another campaign which became over-funded provided free entry to the theatre to every 5-year old in the community. Another interesting campaign was to showcase the arts community of a town not well known for the arts by creating an alternative tourism video which focused on the artistic and cultural vibrancy of the town. 

Many artists often support charities and good causes. Anything from wildlife to art projects in the community and in the past I have seen a number who want to set up a community based art hub. Crowdfunding is definitely worth considering if you want to help raise funding for causes like these. 

Generally and as long as what you are doing isn’t illegal or beyond the rules of the platform, crowdfunding can offer an alternative to going down the path of arts grants and awards but this doesn’t mean you can shirk off any promises you made on the way. You have to fulfil promises and obligations made just as you do when you comply with the terms of any art grant or award.

There have been many before you that will have put some real effort and hard work in place to launch a crowdfunded project only to see the donations and pledges remain at zero, even some apparently no brainer must invest projects are still to get their first donation.

There are many though who have had theirs or someone else’s lives turned around in a positive way due to the generosity and encouragement of those who have supported various projects. 

Crowdfunding might feel awkward for some people but it is the 21st Century and so long as you are offering something of value then it is a viable approach to get some funding for your next project. 

Get in touch!

If you have ever tried crowdfunding an art project then we would all love to hear about it. If you are planning something then let us all know about that too! You can leave a message or reach out on social media and I will be following up on this post in the future and would love to write about your successes so that it might inspire other artists to have a go too, and I would love to feature some worthy ones so please let me have the details or any ideas you have and let’s see if we can get you some support. 

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger who specialises in abstracts, landscapes, and seascapes. My work is sold in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada including The Great Frame Up, Framing and Art Centre, and Deck the Walls and you can also buy from Fine Art America or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com 

You can also follow me on Facebook at: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia and on Twitter @beechhouseart

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