Not much of a reader? Check out our Online Fundraising Playlist on Youtube for a series of really great videos on what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign. Otherwise, keep reading!
In essence, online fundraising is a way to raise a chunk of money to fund a larger project. It takes the risk off of one person and helps disperse the risk into tiny, bite-sized pieces. This approach greatly lowers risk, so “I need $3,000!” can become “I need $30 from 100 people” or "I need $5 from 600 people". Online fundraising disperses the total risk into a more manageable figure.
Online fundraising is also way to engage with potential patrons and followers of your show. You want people to be excited about the work you are producing, and that starts with how you launch and market your campaign before the show. Online fundraising is an opportunity for friends, family, and strangers to buy in to your project. It doesn’t have to be scary, and you don’t have to guilt your family and friends to contribute. The key is to identify the ‘value’ for your audience.
That being said, asking for money can be tricky. in the words of Nina Berman from Fractured Atlas:
Asking for financial support for your creative work can feel awkward if you are asking people with more financial resources than you to support your work because it can feel like exposing the already-existing differential in privilege and class. It can also feel awkward if you know that your network is experiencing hardship that might make donations difficult. But, even if it’s hard, you should be reaching out to your nearest and dearest as part of your fundraising strategy.
Check out their article with 9 Tips for Soliciting Donations from Family and Friends if you are struggling asking for financial support for your artistic projects.
When putting together your campaign, consider the following:
- What is the exchange of value? If you were a donor, ask yourself: “what is in it for me?”
- Consider how the DONOR will react vs. how you, the ORGANIZER feels
- What resources do I have? Convert your social capital, look at what you have or can easily access/provide that people will consider valuable in your campaign.
- How can I prepare and make a clear, specific campaign? Ultimately, online fundraising is a safe space for failure. Typically, you’d launch a campaign in advance of your production, in which case you aren’t going to be caught in the lurch should you not reach your target. So, don’t be afraid.
Four Types of Online Fundraising
- Equity – Ownership/ Profit Sharing
- Lending – Percent return (peer to peer aggregation)
- Rewards – Non-monetary returns (e.g. a product, lunch with founders, etc. *legally a donation)
- Donation – Non-tangible feel good
- Quality Idea and Pitch - both are clear, memorable and compelling
- Marketing Campaign - you have steps to share, disseminate and communicate
- Strength of your network - people that you have a direct connection with
- Enticing Rewards
- Someone who can be brutally honest about whether you have these ingredients or not (perhaps get someone outside of the industry to look in)
How do I advertise my campaign?
Use video! Video content is by far the most effective way of engaging on social platforms. More and more, the online community want video content, so to be really effective, take the time to film a message to your potential donors. Be genuine, be fun, and again – be clear! With your video, you want to be able to grab your audience’s attention within the first 30 seconds so they can get a clear understanding of your purpose right off the top and will likely be more engaged to watch and inclined to donate.
Think about the length of your video and the content you will share within your video. How long before your viewer gets bored of watching it? Is it wise to have your viewers watch someone talking throughout the entire video? What other visuals can support your video? Think of this as a small art project in addition to the one you are fundraising for. It really is just as important! Also, provide audio description, ASL and scripting on the videos to reach a larger audience.
- In advance of anything else, think about Value Exchange – beyond intangible benefits of giving (or the tax receipt), think about what will invite people to contribute. What is surprising, entertaining? What goods or services are you offering? What don’t I want to miss out on? Having good perks will help keep your campaign going and having great perks is the cost of online fundraising.
- In your copy be CLEAR, CONCISE and SPECIFIC! Fewer and fewer people are reading online so strike while the iron is hot. Grab their attention, engage, be fun and you’ll get yourself a donor. But be specific about your project and what you’re offering. Let’s be honest: ‘fund me because I exist!’ doesn’t really work. It needs to be a specific ask for a specific project. Be creative and customize a hashtag or align with a popular one.
- Timing is everything. Run your campaign for a specific, defined length of time. This allows for marketing, buzz and momentum to feed into itself and peak appropriately. An open ended campaign is not effective. An end date incentivizes participation by the crowd and the efforts of the campaigner. It is a sprint and an intense effort that requires all hands on deck
- Planning! Leave yourself enough time to get all the moving parts of the campaign together and finalized before your launch. A comfortable time frame might look like 6 months before the launch of your campaign. Filming, editing, writing copy, brainstorming, graphic design, testing, marketing planning and execution - don't underestimate how much all the elements can take.
Rewards are the items that your donors will receive when making a donation to your campaign. They can range by price point (the more they donate the greater the reward), they can be specific and follow a theme, or they can be random but awesome.
It is important though that you tailor to your crowd. If you want people to be invested and supportive then offer something that speaks to them. Create value at different levels to serve all kinds of people (some have money to invest, some do not). Your reward also doesn’t always have to be a tangible item. Experiences are far more effective sometimes. Offering perks at the same price point can be effective as well and provides people with a choice; if they don’t want one thing, they perhaps will want something else. The rewards that you have can make or break someone’s decision of donating to your campaign. Find a balance between the perks that people actually want, versus what they can afford.
Be creative, but also limit yourself to a certain extent. Stick to 5-15 rewards (it’s the sweet spot). Only take on what you can handle. Don’t always market towards your ticket buyers, but people who might want to support who can’t buy tickets. Do you have friends and family out of town that will likely not be able to come to the show, but would still love to support your work? They are great avenues to explore for your crowdfunding campaign.
Brainstorm and research for ideas. Do it with your team and see what comes out of it. Maybe some ideas will springboard the next great idea.
BUT make sure your perks are achievable! That means, when you make a list, make sure you can actually deliver on all of them. Creating rewards/perks is quite possibly the most difficult thing to come up with in a online fundraising campaign, as well as very difficult to make and source, so save yourself the headache. Think thoroughly about how much time and money these perks may take away from you before you cement and commit to them. If they will cost you more (in both time and resources) they may not be the best thing to include.
Some great rewards can include:
- Dinner with the actors
- Backstage pass
- Character named after you
- Help build a project (offer your personal assistance)
- Having lunch with the company’s co-founders
Whatever you choose, offer a spectrum for people. It can be as low as $5 perk to a $500 perk. If you think that your top perk is $250, try boosting it up by adding one more price point on top of that. It’s a psychological way to play with people’s minds and also, you never know, someone may actually love to donate the extra money if they support what you’re doing!
Things to ask yourself before the campaign:
- What assets do you have available to you?
- What are your own skills that you can offer?
- Who is in your network and can offer services?
- Do you have shared networks with your collaborators who can support you?
- Do you have awards and credentials?
- Any photos, videos, quotes, costume shots, etc.?
- Can you perhaps get donations for your online fundraising campaign instead of a silent auction?
- How much money am I comfortable asking for?
- What is the buy-in from the people around you?
- How can you make your campaign not take up too much money so that you are making money?
- What other campaigns are happening? What are people interested in?
- What platform suits you best?
Now that your campaign is over...
Say Thank You! For any donation – big or small—follow up with your supporter and say thank you. This makes them feel good for their good will, and it also allows you to cultivate a relationship with your supporter(s). This will most likely guarantee further support in the future (or at least good karma). It is also another chance to let your donors know about your show and they may now feel more inclined to purchase a ticket. It is great, overall, to let your donors know of the success (or even failure) of your campaign and how their money will be used to support your show, or what you have planned now that your campaign wasn’t as successful as it should be.
Depending on the circumstances around your fundraising campaign, the money received may be taxable for GST and HST. The laws around taxation from online fundraising campaigns aren't always clear, so be prepared to claim your campaign earnings as income, and get in touch with an accountant to find out what your responsibilities are, as each campaign is looked at on a case-by-case basis. Here are a few really helpful articles that help explain:
- CBC News: Tax season 2016: How the CRA deals with crowdfunding
- Canadian Taxation of Crowdfunding by TaxPage
- Is Crowdfunding Taxable (for Canadian GST/HST)? by Thang Tax Law
Online fundraising platforms
There are a range of platforms you can use to help build your campaign. Here are the most popular ones:
FundRazr Free, user-friendly platform for crowdfunding that operates in 40+ currencies for all kinds of campaigns, including artistic ones.
Fractured Atlas Fundraising Platform All donations made on Fundraising by Fractured Atlas are tax-deductible and are processed by Fractured Atlas. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Fractured Atlas will issue tax receipts for all donations made through a campaign.
Go Fund Me A platform for collectives, individuals and organizations, Go Fund Me allows you to keep all your funds, even if you don't reach your goal.
Kickstarter An American platform based out of NYC, focused on bringing creative projects to life. The reason to go with Kickstarter is simply to get broader traction from other networks/genres/parts of the world.
Indiegogo Based out of California, this platform prides itself on having a global reach with a focus on good ideas and entrepreneurial, grassroots projects.
Some platforms are set up as “All or Nothing’ (Kickstarter, for instance). Although not the choice most organizers go for, ‘All or Nothing’ campaigns are SIGNIFICANTLY more successful than ‘Keep What You Raise’. It creates an urgency and notion that you need the funds in order for your show to survive.
- 9 Tips for Soliciting Donations from Family and Friends by Fractured Atlas guides readers through how to get into the fundraising state of mind.
- ncfacanada.org answers some of the more nitty-gritty questions on crowdfunding, especially when it comes to audience investment and shareholding. Dive into it on their FAQ page.
“Who gives a crap?” crowdfunding campaign.
Litmus Theatre's Brave New World campaign
A Name for A Name - PARADIGM productions - The Empire campaign
Online Fundraising Campaign Spreadsheet Tool from HiveWire offers a several useful templates for you to fill out, including a checklist, budget, and strategy. (preview below)