Hi everyone! Last spring I ran a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the publication of my first poetry collection and the production of my first poetry video. It was successful beyond my expectations, and now both the collection and the video have been finished and released (you can purchase Homing here and view “Polos” here). The production of both of these projects would not have been possible without the start-up capital I raised through Kickstarter, so I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who supported my campaign and made this work possible. Although the funding period is closed, my campaign page is still up if you’d like to check it out, here.
I was lucky enough to do my Kickstarter campaign right after fellow Loud Poet Kevin Mclean had successfully run his. Yesterday he and I discussed our campaigns for the Loud Poets vlog series on our new YouTube channel. That video contains some of the tips and tricks I list here; I’m publishing this post to have a handy written guide and to add a couple tips not included in the video. Here’s the video if you’d not seen it yet:
Check out more suggestions after the jump!
Here are some of Kev’s and my practical suggestions for running your own crowdfunding campaign:
Choose the crowdfunding platform that’s right for you and your project
Are you looking for funding for a single project (Kickstarter or Indiegogo style), or more long-term funding to support various artistic ventures over time (Patreon style)? Are you OK with fees being taken out of your funding pot, or not? Do your research on the different crowdfunding platforms before you settle on one to see what’s best for your project.
Have some work to show already
Folks seem more likely to donate to a project if they can see that there’s some work already underway; this indicates to them that the artist is serious about making the project happen and thus more likely to finish it if it’s funded. So, it helps to post on your campaign page evidence of prior planning and actual work. For me, this meant showing that I already had a sense of which poems I wanted to place in my collection and the title and thematic thread tying together the collection. I also indicated that I knew which poem I was going to film and had discussed the logistics of filming the poem with the videographer and musicians.
It also helps to have examples of prior work so that potential donors who are unfamiliar with your style can check them out. Post link to your website, videos, portfolios, etc. that are easy to access and give funders a sense of what you do.
Use high quality promotional materials
Wherever the resources are available, try to make your campaign look well-produced. Try to shoot a good-looking campaign video, and have plenty of images of your work. I was lucky enough to have access to Perry Jonsson, Loud Poets’ videographer extraordinaire, to shoot my campaign video in his home studio. If you don’t have your own Perry, though, see if you can borrow a nice camera from a friend, or even just ensure that when you film you have good lighting and no background noise. Rehearse what you’ll say beforehand so it’s clear, concise, and has an interesting hook that makes people want to learn more. Having an attractive campaign video to post on social media can be a great way to draw people to click on your campaign and potentially fund your project.
Be specific about where donors’ money is going
While you can’t make a perfectly itemised budget without knowing how much funding you’ll get in advance, you should give some sense of how funds will be allocated on your campaign page. People are more likely to donate if they can see that you have a clear plan for how their money will be spent (this will be slightly different for long-term funding platforms like Patreon – that’s a subject for another post though!). For my project, this meant indicating which artists would be paid (the videographer, the musicians) and which resources would be needed (the printing costs for the pamphlet, venue and production costs for the video). If you have estimates for those costs, even better. Show that you’ve done your homework and that your target goal isn’t a made-up number but a target corresponding to the actual projected cost of the work.
Show that you have resources to fall back on & backup plans
One of the questions Kickstarter prompts you with when writing your campaign description is something like “If something goes wrong, who can you ask for help? What are your backup plans?” It’s important to show potential donors that you have backups, but it’s also really useful to consider this question yourself and set processes in place in case something goes wrong. Since Kev had run his campaign the month prior to mine, I was able to write in my campaign description that from observing his process I’d learned from his successes and mishaps and knew what to plan for. Also consider contingency plans for other potential issues with your project: again, folks are more likely to donate if they can see that you’re not just naively envisioning the perfect project going off without a hitch, but that you’ve seriously considered any potential roadblocks and are prepared to tackle them.
Don’t go solo: use your communities
It’s my sense that people are also more likely to donate to a project if they see that it doesn’t just benefit one artist but multiple artists, enriching that local (or international) community. In my campaign, I highlighted the fact that my projects would involve collaboration with a number of local artists, including the videographer, musicians, production assistants, venue managers, and poets reviewing my pamphlet manuscript. It’s also just good sense to have other folks working on a project for accountability and innovation and sharing the campaign across their own networks to get a wider reach.
Mobilise all of your networks
The majority of the publicity I did for my Kickstarter was through social media networks. I made sure to use this blog, my Facebook artist page (in addition to my personal page), various Facebook groups and pages for the Scottish spoken word scene, and my Twitter account. However, I also tried to look beyond social media. I emailed my parents about the campaign and asked them to spread the news to our relatives, and I use word of mouth by chatting about the campaign to friends and at poetry shows at which I was performing. It really helps to have established social media and other networks you can use before you start your campaign. If you don’t, work on building them up so they’re there when you need them.
Also, I was pleasantly surprised by who donated to my campaign – in addition to people I know from the poetry scene, there were folks I hadn’t connected with in years but who keep up to date on my work through the internet. It goes to show: you can’t anticipate who will want to support your work, so cast your net widely so that folks who may be interested are aware of the campaign.
Be realistic about your rewards
This was probably my biggest mishap in designing my campaign – I underestimated the level of support I would receive from my community, so my rewards scheme became quite generous quite quickly! My top reward was for a £25 donation, as I didn’t expect anyone to pledge that highly, and it included not only all of the preceding rewards relating to the book and the video but also a personally commissioned poem. In the end, eight people donated that amount or above! I’m still working on the commissioned poems (to anyone expecting one, my apologies for the delay and be assured that I’ve not forgotten you!). I don’t regret setting that reward, since I think it’s great that a crowdfunding campaign for one project is spawning lots more new work. However, I think it’s a good tip to try not to underestimate the level of support you could receive and to think realistically about the amount of time delivering each reward will take, so you can ensure that no matter how generous your community is, you’ll still be able to deliver on your promises in a timely fashion.
Update your funders
After your project has been funded – well, celebrate! But then don’t just take the money and leave your funders clueless. At this point you have an obligation to let them know how the project is progressing. You don’t need to contact them every day, but try to post updates with milestones—”Yesterday we recorded the final track with the musicians” or “Today we sent proofs to the publisher”—or even pitfalls—”The venue fell through today, but we’re going with Plan B and shooting here instead.” Images of your progress are always nice so funders can see what you’re working on.
Be grateful and give back!
Most importantly, thank your supporters. They took a risk in investing in your work; make sure you tell them how much that means to you. And while you’re reaping the benefits of a successful campaign, take a moment to give back. Check out other projects on crowdfunding platforms and spread the wealth around to support other artists. Yours might be the pledge that enables a project to go forward!
Ultimately, crowdfunding allowed me to carry out two projects I’d been envisioning for a long time and to do them knowing I had the support of my local and international communities. It enabled me to mobilise a team of artists to collaborate on the projects and to pay them fairly for their work. It also helped me to create a physical book which I can now sell at shows, which means I can now generate some income from my work even at non-paying gigs. This would not have been possible without the start-up capital I received from my supporters, so thank you, thank you to everyone who gave.
Finally – I’m aware that crowdfunding is not without its critics: controversy has swirled around the idea of artists directly asking people to support their projects, particularly when the artists concerned have a certain level of preexisting capital or fame. I’ve been considering these ethics for a while and there’s another blog post brewing concerning those questions – stay tuned!
Artists: Have you ever run a crowdfunding campaign? How did it go for you? Do you have any tips to add?