Fund-Raising for Creative Projects

Lunchtime Lecture: How to Fund-Raise for Creative Projects

(A talk I gave at USM on Friday 21st October 2011)

The internet is an important tool for reaching a wider audience with your art, and also for finding funding for your projects.

This can be an alternative to – or a supplement to – applying for artist grants, whether for travel, materials, or equipment.

Successful Online Fund-Raising projects have several things in common:

* They are appealing to people outside your field, i.e. the project and language they use is simple, clearly written
* Good for niches where people have passion and will invest in it
* The goals are apparent and appealing

* Rewards range from small to large dollar amounts, and provide a good value for funders

* It is somehow bigger than the person/organization who is asking for money (it’s not ‘Me, Me, Me’)

* They are easy to share online (YouTube, Facebook, Email, Twitter, Blog, Website)

* Giving money makes donors feel good

* The person asking for money has already completed other projects (a good track record)

What to think about:

* How is this project going to help others?
* What will it bring to the world / allow to happen, that couldn’t happen any other way?

* How can I convince people that I am trustworthy (i.e. that I’ll follow through with the rewards and the project)

Here are eight creatives who have raised funds online:

#1. Sarah Lacy is a student who has attended workshops in France, after successfully raising thousands of dollars online.

Find out more on her fundraising page.

She gives 3 ways to donate:
1. Buying artwork
2. $20 to sign up for 6 months of exclusive updates: a way to “hit the road” with her virtually
3. “Want to send me more than $20 but don’t want to buy any artwork? Rock on. The button below is the one you need.”

Why she’s successful:

* She gives 5% back to charity – and the charity helps promote her artwork
* She’s posts flattering photos of herself and her artwork. This makes her message more personal and appealing.
* She uses social media – a LOT!
* Builds up her mailing list — and uses it

#2. Another artist who funds her projects in creative ways is Movana Chen.

In April 2012, she will work on her project Travelling Bookshelf at my studio residency, Studio Sicilia.

She is writing to airlines to sponsor her plane ticket from Hong Kong to Sicily.


For international creatives like us, a good way to raise funds is the website,

Here’s what you need to set it up:

* Website for project (or blog)
** Twitter
** Facebook page
** PaypalHere’s how to open an account in Malaysia.

Some examples of current fundraising projects

#3. Labour of Love and Hate

This is a great project on Southeast Asian punk. Why?

* They have incentives for companies and musicians:
“You can make a donation on behalf of yourself, your company or your band.

* They give credentials for their project:

“We are supported by ALS TDI of North America and the MND Association of Great Britain.

But: They could use more affordable rewards.

Small donations of US $5 to $50 can really add up. Most people using IndieGoGo are from North America or Europe. Because we live outside these zones, it’s a good idea to have electronic rewards like e-books and other downloads available for smaller rewards, then inter-continental postage is not such a factor.

Another good project:

4. STATELESS: A film about Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines

Watch the video here.

Why is this project likely to succeed?

* The video is well put together. Lots of tension. You want to know what happens to the refugees featured in the film.
* The US has a large Vietnamese-American community in California which will be invested in the story, which the director has already tapped into for past films.
* The director has already worked on previous, documented projects
* An excellent reward for just $20 — A copy of “Stateless” work in progress (people really like to feel involved in the production of a work)

5. Successful story:

Villiers Quartet: Haydn & Beyond

Why did they succeed?

* A short video with their goals stated clearly (a simple but effective video!)
* Very good rewards, particularly the $500 sponsorship – excellent idea for a business to be able to advertise
* Very reasonable goal for project
* Philanthropists in this field are typically generous

6. Successful project:

“Road to Hong Kong” – Travel expenses for a filmmaker to go to HK

Why did it succeed?

* Engaging writing
* No video but a fantastic photo of the filmmaker that really showed his personality
* He had already done the legwork and gotten accommodation covered, had lots of contacts to meet, etc.
* Had a track record of success with other projects

7. Success: Painting Kyrgyzstan – An Incredible Journey

Goal: 1,600. Raised: 2,252
Why did it succeed?

* Project appeals to a wide variety of interests (face-painting, murals)
* She gives quick, easy-to-read information about Kyrgyzstan and why it’s a good place for project
* LOTS of updates
* Very reasonably-priced rewards
* She was investing in the project, too: fundraising was just for plane ticket, not all travel expenses and supplies

This is why I would have funded the project, had I found it sooner:
” There are plenty of artists in the largest cities in the world, but not many who are traveling to places that really need and want it.  “

8. Masala Collage:

One to learn from.

It had a great concept, with
* An engaging video (if somewhat low-res)
* Excellent visuals featuring rewards

* perhaps the artist didn’t follow through enough with social media
* didn’t give enough explanation of what the project’s goals were
* should have sought out an English-language proofreader (his English was unclear for online audiences)
* Could have gone bilingual to tap into Spanish-speaking audiences

Next week I’ll introduce my online fundraising project, as soon as it goes live.

Here’s a preview:

Blue Elephant

Blue Elephant. Straightforward Cyanotype print on handmade paper, 29.7 x 21 cm(11.7 x 8.3 in), Number 1 of 15. US $225

Prints from an illustrated travel book on handmade paper, called:

Paper Pilgrimage: Bombs, Bandits, and a Vanishing Art in Southeast Asia, to be released in 2012 by ThingsAsian Press

This elephant is one of many at the Lampang Conservation Center in northern Thailand. One program I visited there transforms elephant dung into biofuel and handmade paper. The special edition of my book includes a sample of the elephant dung paper.

This print is being sold to raise funds for the special edition of my book. It will be printed on handmade Thai paper, hand-bound in golden Vietnamese silk, and have paper samples from 9 people and places featured in the book.

More info coming soon.