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DT:TV Case Studies

Digital fundraising

Penniless artists? A bit of digital fundraising prior to an adventure at Edinburgh’s Festivals needn’t necessarily leave you broke!

Apart from the lucky few independently wealthy artists coming to Edinburgh’s Festivals; or those with an established reputation who’ve managed to secure sponsorship or public funding (Pot Noodle: The Musical perhaps being the most interesting artistic content funded by sponsorship deal this year), most of us have to fund the development, production and performance of our work , hoping to recoup the cost with income from ticket sales and/or the new opportunities the exposure has afforded us. It’s a risky strategy!

Earlier this year, I donated £5 to a friend who trying to do something I believed in. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, except that I donated to the friend’s cause because I was a member of their Facebook Group, they released a status message about the fundraising drive, and I donated through the page there and then. It’s let me think of some fundraising alternatives that have emerged because of digital technologies as possibilities for artists.

From the advertising posters around the city its clear that many Edinburgh Festival performers have online social networks via websites like Facebook and MySpace. A personal network of friends/colleagues as well as fans of your work are most likely to be supportive. Like my friend, you could let your friends and fans actually fund the development of the piece. Pre-selling your work allows you to develop it less riskily! For example, your Facebook friends pre-pay £5 in advance. When the (£15 per ticket) performance eventually happens, they get in for free (as they already paid the £5 advance).

Clearly you have to either have some reputation with them or a hot idea to generate enough interest in advance! (You could add extra value for your fans too – perhaps they also get to see digitally captured rehearsal photos or read your blog on the progress, shared via the Facebook group).

www.thepoint.com is a website supporting a different method that reduces the risk for your supporters. Set up to help anybody run a campaign, on this website, people don’t cough-up their cash immediately, but rather pledge money and provide their credit card details, on the understanding that nothing will be debited from their account until a certain number of people have pledged the same amount (eg. 100 people agree to pledge £5 each, and only when the hundredth signs up does everyone’s money come to you; or a certain date deadline is reached). This model (like the old community concerts model) is better for the risk-averse, because your show is more likely to get produced with £500, than with a few £5’s collected here and there. Matthew Cohen had a real need for £1800 to realize his production of “Jason & Ben” – one of 12 musicals (of nearly 400 submissions) selected for inclusion in the 2008 New York Musical Theatre Festival happening in September. He started a campaign, embedded it in his Facebook and Myspace pages and told all his contacts about the URL: http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/meet-jason-ben

Members signed up and donated whatever they felt like, signing up to the pledge:

“We will give money to: Matthew Cohen, But we will only pay if $1,800 is pledged by June 30, 2008”.

The messaging system within the site allowed people to voice support, and Matthew provided updates, keeping the campaign alive. The campaign closed on June 30th with $1805!