So, as of Sunday, my Visions of New York art show fundraiser came to a close and I am happy to say that I ended up exceeding my $1500 goal. I raised $2,370, which doesn’t include over $300 I received in outside donations from friends and family.
Like any new adventure, I learned a lot in my fundraising journey and while I can’t say that I’m an expert, I do think I can pass along some helpful tips that I’d like to share.
Kickstarter v. Indiegogo (and god knows who else)
My initial plan was to raise money through Kickstarter, which is famous for it’s “all or nothing” model but after giving it a lot of thought, I felt more comfortable with Indiegogo, which lets you keep whatever monies you raise. I decided to go this route because I needed as much money as I could get, even if I didn’t reach my goal because I didn’t want the additional stress of worrying about not getting anything at all. Unlike Kickstarter, you don’t need to have your project approved for an Indiegogo campaign and you can also use your campaign for a charitable aim, which Kickstarter doesn’t allow. I’d definitely use Indiegogo in the future.
Setting Your Goal
I would say that this is the hardest part of setting up your fundraiser. To get a realistic picture, you really have to have a breakdown of costs, not only for your show, but also for the fundraiser itself. In terms of the project you want to fund, it’s crucial to factor in incidental costs that you may not have thought of, like marketing for postcards or newsletters, postage; art supplies; it really depends on what you want to do. (Today, for example, I found out from my venue space that you have to provide your own event space insurance to cover any liabilities incurred at the show) The more time you can spend planning ahead to price things out the better.
As for the fundraiser, you also have to factor in expenses for that, ESPECIALLY for perks, which is where I almost fell short. It was pretty easy to calculate how much it would costs to produce my tote bags and my larger-sized prints but where it got dicey was my postcard print sets. It took a lot of money in terms of ink and paper, packaging and postage to make them and send them out and I was worried that these costs would eat into my show budget. Luckily, I went over my fundraising amount and that helped a lot but if I hadn’t, that would’ve been a headache.
Of course, this is the most important aspect to raising money. No one can donate if they don’t know that you’re raising money in the first place, right? I found several different approaches that helped generate buzz about my fundraiser:
Creating a video: While it did take a lot of work in putting it together, producing a promotional video was completely worth it. I think it made a big difference in the success of the fundraiser because it told a visual story about my dreams, my goals, and what Visions of New York really meant to me. Additionally, it gave people a chance to actually see me in action and hear my voice. That may not sound like a big deal but people want to feel some sort of tangible connection (even if it’s only via the internet) to the person to whom they’re giving money. Visuals speak volumes and the more that you can provide, the better.
Business Cards: I also made business cards promoting my fundraiser through Moo (love them) with images that will be in the show on the back of the cards Once again, people like tangibles and the card not only gave them a cool visual reminder, but it also was something that they could hold onto because of the pleasing imagery. I also sent off bunches of cards to my friends for them to pass out to help get the word out.
Updates: This also helped a lot in getting contributions. Instead of begging people for money with endless tweets and Facebook blasts, I posted updates whenever someone donated money. Facebook was truly great for this because I could tag donors (as long as they were comfortable with being identified; otherwise, I just sent out a thank-you to anonymous), thank them publicly for their generosity and promote the fundraiser at the same time. Doing so really seemed to generate momentum because shortly after I posted an update, someone else would donate shortly thereafter. I think this is probably how I reached my goal in only 8 days. Plus that, it feels good to show gratitude for people’s support and kindness and you can never say thank you enough when people are willing to support your dream.Plus, I created visual updates every other day; putting the amount raised on an image and sharing it on social media, including Instagram and my campaign homepage. Not only was that a great way to keep people up to speed as to our progress, but it was also a clever way to promote the artwork for the show.
Newsletters: For the entire month of May, I sent out weekly newsletters with donation updates. At first, I was worried that I was annoying the hell out of people with the updates and someone would send me an angry email telling to me to be quiet, but that wasn’t the case. There were a few people that unsubscribed, but that was okay since these people are doing you the favor of cleaning up your subscription list. After all, you don’t want to keep emailing people that just aren’t into you anyway. On a more positive note, writing the newsletters was a way for me to be humorous and creative in telling people about the fundraising progress and people seemed to really enjoy reading them.
Press: Another great way to get people excited about your fundraiser is to get someone to interview you about it. I teamed up with Live Unchained’s Kathryn Buford, who was kind enough to meet up to do a video interview. Reaching out to a local newspaper or popular blog is a great way of growing your audience and get you and your work in front of new faces.Don’t be afraid to pitch your idea to different outlets because you never know who would be eager to do a write-up on you!
The Ups and Downs and the Nitty Gritty:
Let me say that running a fundraising campaign could easily be a full-time job. There were quite a few nights when I didn’t get much sleep because I was up working on the promotional video, making graphic updates, cutting notecards, putting together packages, running to the post office, tweeting, Facebook posting, all while working my day job. In hindsight, I’d probably let go of my inner-control freak and assemble a team of people to help with all the work, although my wonderfully supportive boyfriend helped out tremendously with video production and organization. Thank Sweet Minty Jesus for my iPhone which let me post updates and promotions while I was on the go.
In addition to the nitty gritty, there are the emotional highs and lows of running a campaign. As I’ve said before, I was completely blown away by people’s generosity. Some of my biggest contributions came from people I had never met before, including some that lived in other countries. There were also people that I had only met once or knew me solely through the internet but nevertheless, stepped up to give. I also received numerous contributions from old high school and college classmates and former coworkers whom I hadn’t talked to in years! There were times that I was moved to tears by people’s kindness and belief in what I was doing. I like to think this was because they were happy to see that I was going after something that I was passionate about and living a dream on my own terms. I think this is what most people want to be able to do in life. Those that weren’t able to give were still incredibly loving and supportive and were a big help in just promoting the event. I am very grateful to them too.
As far as lows, I really can’t say that I had that many for this fundraiser. There was a big rush of donations for the first ten days and then things slowed down a bit after I reached my goal, which took away a little euphoria, but really not that much. This is pretty typical of many campaigns, according to my research, so I didn’t really sweat it too much. Towards the end, the momentum picked up again and the donation total surged forward. It was an awesome feeling.
So to conclude, my fundraising experience with Indiegogo was very positive and will likely do it again in the future. I recommend it to anyone and hope that this little tidbits from my own crash-test were helpful.