Funding an artist residency can be a tricky, but rewarding undertaking. After applying for several Kansas City grants and being rejected I turned to Kickstarter, a DIY fundraising platform I learned about through Artist Inc. Kickstarter is a community-based web platform where people can raise money for their creative projects. Everything from independent book publishing to dance performances to design prototyping can be funded through Kickstarter.
How it works:
First you have to apply. They want to know what your project is, how much you’re looking to raise, and what people will get in return for donating (backer rewards). Once you’ve been accepted you can really get to work. Carefully lay out a list of things you can reward people with after they donate. Remember, these are all things you will probably have to make and send yourself so be realistic. Some other less labor-intensive options are posting a thank you list to your blog, offering to cook someone dinner, or having them over for a studio visit. The Kickstarter help page is another good resource for reward advice.
You’ll also need to make a video. Don’t be intimidated, just be honest. People want to connect with you as a person and feel like they’re helping you do something meaningful. So just set aside an evening, write up a quick list of bullet points you want to cover and go for it. Keep your video short, usually no longer than 3 minutes; it’s really just a commercial for what you’re doing. Editing in images or different shots of you working can also be helpful to keep it interesting. But really, don’t sweat it no one’s giving out Oscars here.
Once the site is up, it’s all on you to promote it. This is another cool thing about Kickstarter, it’s almost entirely community based. Use everything you have: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and email email email. I spent about 4 days doing nothing but emailing every person I knew after my Kickstarter went live and it really paid off. The easiest thing to do would be sending one big blind CC email to everyone at once, but it’s not worth it. Take the time to write personal emails, it’s not a hand written letter, but sort of our modern-day equivalent. If people see that you’re reaching out to them as individuals they’ll be more likely to help you. Also, because Kickstarter is a newer phenemonen explaining a bit about how it works will help people understand the “rules.” For example include in your emails that your fundraising goal is “all or nothing” meaning that if you’re not 100% funded by the deadline no one (backers included) gets anything, also explain that Kickstarer is promoted by word-of-mouth and ask if they wouldn’t mind helping you spread the word. I received donations from people I’d never met before like my friend’s siblings, or parent’s co-workers with this technique.
Getting fully funded is a pretty great feeling. It definitely feels like a financial weight has been lifted off your shoulders, but I was also surprised at how rewarding it felt too see such immense support from friends, family, and even people I’d never met before. Once you’ve been funded you can transfer money electronically to your bank account. Here are a couple other things to keep in mind when setting your budget: shipping costs for sending out rewards and processing fees. Kickstarter does take a 5% cut from every transaction and Amazon takes between 3-5% per credit card transaction.
Overall Kickstarter has a very user friendly interface, and they also have a great blog if you get stuck. Also, spend some time browsing successful Kickstarter projects and see what worked from them. There’s no shame in borrowing a good idea. I found Kickstarter to be a wonderful way to share my work and projects with new people while raising funds to support my artist residency in Iceland.
Check out my Kickstarter page
Check out my work