Didn’t get grant funding but still want to make your project happen? Today we take a look at the world of crowdfunding and private giving as other avenues to raise vital funds to get your ideas off the ground. Thom Smyth sat down with Sally Richardson (Yirra Yaakin’s Partnerships Manager and Performing Lines WA core artist) to talk how to make things happen when you get a dreaded grant rejection letter. Image credits – Simon Pynt Photography, Sally Richardson.
There are other ways of doing things… by Sally Richardson
The end of the financial year is a busy time for those who are fundraising. Currently there are two major matched funding campaigns running nationally through Creative Partnerships Australia, as well as all the other Pozible, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding platforms which artists and others are always using to seek out essential funds. There are a lot of our people out there looking for support, but evidence tells us that crowdfunding is a growth market and that it is going to continue to be a major source of support for artists well into the future.
Arguably the arts has always relied on the benevolence and patronage of others to exist. Official government or private foundation funding routes can take a long time and applications are very labour-intensive, particularly for smaller projects. The waiting and frustration can all seem a bit much, especially as more than a year can go by after that initial of the light bulb moment that sparked your project!
It’s more rewarding and fun to be actively ‘working’ on your project via a crowdfunding or philanthropic campaign: getting the message out there and feeling the energy that starts to come your way. It keeps a momentum – you are doing something and driving your own engine. I have found the process empowering and humbling…it’s so thrilling to be supported and have others believing in you and your work…real faces and real people.
Donors, fans and supporters have always been a source of income for artists and perhaps it’s time to be less embarrassed about making the ‘ask’. It can feel awkward to directly request support, but the various crowdfunding and donor platforms provide a means to put yourself and your project out there in a way that is approachable. They give the donor the ability to support at their level of capacity, helping both sides avoid the awkwardness of discussing actual $$$$.
In my experience there are also additional benefits. Crowdfunding has proved to be a great ‘free’ marketing and promotional tool, and an invitation to your audience to get more involved with you at a grassroots level. As a supporter you feel you are making art happen in all kinds of places and in cool ways – I have supported and been supported, and will definitely continue to do so. I think one of the less visible benefits is feeling the interest and engagement with your ideas, your project, and your team; a sense of a community rallying around you when art making often feels quite isolated and inward looking. You DO have to be prepared to put your face out there, and speak to your ideas and work…there is no hiding here, but that helps you engage with and build your profile and your audience.
Being an artist is a business too, not a sit down job or a wallflower waiting game for life support. You can do so much to grow your brand, develop a following and be part of the cultural picture. It’s about being active, backing yourself and your work…and others will want join you…I promise!
Reaching out to strangers and finding new audiences
Thinking out of the box about your ideas, imagery, marketing.
Growing a fan base.
Sharing the creative process and being part of a community.
Nothing I can think of…well…if people don’t like your project (and usually it’s about how it comes across) they won’t support you…back to ground zero.
Standing Bird 2 travelled to Hong Kong Fringe with support from crowdfunding.
Read on for some top tips from Sally Richardson and Thom Smyth.
What to ask for:
Be really careful and brutally honest when setting your campaign totals and timeframe – how many people can you count on to donate, and how long will it take you to get them on board? As a super-rough guide, get the team to give you their total numbers of followers across all social media channels and their email contacts. Combine this total for the team – 10% of that total number MAY consider donating. The average donation amount on Pozible is around $30, so multiply your donors by $30 and you’ll have a ballpark idea of the maximum target you could expect. BE REALISTIC about what you can raise and carefully consider the capacity of your social networks to give.
IE: Total followers = 5,000 5,000 x 10% = 500 500 x $30 = $15000 total ask
Don’t be afraid to ask – we get NO a lot in the arts anyway so be bold; the odds are more in your favour than not.
Be strategic – think about non-cash support to help make your project happen. Ask about reduced venue charges, seek out unused spaces/venues if you are prepared to work at odd hours, request loans of equipment or set/costume items you might need (Facebook callouts can be great). This all reduces your overall ask.
Support others – you can build support by helping others with their projects. Offer support at a level you can accommodate; you may not be able to afford a donation, but consider sharing the campaign or getting others to donate.
Plan ahead – start talking about your project before you launch the campaign, and get some donors locked in to donate when you hit go. Have a suite of imagery, videos and updates ready to roll out. Have a plan of who is posting, what they are posting and how often.
Don’t freak out at the plateau – every campaign hits a point where donations slow down or stop…use it as a time to thank everyone, regroup, and get ready for the home-stretch push!
You’re not alone – ask others for support, for hints and tips, or for encouragement. Check out other successful campaigns and see how they ran theirs.
Who to approach?
Anywhere you work, play, study and visit is a potential site to share your info and seek support for your project.
ALWAYS ask friends, family, colleagues, relatives and neighbours…whoever you know to get involved. Ask people you know will donate and have them lined up for when you launch.
Other arts/arts-related organisations to support you, and share your campaign (especially if you are a member already, or they have worked with you previously)
Any other fanbases or interest groups who you might support and already be a part of…join up to some before you launch your campaign
Arts/Fashion/personal bloggers (with followings) may be interested to support your campaign
People who have seen your shows before…this information is GOLD especially if you are trying to get support for a future life or further touring of that show (eg: ‘Take me to Edinburgh’, etc)
Put the project in the program (of a friend’s show) and in your own programs – if you like this work why not support these artists to do more cool stuff??
Shout outs, verbal mentions in speeches and opening night thanks for special donors…
We ALL LOVE to be acknowledged – patronage has feel good benefits!!!!
Making the ask?
If you are meeting up with someone about support – be smart, be nice, be engaged and enthusiastic but not a suckhole…and never harass people (NO usually means NO so don’t flog that dead horse).
Be interested in them too – yep it’s not just ALL about you. Give them space to chat and share their thoughts and ideas, views on art etc. You’ll make a closer connection and have them as a lifelong supporter.
Remember peoples’ names (and their partners!) and make it an invitation and an offer, not an obligation and a whinge fest of negativity about why you are ‘not loved’.
Remember to THANK people…and more than once is great! Encourage them to share the campaign to their networks if appropriate.
Keep their details (especially if they have supported you previously), and invite them to things, especially cool connective times with the cast and crew.
If they come don’t ignore them and hang with your mates!
In the second instalment of our Next Wave run down, Pony Express’ Loren Kronemyer gives us her take on what went down, artistically speaking.
Loren here, one half of the duo Pony Express. Collaborator Ian Sinclair and I have recently joined forces and been welcomed into the Kickstart development program for Next Wave Festival 2016. Our project, called Ecosexual Bathhouse, is a multisensory environment that invites people to develop a sexual relationship with their ecology. We ponies have just returned from the first milestone in our development process: a 5 day intensive in Healesville, Victoria with the entire prodigious group of Kickstart artists.
These are my dispatches from the field.
Ian and I, new as collaborators but old as friends and confidants, gamely boarded the big plane from Perth to Melbourne and touched down in a characteristic haze of mist. Before long, we were winding up to Healesville in a pair of econovans, with 20 artists and a flamboyant array of luggage in tow.
Once we had deposited our belongings in our Nancy-Meyers-esque lodgings, we got down to work. It quickly became clear that this was a group of artists at the top of their games; diverse practitioners with a wealth of collective experience, yet all committed to making some bold moves with their works in development. Feeling ourselves, feeling each other, with lots to share and the space and time to do it. Through a number of discussions indoors, discussions outdoors, discussions with food, and discussions on the karaoke stage, the theme of the week emerged: Let’s Talk About Ethics, Baby.
This was reinforced by the deployment of 3 expert provocateurs, who each raised the stakes in one field of ethical arts practice.
Paola Balla threw down the first gauntlet with a moving talk given in the frigid shadow of the Maroondah dam. She spoke about personal history, diversity, appropriation, and the mandate for each of us to decolonise our art practices.
Shortly thereafter, cradled and warm back in the Kickstart homestead, we had a session with sustainability expert Matt Wicking. He confirmed the importance of sustainability for artists, and encouraged each of us to hold ourselves to the highest personal standard of sustainability throughout our projects. He also generously treated Pony Express to a heartening project consultation session, which may have devolved into something more along the lines of eco-therapy.
Thirdly was Katrine Gabb, who spoke to us about the importance of accessibility in the arts sector and the many forms that it should take. I found this especially illuminating; hearing her champion accessibility in such a firm and reasoned tone left me eager to better serve more diverse audiences through our work.
These invigorating sessions were punctuated by the necessary frivolities of artists at play. Dance parties, garden frolicks, jacuzzi storytime, taco consumption, and a visit to the Healesville captive platypus were among other highlights, all of which we mined for Ecosexual propaganda wherever possible.
When the intensive came to its end, we all left with many high hopes for our projects and friendships. Though we were sad to go, we at Pony Express had one last treat in store to ease our reintegration into the world. Thanks to a tip from our associate producer, we spent our last morning in awe of the Amorphophallus Titanum flower (https://twitter.com/RBGTitanArum), a rare evolutionary masterpiece of unequal grandeur.
In the presence of this insane, regal, and grotesque lifeform, we were reminded of all the motivations that inspired our work. The unfolding has just begun, and we still have much to learn.
To see Ecosexual Bathhouse take shape, follow Pony Express:
Heading into the Victorian countryside last week, Next Wave hosted artists from the around the country as part of its Kickstart development program. Western Australia was very well-represented, with visual artists Katie West and Dan McCabe, dance maker Emma Fishwick and new performance duo Pony Express (Ian Sinclair and Loren Kronemyer) jumping on the bus to Healesville. We’ve got two dispatches from camp for you – the first from Emma Fishwick.
My first Art Camp… it happened, I was there and so were 20 other creative folk.
Next Wave Festival occurs biennially in Melbourne and in the alternate years Next Wave run Kickstart – a curated development program that assists emerging artists in the formation and production of a select work.
Two weeks ago I embarked on my Kickstart journey by spending six nights in Healesville, Victoria. Filled with excitement, nervous uncertainty and an awkward kind of speed dating between 21 artists and producers, the week began. A heterogenous collection of makers and thinkers made every day both enlightening and challenging.
We examined cultural appropriation (i.e whose holds the right to talk about what), colonisation and accessibility in the arts, eco-friendly practice and the role of the audience. It challenged my thinking and blurred my understanding of my practice and it’s role within the wider community. As such a career holds a unique and powerful platform to evoke discussion, shift perspectives and provide a voice for the voiceless, am I doing enough, am I saying enough?
At times the discussions left me feeling paralysed with an abundance of information and experiences, some of which were foreign to me. However, I realised that simply ‘being aware’ is enough to spark creative discussion, both in and out of the studio. Not being aware and not talking about the wider issues facing our nation/culture, does more harm than good.
A constant state of amnesia by Julianna Engberg was one of many readings we had to do in preparation for this intensive. Her comment on Australia’s perpetual artistic adolescence emphasised how imperative such an awareness is for young makers. Whilst I consider myself a socially, politically and historically concerned individual, my arts practice to date has been focused primarily on form, technique and process. Whilst this is still a valid and necessary conversation, I did find myself wanting yet unsure of how to incorporate these wider issues.
I concluded that whilst I wanted to, I couldn’t change the world into a more inclusive, respectful place in one hit. What I could do was to expand my awareness, be diligent in instigating these conversations beyond the studio and in turn allow it to begin to emerge as an underlying presence in my practice.
Art camp also held much frivolity from: visiting Maroondah Dam, late night Jacuzzi sessions, red wine, wood-fired pizzas and Mexican breakfasts, gallery trips, lounge room dancing, chickens, and karaoke at the Healesville local. What is evident to me upon reflection is that the future of our creative identity was in good hands; interested, invested, experimental, intelligent and diverse hands.
I’ll conclude with words from Chus Martinez who wrote in Clandestine Happiness: “Artists, like scientists, are pioneers when it comes to creating new forms of connectivity between worlds that seem to have nothing in common….an endless study of everything that contributes to different formulations of what we call reality”.
We’re pretty gosh darn excited to announce we’ll be working with PRAXIS on their development of new show Dark Matter. PRAXIS are collective featuring choreographer and dancer Laura Boynes, composer and cellist Tristen Parr and visual artist and curator Alexander Boynes. They work across a range of genres and media, including dance, installation, projection and visual art.
Currently in development, Dark Matter is an exploration of our ability to adapt to changing physical and social environments. A metric tonne of rice is piled on stage, from which the six dancers emerge. It acts as floor, a prop and a projection surface, creating a constantly shifting environment for the performers.
It’s also the staple food for about half the planet. Dark Matter abstractly explores how humans are able to adapt to new surroundings, nodding to the current hot button political issues of immigration, isolation and integration.
You can follow the progress of the development here on the blog.
Performing Lines WA delivers the Managing and Producing Services for theatre and dance artists in WA (Maps for Artists), which is a joint initiative of the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government’s art funding and advisory body, and the State of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and the Arts.