Crowdfunding: Freda Wells and Sarah Larnach interviewedby Carol Green on 11/10/2012
Crowdfunding seems to have had a lot of publicity lately, with PledgeMe reaching its own goal of $500,000 in funding to New Zealand creative projects and The Arts Foundation’s launch and imminent release of Boosted.
I have talked to two New Zealanders who have had a go at this method of raising money.
Freda Wells (with Annabel Wilson, Lou Wallace and Toni Collins) has been producing The Kiwi Diary since 2005. It’s a spiral bound, 250-page diary containing artworks and words from contributors around the country. This year they are running a crowdfunding campaign on PledgeMe to help with the enormous production costs of this publication. The campaign closes on 15th October, so get over there and have a look, pronto!
You’ll recognize Sarah Larnach‘s work from Ladyhawke videos and album art. Earlier this year she ran an outrageously successful campaign on Pozible to fund her trip to London to exhibit the original artwork at the ‘Anxiety’ album release party. In return for pledges, she promised prints and original artworks, and the campaign reached its goal in 24 hours, going on to almost triple by the end. You can see the (closed) campaign page here.
Briefly, crowdfunding is an online platform where interested parties can donate money (from very small to very large amounts) to help fund a specific creative project, and in return, can claim a reward from the person running the project. A lot of promotion is done via social media, and relies on people passing on a link to the campaign page.
One challenge is to set a realistic goal; many platforms take no money from pledgers if the campaign fails to reach its target, though, as you’ll see, crowdfunding can also have some unexpected benefits…
What prompted you to try crowd funding your project?
Freda Wells: I was trembling with fear about the printing bill [for the Kiwi Diary] and seriously considering whether I should pull the plug but at a friend’s suggestion I checked out the PledgeMe website and dived in. I set a small target (only 10% of the cost of printing) but it all adds up.
Sarah Larnach: Desperation. I considered a business loan but on realising my collateral is in my art, it became clear that best thing to do was to sell a lot of my work at once. Each pledge became a single sale.
How has your experience of crowdfunding been?
FW: It has been a rosy experience so far, though the blue bar of our fundraising is currently edging glacially towards our target! Reaching potential pledgers has a bit nerve-wracking, not wanting to annoy people in a world saturated with social media and calls for donations. I think people have a heart response – if it means something to them personally, they know one of the artists or writers, they’re a contributor themselves, they’ve seen my kiwi-diary-induced grey hairs or they’re a loyal fan of the diary they’ll be interested. I’m trying not to sweat too much about finding the right words, just mentioning it once a day on Facebook. I’m not a huge social media person.
SL: The experience was an unexpected whirlwind because I had the idea and launched the campaign inside 48 hours. On the Monday I didn’t know how I was going to get to London, and on the Friday I was in the middle of an avalanche of cash and attention. I had emailed and networked and promoted the campaign through every avenue I could and I then made sure not to be pushy with it. Luckily the promotion spread organically.
Would you try crowdfunding again?
FW: Yes – if it was the right cause that I really believed in, absolutely. I think it is just a new medium for a phenomenon that has been going on since the first red-cross collector knocked on a their first door (in fact since Charles Sumner Ward had the idea to fundraise for his local YMCA by door knocking in 1892!). You can almost imagine money flowing around society like water, and think, “what wonderful project could flourish if some of that water was redirected in its direction”? If we imagine ourselves as part of a larger collective, we get a better grasp of the impact we can have through a seemingly small action; when our tiny action is multiplied through many others making that same action.
SL: I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to crowdfund again with the same format, for two reasons – because I don’t want to take advantage of the generosity of my fans, collectors and friends, and because the value for money of the pledge rewards (paintings) was outrageous; great for the buyers but to sell again like that would devalue the existing works.
Has your crowdfunding campaign had any unexpected consequences?
FW: Yes definitely. I’ve received enquires from contributors, recommended contacts for getting the story out to wider media, and generally a greater sense that there’s a supportive creative community out there who equally want to create positive change combined with doing what they’re passionate about.
SL: The publicity was massive and my crowdfunding experience quickly became about the unexpected success of the campaign. I found myself on radio and with magazine interviews and it was all generated by the campaign, not the goal. A happy irony.
Do you have any tips for potential crowdfunders?
FW: Ignore any thoughts you have about why not to do it, and remind yourselves about all the reasons to do it! Keep the clear reason/goal smack bang at the top; keep your description succinct; and include a video!
SL: Make sure your rewards are easily manageable! [Sarah had the enormous task of creating paintings for 39 pledgers!] and “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid” – Basil King.
I have a confession to make…
My experience has been mostly good, so far, though after a lot of initial interest and pledges, the campaign has gone stony cold. I’m hoping to re-ignite interest and reach my goal by 21st October. I’ve had to move way out of my comfort zone and do a lot of self-promotion, write press releases, make a video and hammer social media, but I’ve also been approached by a printer who can reduce my costs. Win-win.
If you’d like to pledge to The Kiwi Diary campaign, it’s at www.pledgeme.co.nz/489
Huge thanks to Freda and Sarah for their interesting, detailed and rapid responses to my questions. Find The Kiwi Diary website here: www.thekiwidiary.co.nz and Sarah Larnach’s website here: www.sarahlarnach.com