Last month I wrote an article for CMN about crowdfunding that profiled three artists, a filmmaker, a violinist, and an children’s book author, who had used one of three popular online crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Peerbackers, to raise money for their respective projects. The day the article posted, I mounted my own crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Here is what I learned from the experience.
I am compiling several interviews I’ve conducted with women who play jazz for a book I’ve tentatively titled, Women In Jazz. To help generate excitement about this project, I decided I needed a high quality, specially produced promotional video. I contacted a videographer, and we agreed $1,000 would cover his expenses. To raise funds for the video, I created a campaign on Indiegogo, which ended up with the rather unruly name, “Women In Jazz Book Promotional Video Campaign.”
I am happy to report I was able to raise $825 using Indiegogo as my crowdfunding platform. A post-campaign contribution from a friend brought the final total to $925. That may not be as impressive as say, fifty grand. But before planning a campaign with a five digit goal, I first wanted to experience the process first hand.
Setting Up a Campaign
Indiegogo’s website encourages everyone to make a video to promote their campaign. “Pitching your campaign with video,” says Indiegogo. “Gives funders a direct window into the personal stories and dedication that form the foundation of your campaign.”
Being an Indiegogo “rookie” (their term, not mine), I tried to follow its suggestions. However, after spending nearly an hour with iMovie, using my iMac’s camera to film take after take of me stumbling over my words while trying to pitch my book and fundraising campaign, I had a revelation: I didn’t need to make a campaign video!
I asked myself, if I’m trying to raise money to produce a high quality video, a video that I plan to send to musicians’ publicists and managers, why should I pitch my campaign with a crummy-looking homemade iMovie?
I believe videos are effective and even necessary for some crowdfunding campaigns. But in some cases, a video may be a detriment to your case for the level of artistry you’re trying to present and the quality of the project you’re asking people to fund.
Following the Money
Throughout the campaign, it was both scary and exhilarating to email the link to friends, family, and business contacts, and share it on my blog, Facebook and Twitter. Two good friends each made a contribution the first day of the campaign, so right off the bat, I had some momentum going, and something to add to my next email plea. (“Hey, guess what? It’s day one and we’ve already raised $100!”)
With Indiegogo, you set specific donation amounts and match each one to a donor “perk.” For my campaign, if you donated $50, you got a CD of my music, with packaging featuring artwork by New Orleans artist Jacqueline Bishop. If you donated $100, you got the CD and a special, handmade, Women In Jazz decoupage featuring an image of a great female jazz musician.
Donors can contribute to your campaign using either Paypal or a credit or debit card. If, like me, you choose to run a Flexible Funding campaign, Indiegogo keeps 4 percent of funds raised as their platform fee if you reach your goal. If you don’t reach your goal, Indiegogo keeps 9 percent of the funds raised.
I asked Indiegogo Support why anyone who doesn’t meet their goal, even by a few dollars, is basically penalized. Their response:
“We understand how difficult it can be to raise funds from a crowd and we understand that there are many reasons that could make a funding goal just out of reach, despite clear and steady progress in a campaign community’s fundraising efforts…We also know that sometimes contributors need a little push, and having perks, a funding goal, a deadline, and a tiered fee or fixed funding structure all assist with this.”
I personally believe Indiegogo should split the difference between the four and nine percent. But that said, once I got a grip on how much Indiegogo and Paypal were taking out of my online donations, I appreciated the fact that Indiegogo was safely and accurately tracking all donated monies down to the penny. I also appreciated that when I had a question or a concern, Indiegogo responded by email to my query within 24 hours.
Some donors prefer to just write a check rather than make a contribution online, and two of my $100 donors did just that. I wanted to add those funds to my campaign so that others could see the dollar figure was increasing over the campaign. So I deposited the donated checks in my own bank account, and then made the donation myself to the Indiegogo campaign in the name of the donor. Indiegogo’s platform also allows you to make the donor anonymous and hide the donation amount if you wish. I suggest you have a plan in place for contributors who aren’t comfortable making a donation online, especially if you are attempting to reach a funding goal higher than mine.
After the Campaign
There’s no doubt in my mind that crowdfunding is a game changer. But recent developments, including the much praised and much maligned JOBS Act, point to the potential for future problems with the model. Arts advocacy organizations, including Fractured Atlas, who are partnered with Indiegogo, as well as an accountant who specializes in working with freelancers, artists, and not-for-profits, can answer questions you as an artist may have before you dive in and launch your own crowdfunding campaign.
Now that it’s been a few weeks since my campaign ended, I am busy mailing out CDs and decoupages to donors, updating the Women In Jazz blog, and consulting with the videographer about the video. Once you get a little money in hand, then the real work begins!