Interview with an independent artist and art group director who wished to remain anonymous.
Successfully crowdfunded for a theatrical event on Voordekunst. Crowdfunding model: donation.
What resources do you usually approach to finance your projects? Do you use specific financing resources for specific projects?
I look for immaterial sponsors, namely companies that deliver or rent things I need to make the projects. For example, I work with printing companies for publishing books, for free. It works well when you have a personal contact.
I also apply for public funds, but most of the time there is no funding money involved at all, as I don’t like the idea so much. Many people work for free, so that’s also investing immaterial service, donating immaterial things like one’s time.
What made you decide to crowdfund and why did you choose Voordekunst?
I chose crowdfunding because I had to earn money before this particular project took place. I also liked the idea that private people would give a little money to the project. My projects are about people connecting people.
I chose Voordekunst because right now it’s the only platform with a name. If it’s not a well known platform, then it’s also more difficult to convince people to give money. Another reason for this choice was that it has a connection with AFKA Foundation. AFKA (Amsterdam Funds Voor de Kunst) is also helping me at this moment with some projects.
How did the process of crowdfunding go? What were the biggest challenges along the way?
I spent too much time on the campaign. I took 2-3 days a week for it. You can’t pay someone to work for that because you can’t earn it. And who will do it for free? I think it’s only worthwhile if you take in a good intern and let him or her work only on the crowdfunding campaign for a couple of months.
I did my best at promoting the campaign. I held lectures, pitches at network and art events, on Facebook, on the project’s websites, made newsletters. In my personal network, friends also shared it. I think 50% of the funders came from this personal network
How did crowdfunding change your perception about getting financed? Did it bring an added value?
It takes too much time, 500 more times than applying for any other funds. I already have my network in place. I had to bother everybody by essentially begging for money. I will never do this again. I think the fee for the platform is also quite high – around 20% of the amount I raised.
How would you describe the experience with the crowd? Did it change anything about your project (production, concept, or your expectations about it?)
People who invested money were offered entrance to this art project and they will also receive the documentary I am making on it, once it’s done. I sticked to the initial plan of the event but I did receive a lot of feedback from participants after it. However, the fact that I raised the money before the event put pressure on me and raised the expectations.
How did you feel about the platform you used for crowdfunding: did the possibilities (for sharing, for uploading, for engagement with the public) fit your needs?
Yes. I had some technical problems. For example, it’s not that easy to put photos on the page, it’s not like Facebook. It’s also not connected to the latter and I basically had to update two pages at the same time – the platform page and the Facebook one. People at Voordekunst are very nice and helpful, that’s a really nice thing. However, my suggestion to them is to put projects in the spotlight. Crowdfunding suggests that also people whom you do not know will donate, but that’s just not the case right now. People don’t just browse projects on Voordekunst and decide where they donate. It does not work like that at all. I gave a few pitches about my crowdfunding campaign in a meeting on commercial crowdfunding. The other participants – representing commercial entities like companies, or banks, or investors – were flabbergasted. “Does this work?”, they asked. I was at the beginning at the project and thought “of course it does!”. In the end, it really doesn’t work like that.
I learnt from that meeting that, in the for-profit crowdfunding, people choose the projects they invest in. They expect their money back with interest, or expect some sort of financial reward. People do this type of investing because putting money in banks is something of the past. The investors there, however, did not see my type of crowdfunding as crowdfunding at all, because you give money away and do not get anything back, except for a thank you letter perhaps.
However, I personally believe that interest is not always commercial and for profit. There should also be interest in investing in society, in arts. But I can understand that investors don’t want to spend time investing in art, unless that art becomes very commercial. This was an eye opener for me. I realised I should not target the people with money to invest in art projects. It’s art lovers and people you know.
How many people you know are also crowdfunding?
I know a few. They tried it once and never again.
Where there things about crowdfunding you wish you were aware about before starting it?
Yes, I wished I had known the correct figures of all the other successful crowdfunding campaigns on Voordekunst. I wanted to see true figures before I started my own campaign. What Voordekunst does right now is to show how much money it raised, in total, from all successful projects, and to make these successful projects visible on the platform. Indeed, many projects reached 100%, and the total amount raised on the platform is big. That’s nice, but when I saw that I though “I have to try this! This looks good!”. But those results are not the reality. You also have to say how many projects are not reaching 100% and how much money they have to give back. That’s a big hassle.
I also had donation from AFKA for the campaign. The City of Amsterdam had already agreed to give me a grant for this project. I asked if they could give it directly to Voordekunst because people would then see that I was supported by them. The funding institution could not, however, give me the grant via the crowdfunding organization, it only gives directly to artists or art institutions. They have rules about it. So I had a problem then, because people were not donating on Voordekunst at that time. I really needed this money to finish the campaign, otherwise I would give everything back. I also thought people would donate much easier when they see that others have donate money, because they think “ah, they’re doing well!”.
So I called Voordekunst and I told them my problem. I was already stressed because I was not getting to 100% and had invested already so much time on good PR around it. Voordekunst offered to help if I sent them a copy of the funds approval by the City of Amsterdam. They would then add it to the campaign. I was not able to really transfer the amount to them, as I only received the grant way after the campaign ended. So it was fictive, but it’s how I reached 100%. This aspect needs to be said, but it’s not mentioned on the website. They use this way of bringing the amounts higher quite often, they told me. I don’t know if it’s allowed to put immaterial amounts of money on the platform. It’s not transparent. The friends who donated have had the same story.
Would you crowdfund again?
I would never crowdfund again. The reason for that is it takes too much time and it’s not worth it. If you have to pay somebody to work on this crowdfunding project, then it’s just not payable.
What would be great is to have an arts crowdfunding platform that is purely commercial. They can ask 60% of the funds raised for my campaign, but for that I would like them to do a lot for me. I could give them all the info they needed, and it would be their task to manage my campaign on their platform. They would be the ones updating it and looking for donors. I would say “Yes!” if it worked like that. 60% might sound much, but then galleries ask for the same percentage and they do everything for the artist. You only need present yourself and your work.
Another idea might be to ask commercial crowdfunding platforms, like those using profitable investment models, to also have an arts section to their websites. It would look good, even if it’s not for-profit. Investors might invest a little amount in art projects too, and receive tickets to a show in return. I believe in a solution like that.
Yet another idea is to have a ticket shop dedicated for artistic events, where art group or institutions can post sale their tickets to their plays or events. If you buy them in advance, they you know this money is needed and that your contribution goes to that. It’s like crowdfunding but it’s a ticketshop and it’s clear where the money goes to.