As part of our feature on crowdfunding, we asked WomenArts members to tell us about successful fundraising campaigns they have conducted using Kickstarter. They shared their experiences about what made their campaigns successful, and told us about their exciting projects. Congratulations to these women for raising the funds needed to complete their projects! Here are their success stories.
Performers Exchange Project (PEP) www.performers-exchange.org
Artists: PEP is a collective of Central Virginia theatre artists dedicated to developing and performing original works in and for their community.
Raised: $5,548 from 97 backers
PEP used Kickstarter to raise funds to take their original performance, Our American Ann Sisters, on the road to small theatre venues around the east coast that lack the funding to cover all of PEP’s expenses.
Our American Ann Sisters is “a rollicking vaudeville-style fantasia on being a woman, an artist, an intellectual, and an American. Inspired by the Peabody Sisters of Salem, MA, an extraordinary family of female intellectuals and artists from the 19th century, the play asks pertinent questions about feminism, femininity, and the progress of women and men in our society.”
Jennifer Tidwell of PEP told us that the company put a lot of time and effort into managing their Kickstarter campaign and designing and distributing rewards to donors – a total of around 25 hours. They updated their website and Facebook pages frequently, sent personal and general appeals to their mailing list and personal contacts, and donated money to other Kickstarter artists, who in turn gave to their project. They kept supporters engaged with the progress of the campaign by posting a kooky Victorian pickup line from the play every time someone made a donation.
Tidwell said that her company would use Kickstarter again; the lesson they learned from this campaign was to promise rewards that were faster and easier to execute. PEP offered rewards ranging from a publicity photo signed by PEP members (for backers who pledged $30 or more) to a little black book of 19th century pick-up lines from the show (for backers who pledged $200 or more). Tidwell advises artists using Kickstarter to make the timeframe of the campaign short, which maximizes its intensity for donors and limits the artists’ time investment. She also emphasizes the importance of keeping supporters informed and engaged with frequent updates.
Luisa Dantas, Filmmaker www.landofopportunitymovie.com
Raised: $28,049 from 236 backers in six weeks
Luisa Dantas raised funds for her documentary film Land of Opportunity, which tells the stories of a diverse group of people as they struggle to rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans, highlighting issues that plague many American cities.
The film uses personal stories to engage viewers with complex problems such as affordable housing, immigration, urban redevelopment, and economic displacement.
Dantas said her company put a lot of time and effort into their crowdfunding campaign. They spent several days designing their project page and making videos that they sent to supporters with updates. They sent out weekly updates and bi-weekly e-mail blasts, and they made personal calls to friends and family members.
Dantas and her team came up with a creative way to minimize the times spent on rewards for donors: they reached out to several local artists who were willing to donate or provide prizes at low cost, so her team didn’t have to design prizes. The rewards ranged from a digital download of the finished film for pledges of $10 or more to a one-on-one weekend editing workshop with Dantas, a former film teacher for pledges of $5,000 or more. The high end donors also received a benefactor package that included a signed DVD and free digital download.
Dantas said that in addition to raising money for the film, their Kickstarter campaign raised the visibility of the project and attracted an enormous amount of free publicity. She didn’t like Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing method, but she would use it again. She also said she might try IndieGoGo for future campaigns. Dantas’ advice to artists using Kickstarter is to have a good media and publicity strategy, and to strike a balance between being aggressive with potential funders who haven’t yet contributed and not overwhelming active backers who have already donated.
Pony Highway Productions (www.ponyhighway.com)
Type of Artists: Film Company
Raised: $10,640 from 88 backers
Pony Highway Productions raised funds for the documentary feature Escaramuza: Riding From the Heart. The films tells the story of Escaramuza Charra Las Azaleas, a team of first-generation Mexican American horsewomen on a two-year journey to represent California and the U.S. at the National Charro Championship in Mexico.
Robin Rosenthal, the film’s producer, said a key part of having a successful Kickstarter campaign was getting beyond uncomfortable feelings about asking friends for money. She also had to explain how Kickstarter worked to some people who didn’t understand it from reading the site. Rosenthal joked that “at one point during the campaign, I felt like a cross between P.T. Barnum and a nagging wife,” and noted that most people had to be reminded several times before donating.
She put a lot of time and effort into sending out frequent updates with new photos or stills from the film, and into making and distributing rewards. Rewards ranged from “heartfelt appreciation and frequent updates on the project” (for pledges of $10 or more) to an associate producer credit (for pledges of $5,000 or more). Rosenthal found Kickstarter to be empowering after spending two years writing more than a dozen grant applications and only receiving one small grant: “I could design my own campaign, say what I wanted to say, and put it directly in front of those who might have an affinity for the subject.”
Rosenthal advises artists to make a truly realistic assessment of how much can be raised in a limited amount of time. She also advises artists to take full advantage of social networking platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and to find “affinity groups” to tell about the project who may then spread the word to others. “Work hard to get publicity; people are more comfortable backing a perceived winner. Be brave. Be creative.”
The Anthropologists (www.theanthropologists.org)
Type of Artists: Theatre company dedicated to the creation of investigative, socially relevant, and engaging theatrical work.
Raised: $1,710 from 31 backers
The Anthropologists raised funds for their Feburary 2010 production of For the Love Of . . ., a constellation of three visceral and absurd dance plays with ten performers. In a mash-up of classical text, contemporary movement and pop culture, the profound becomes pedestrian and the mundane, magnetic.
Melissa Fendell Moschitto, Artistic Director of The Anthropologists, said her company spent a considerable amount of time and effort on their campaign. She said they spent approximately 20 hours designing their project page and creating and distributing rewards. Rewards ranged from “a shout-out of appreciation on our website and in the program” (pledges of $10 or more) to “a DVD of a play created exclusively for you, based on a sentence about love that you write” (pledges of $1,000 or more).
She remarked that Kickstarter was very user-friendly and their page was easy to set up. The Anthropologists did gain new donors through their Kickstarter campaign – low-level donors – and Moschitto says she is interested to see whether these donors continue giving through more traditional channels now that they are engaged with the company.
Since The Anthropologists are fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, they may try crowdfunding with IndieGoGo, since IndieGoGo is free for Fractured Atlas sponsorees. Moschitto advises artists to be very specific about what you want to accomplish and to be very realistic about how much time you have and how many people you have to work on the campaign.