Crowdsourcing gaining popularityA new tool is breathing life into projects that in the past, might never have gotten off the ground.
By: By Noah Ovshinsky, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Fundraising is a fact of life for many in the arts. And for some people, it can be discouraging. But a new tool is breathing life into projects that in the past, might never have gotten off the ground.
Talk to most artists and young entrepreneurs and most, if not all, will tell you fundraising is no fun. Up until recently, they only had a few tools to work with foundations, angel investors, credit cards, and the generosity of family and friends. Anne Smith co-directs the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic at the UW Law School. She says these sources are all risky, especially the last one on the list.
"I think your mother is okay if you lose the money she invested in you. Your friends, maybe not if they lose all the money that they invested," she says.
Fortunately for artists and entrepreneurs, they have another, newer tool at their disposal. It's called crowdsourcing.
Cindy Au is the Community Director at Kickstarter, which is perhaps the most well known website to take advantage of crowd-funding.
"...basically anyone who is working in the arts or in one of our many creative categories can present an idea, they can out it on our site and they have the ability to collect pledges for that project," she says.
Sites like these allow artists to solicit small gifts from a large pool of people who have little or no connection to the person raising the money. In Kickstarter's case, nobody is charged unless the fundraising goal is met. It's an approach that is growing in popularity.
"A lot of people have described the act of backing a project as addictive and I think there is a feel good moment where when you back someone whether it's somebody you know or someone you don't know, you realize your small contribution whether it's a dollar or 10 dollars is literally making a film happen," she says.
According to its website, Kickstarter provides a funding platform for projects that are, "big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental."
Sam Mayfield used the website to raise money for a documentary she's making on last year's capitol protests. It's a politically sensitive topic, which she says complicated her search for funding.
"Political movies that challenge the existing paradigm are not easily funded," she says. "They are not the stories being told through mainstream media or through Hollywood production houses."
Enter crowdsourcing. Mayfield raised 42-thousand dollars in 25 days using Kickstarter. Her project had a total of 760 backers. She met her goal, but she's quick to note it was not easy.
"It's a huge amount of work," she says. "Some people think you just put the Kickstarter ... you put your video up there and you just wait for money to roll in. It's really not like that. It was a huge effort. I was lucky to have a creative team of people helping me in the project."
Not every Kickstarter project reaches its goal. In fact, most don't. According to Au, the success rate is around 46 percent. Growing pains aside, crowdsourcing is here to stay. Au says Kickstarter reminds her of an earlier era. She says websites like hers have their roots in the Renaissance and the idea of arts patronage. But now she says it's not just for the very rich. Au says it's possible for everybody to support the arts.