More new funding models

Last time, I promised to discuss a few more innovative funding models for the arts.  As with other types of business and creative ventures, there are a lot of ideas kicking around out there.  Some of them are really interesting, some of them are kind of scary since they involve turning the traditional funding models on their ear.  All of them are worth considering.

One trend that has made its way into the arts funding marketplace is crowdfunding.  Crowdfunding is a variation of crowdsourcing, which means outsourcing a task that normally is done by one person to a variety of people via an open call.  With crowdfunding, a project or business proposal is placed online with a financial goal.  Those who are interested can contribute.

The most popular crowdfunding site is Kickstarter, which bills itself as “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.”  The Kickstarter site features tens of thousands of projects to choose from, and one of the appealing features is that no contributor is charged until the goal is reached.  This helps prevent fraud and encourages investors to take risks.  Another interesting feature of Kickstarter is that it has asked respected organizations, including Sundance and the Rhode Island School of Design, to curate pages of projects, enabling investors to choose from projects that have received the imprimatur of knowledgeable folks.

As for artists, platforms like Kickstarter offer them the opportunity to share their project via social media and encourage their friends and associates to spread the news to other likeminded individuals.  The net can literally be cast worldwide.

Here’s a nice article listing nine crowdfunding sites.  Some are very similar to Kickstarter, others have interesting twists or specialize in a particular kind of project.  All are worth checking out.

A variation on crowdfunding is microloans, and here Kiva is king.  Kiva mostly provides loans of as little as a couple hundred dollars to entrepreneurs in developing countries.  The twist here is, once the loan is paid back, the investors can re-invest those same funds in other projects.

Crowdsourcing also has made its way to audience development.  The Audience Engagement Platform, originally developed by Misnomer Dance Company, has developed some innovative ways to reform the process of booking and scheduling performing arts events.  Instead of booking a date at a theater and then trying to collect an audience, the AEP process helps performers collect an audience and then find the appropriate venue for the activity.  Imagine this: a dance company wants to perform in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The traditional path would have them contacting the Weidner or Meyer, and either book a date or try to convince the venue to present them.  Using AEP’s methods, the company puts the word out that they’d like to perform via social media and asks people to commit to attending.  Once the audience has been collected, it’s time to contact the venue — and nobody is taking as much risk.

Has anyone tried any of these methods to raise money?  I’d love to hear about it.

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About Ellen Rosewall

I am Professor and Chair of Arts Management and author of Arts Management: Uniting Arts and Audiences in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2013). I believe that arts and culture are undergoing a profound change in the 21st century, and I love talking with people about how we continue to bring arts to our communities and individuals give the brave new world of social media, technology and economic changes. Join the conversation!
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