On crowdfunding


General Photography

Raising funds for photographic projects using crowdfunding (think Kickstarter) is becoming more and more common, and it will be interesting to see how well it will be able to establish itself. I’ve been looking into crowdfunding for a while now, trying to figure out the various parameters and how to deal with them. Basically, everything seems to come down to what one exactly has to offer - typically, there are tiered contributor levels (“Donate $10 and get a wet handshake, donate $20 and get a wet handshake plus a postcard, …”). On duckrabbit, David White raised some points about a couple recent Kickstarter projects:

“In both cases, I am left wanting to know more. About the why’s, the how’s, the intended results and outputs, about how the money breaks down and is spent.”
(more; updated below)

I don’t know whether I’d necessarily agree with David, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’d agree on a case-by-case basis. And this seems to be the key here, since funding your work via Kickstarter, say, involves more than just a simple business transaction. You might give someone $50 because you like the idea of getting a book in return, but you might also give someone $50 because you like what that person is doing and you can spare that amount of money, even though you don’t care so much about the book. For some projects, I’d really like to know what the money will be spent on, for others I probably won’t care too much given that I’d really love to see the work being done. For some projects, I’d like to get something cool for my money, for others it doesn’t matter.

Ultimately, and this might address David’s concerns, the success of each crowdfunding project is determined by how many people decide that the information given to them and the various incentives offered in return for the money are good enough. This includes the “fans” who will give you an amount of money they’re comfortable with (maybe even regardless of what they get back), and it includes people who see their donation really more like an investment. What’s not enough for David, might be more than enough for other people.

The essence of all of this might be contained in the following quote from an article in The Economist:

“crowdfunding’s early success at raising sums large enough to be useful, though not large enough to replace other sources of funding for creative works, fits in with a broader trend of using technology to bring artists and their audiences closer together.” (my emphasis)

Update (28 Dec 2010): I just came across United States Artists, which sounds and looks great - unless you look at their rules: “To ensure this is a community of your peers — the most accomplished artists working in the United States today — there are a few simple requirements: […] You must have received an award or grant from one of our USA Projects Partners or Recognized Organizations.” So in a nutshell, if you got a grant or award already you can try to collect more money. If not - tough luck. I don’t think that’s a fair approach to crowdfunding.