Crowdsourced funding – Putting your audience in the spotlight
Those of you who were there at the beginning of my “Portraits of the 99%” project probably saw my IndieGoGo page, which I was using to raise money to continue the project. The fund raiser was successful, I raised almost 2500.00 between donations at the site and private donations from funders in San Francisco. This allowed me to travel and work on the project more or less full time and get it published in numerous print and online publications. It’s a pretty interesting resource that’s become available thanks to the internet. It’s especially useful for Photojournalists who rarely get their travel expenses covered by magazines and newspapers anymore.
Crowdsourcing is great because you can show something to the public that you’re excited about and if they’re excited about it as well – you can raise the money to make your vision happen. But there’s a few things you need to consider before you start spamming your friends with a link to your kickstarter;
Know your audience
Since your audience is your source of funding you can’t just start a project about anything. You need to think about your project and who your audience is. Who else would like to see this project happen? What age group does this project appeal to? Are you photographing the rise of the hipster trend in foreign countries or are you covering elderly men adjusting to retired life at home or in a home? These obviously have different audiences. Do some research – find out who’s already involved in the things you want to explore and get funded.
Make it awesome
You can’t post up a few scans of some sketches and drawings of the photos you want to take – you need to already have the project going. This shows initiative on your part, that you’re actively working on the project and will make potential supporters more likely to help you out. It has to have some semblance of completion and it has to look good, it has to look AWESOME. Below is my video pitch which featured me shooting and interacting with people, as well as photos and interviews with protestors. Make sure you keep it short and sweet.
Your audience needs some encouragement to get involved aside from the satisfaction of helping you fund your awesome project and a tax write-off. The best way to do this is reward them with different things depending on the amount they donate or pledge. For a donation of say, 10.00 supporters can get a nice hand written thank you card or a “thank you” credit in your project. Other amounts can get them access to behind the scenes stuff, prints, posters, books… the possibilities are endless.
Follow up, be involved and deliver
This is the most important thing. Be actively involved with your audience. Send them updates and pictures of work in progress. And ALWAYS deliver on your promises. Don’t just say you’re having an exhibition of the completed project at the MOMA if you actually don’t. You’ll upset your audience and it’s just plain dishonest. Always be upfront and transparent with what you’re doing, what you’re capable of doing and how you’re doing everything.
IndieGoGo: Takes 4% if you reach your goal, 8% if you don’t. Disperses within 7 business days after fundraiser has ended.
Kickstarter: Takes 5% and disperses ONLY if you reach your goal. Seems to be more focused on products and inventors.
Emphas.IS: Tales 15% and disperses ONLY if you reach your goal. You must get your project approved before you can begin funding. It seems to be THE place for serious photojournalists so it carries a lot of prestige.
Great video on crowdsourcing: