Common Crowdfunding Mistakes for Artists
Crowdfunding is, as a field, crowded. According to Fundera in February 2020, crowdfunding generates $17.2 billion in North America. Crowdfunding grew 33.7% in 2019 and there were almost 6.5 million campaigns. With so many crowdfunding campaigns out there, it’s clear that many people are finding success. But it also means that it can be hard to make your project stand out against all of the other crowdfunding campaigns competing for attention and donations.
If you’re running a crowdfunding campaign for your creative work and aren’t seeing the results you’re hoping for, it’s easy to feel like your troubles are a result of personal failure or proof that your vision isn’t worthwhile. It’s certainly possible that a crowdfunding campaign can be a proof of concept and audience. It can also show that your work might not resonate as widely as you hope it does. But, it’s also entirely possible that you’re just making a common mistake with your crowdfunding campaign.
Fiscally-sponsored artists and arts organizations use our crowdfunding platform to solicit tax-deductible donations for projects, in addition to other one-time donations and recurring donations. We’ve seen artists find major success crowdfunding, and we’ve seen artists struggle to get their campaigns off the ground.
Here are some of the common issues we’ve seen artists struggle with when crowdfunding.
Setting Your Crowdfunding Goal Too High
Setting your crowdfunding goal is a challenge tightrope to walk. If you go too low, you run into problems (which we’ll go over here as well). But if you go too high, you can also run into issues!
If you set your crowdfunding goal too high, it could look to potential donors like you haven’t spent time on your budget and are just trying to get as much money as you can at once. If it looks like you’ve just picked a huge round number as your goal, it can appear to donors that you haven’t done your due diligence with your budget and are just expecting them to do all the legwork to support your vision.
Optics aside, setting an unachievable crowdfunding goal can have some negative impacts on your actual campaign. It can be hard to gain momentum on crowdfunding campaigns with high financial goals. It’s exciting for donors to see the needle move or the thermometer move closer to the goal. That’s harder to see in a campaign with a very high goal.
For example, if your goal is $20,000 and you’ve gotten that first $5,000 you are already 25% of the way there. That indicates to potential donors that there’s a whole group of people who are already invested in the campaign and it gives you as the person running the campaign a messaging touch point to reach out to your community. If your goal is $100,000 then that same $5,000 is a drop in the bucket and much harder to get excited about, even if it represents the same community’s interest in and commitment to your work.
Plus, depending on the platform that you are using to crowdfund, you might not be able to keep the funds you receive if you don’t reach all or most of your goal! That’s not the case for people using the Fractured Atlas crowdfunding platform, but it is worth noting that it is the case for other platforms like Kickstarter.
If you do need to fundraise for a large sum of money, either for ongoing operating expenses, you might consider other means of funding like grants or soliciting recurring donations on a platform like Fractured Atlas, Withfriends, or Patreon.
Setting Your Crowdfunding Goal Too Low
You don’t want to set your goal too high for the reasons we just outlined, but you also don’t want to set it too low!
If you set your goal too low, you might not raise as much money as you need to complete your project. If you are so worried about not reaching an ambitious goal that you confine yourself to the most minimal budget and don’t give yourself any financial cushion for unforeseen expenses, you can run into several issues.
You might spend all of this fundraising energy on a crowdfunding campaign only to find that you need to reach back out for additional funding. If that’s the case, you would have saved yourself a lot of time if you had a higher goal to begin with. It might be frustrating for your community to support you in one fundraiser only to see you reach back out again. It’s a time suck for everyone involved and it might make them feel like their first donation didn’t even matter. Plus, if you have to run a second crowdfunding campaign, that’s time and energy that you can’t devote to actually making your work!
You’ll ultimately save yourself and your donor community time if you give yourself a crowdfunding goal that would let you accomplish your project as you envision it in your head, plus some wiggle room for unforeseen costs.
Of course, you can always fundraise above and beyond your goal, but there’s less incentive to donate to a project that has already hit its goal.
Not sure how to build that budget? Check out our guide to building a budget.
Not Promoting Your Crowdfunding Campaign
It sounds obvious, but if you don’t tell people about your campaign, they won’t be able to donate to it!
We’ve seen plenty of fundraisers where the organizers will make one social media post and send one email at the beginning of the campaign and then find themselves frustrated that after the initial round of donations, their campaign seems to lose momentum.
It’s normal for a crowdfunding campaign to see a big initial spike and then taper off slightly. But if you never remind your community about your campaign after you launch it, they likely won’t remember to come back and donate or share if they didn’t do so the first time they saw it. Peoples’ lives are busy and sometimes they (we!) need a few reminders.
You should plan to reach out to your community via email or social media at several points during your crowdfunding campaign. You could reach out at points like the halfway mark, one week before it ends, the day before it ends, or whenever else makes sense for you. You could also plan to reach out after you raise your first $1,000 or meet half of your goal. These touchpoints can help keep your fundraiser in the minds of your funding community.
Make sure that your fundraiser is linked on your website, social media bios, and maybe even other places like your email signature. You want to make it easy for people to support you if they choose to!
While you definitely should make it a point to let your community know about your crowdfunding campaign, you also don’t want to batter them over the head with it to the point that they’re sick of hearing from you or about your work. By planning out specific communication touch-points in advance, you can create a roadmap that makes sense for you and your community to maximize engagement without flooding anyone’s inbox or social media feed.
Not Explaining Your Work or the Fundraiser
Sometimes artists get so far into the nitty-gritty of your work that you forget to take a step back and make it absolutely clear to anyone coming to your fundraising campaign exactly what it is that you do and what you are raising money for. Clarity is key if you’re looking for support in a crowdfunding campaign.
Sometimes you might be so focused on describing the mission of your work that you don’t explain how you work to achieve that mission. Your vision might be to educate, empower, or support a specific community, but you have to be sure to explain how exactly it is that you do that work. Do you have classes, workshops, or gallery shows? Be sure to address the “how” as well as the “why” of your work.
This is good advice any time you are talking about your art, but it is especially important when you are running a fundraising campaign.
When you are crowdfunding, you need to make it clear for potential donors what exactly you are hoping to achieve with the money you raise from a given campaign. Crowdfunding campaigns are different from other ways that artists raise money in that they tend to be for supporting specific projects from an artist or an organization rather than ongoing operational expenses. Because of this, you’ll need to be very clear about what the project is that you are trying to realize!
You might even consider offering a cost breakdown of what expenses you are hoping to cover, in addition to information about what you’d do with extra funding if you exceed your crowdfunding goal.
Too Little Media
We don’t mean media coverage here, we mean media like pictures and videos. People often need to see photos and videos to get a sense of who you are, what you’ve done in the past, and what you are hoping to do in the future. You can and should write out a description of your work and your vision, but photos and videos can help drive the message home. Plus, it makes for very shareable social media content!
Use photos and videos to show your past work, to demonstrate its aesthetic value as well as the way it resonates with its audience. Crowdfunding’s strength is that it allows you to capitalize on human connection. In order to make that connection, put a human face (or many human faces) and human passion front and center.
If you’re nervous about making a video for a crowdfunding campaign, we’ve got some suggestions for you.
No Secret Hacks to Fundraising
In the end, there isn't a silver bullet or set of magic tricks that will spell an automatic crowdfunding success, or fundraising success of any kind. What will help you out the most is just being clear, compassionate, passionate, and creative. More than a collection of tricks and tips, fundraising is a state of mind that lets you recontextualize the skills you already have.
For more tips about crowdfunding and other kinds of fundraising, check out our ultimate guide!
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.