Developing a Year-Round Fundraising Strategy
For many artists, fundraising is the way that you get your work financially supported. Through strategies like crowdfunding campaigns, grant applications, membership drives, and end-of-year appeals, fundraising can help you secure the financial resources to realize your creative vision. While fundraising isn’t the only way for artists to bring in funding, it can be an important part of your life as a working creative.
But fundraising can be stressful for artists. It can feel overwhelming and time-consuming. One way to mitigate that stress is to plan ahead for your fundraising strategy, maybe even for the whole year. If you think about fundraising as something that you can plan for ahead of time, you’ll save yourself time and energy. It might seem like extra work to develop a year-round fundraising strategy but ultimately it will help you fundraise better so that you can spend more time on your art–which is the whole point of fundraising anyways!
Benefits of Developing a Year-Round Fundraising Strategy
While sketching out your fundraising strategy and plans months in advance seems like a lot of work, the goal of planning ahead is to actually make fundraising a more manageable endeavor for you.
If you know what kind of workload you’re planning for, you are less likely to feel a big fundraising push as a sudden onslaught of tasks. If you just dive into fundraising campaigns in an ad-hoc way, they can seem more overwhelming and never-ending. Ultimately, planning ahead can help you avoid burnout and exhaustion. Otherwise, you might find yourself in mid-November realizing that you really ought to send an annual appeal while you’re already swamped with plans for a holiday show and can barely find the time to craft a thoughtful message asking for support from your community.
Planning out your fundraising efforts ahead of time can also help you see your work as interconnected. You can think about how your fundraising fits into your creative schedule and how one campaign might relate to another. Rather than throwing spaghetti at the wall with a few crowdfunding campaigns on different platforms, a single grant application, and then an annual appeal to your email list, you can have your strategies work in concert with one another.
If you plan your fundraising strategy for a full year, you can think about doing a crowdfunding push before spring grants season to demonstrate to funders that you have a robust community base and an audience. Or you could do a big spring fundraising push because you have ambitious plans for a fall show. However you are deciding to plan out your fundraising, make sure that there’s thought behind how different fundraising strategies relate to one another and ultimately relate to your creative pace, schedule, and vision.
Sketching out a longer-term fundraising schedule and strategy is not only best for you, it’s best for your audience. If you can plan out campaigns and touch-points for your community, you can ensure that they hear from you regularly enough that they feel connected to you and your project, but not so often that they are frustrated by a bombardment of emails in their inboxes.
Here are some ways to start planning your year-round fundraising strategy:
Plan for the Calendar Year
There are natural ebbs and flows in fundraising that occur throughout the year that artists should be mindful of when planning fundraising campaigns. People give more money around the holidays or might feel more inclined to give after they’ve received their tax return. They might feel burnt out after holiday spending in mid-winter and be less inclined to donate.
Depending on the kind of work that you make or the audience who is most engaged with your work, certain holidays will be important. If your work is about mystery, magic, or transformation, Halloween might be an important date to plan around. If you're Jewish and your work is about social justice or struggles for liberation and self-determination, Passover could be important.
You should also consider what else is going on in the world that will be on your community’s mind. If there is something that’s happening in the wider world that will be taking up a lot of collective mental space, maybe consider scheduling your fundraising pushes around those events. For example, you might want to avoid planning a big fundraising push during an election season when tensions are high and people are possibly prioritizing donations to political candidates.
Or, just acknowledge that your fundraising isn’t happening in a vacuum. Your community is encountering your work while they are also dealing with the rest of the world and will likely appreciate your honesty about how your work fits into the bigger world we all live in.
Plan Interrelated Fundraising Efforts
When planning a calendar of fundraising, or even just a few months at a time, consider how your fundraising efforts relate to one another.
How can you use different strategies to build on excitement you’ve previously generated or capture new attention?
You might think about seeking crowdfunding support before applying to grants to show that you already have an audience and a community that is hungry for your work. You might consider a request for recurring monthly support after you’ve received an influx of new donors through a social media push. You could see how your grant applications go before committing to a crowdfunding campaign.
You should also consider how often you are putting together fundraising campaigns. If someone has just donated to a crowdfunding campaign, they might not want to immediately hear a pitch become a recurring donor. You might consider doing a recurring donation push with people who have already contributed to a crowdfunding campaign after several months so that you don’t overload their inbox with requests.
Fundraising isn’t about discrete, isolated funding asks. It’s about building an ecosystem of support that can accommodate different kinds of giving and can encourage a community to stay invested in your work for the long haul.
Plan Your Fundraising Around Your Creative Schedule
Your fundraising is in support of your creative work, so you should plan your fundraising schedule around your creative one.
You’ll want to plan to spend time executing a fundraising campaign or round of grant writing when you have some space from your art practice. It doesn’t serve either your art or your fundraising if you are trying to do both at once. You don’t want to be closely monitoring social media and email communications to hit a crowdfunding goal while you’re in tech rehearsals for an ambitious spring showcase.
Fundraising requires time, attention, and care. As does your art. You do both a disservice if you try to do it all at once. Plus, you’ll likely burn yourself out in the attempt!
As you plan out your fundraising schedule, think about where you can slot it in during your creative cycles. Do you find that you’re usually attending residencies over the summer? Then plan to fundraise during another season. Are you busy with holiday markets in November and December? Then you might not want to plan an end-of-year push at the same time.
Consider how your fundraising can work to support your art. Perhaps in the months before you fully start a new project, you can fundraise to finance that project. Maybe after a big gallery show you can reach out to any new contacts you have with a request for financial support.
Fundraising is in Service of Your Art
It can be easy to feel like fundraising for your art is a full-time job. And for some larger arts organizations and institutions, fundraising is a full-time job. Successful fundraising requires planning, strategy, time, and creativity. With all of the ways that artists can fine-tune your fundraising strategies and tactics, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the world of fundraising.
At Fractured Atlas, we share plenty of resources to help you fundraise more thoughtfully and more successfully. We want you to know about different kinds of fundraising, common mistakes that artists run into when crowdfunding or applying for grant funding, and plenty more. And we help artists accept tax-deductible donations through our fiscal sponsorship program.
But it’s crucial to remember that fundraising is not more important than making your art. Fundraising is about giving you the resources to make your art. Fundraising is just a means to an end.
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.