Fundraising Is a State of Mind
For artists who have never fundraised before, it can feel daunting. After all, institutions like museums and nonprofits have departments full of people whose whole job is just fundraising. As an artist, you might worry that you have to become a one-person writing, editing, social media, advertising, PR, videography, and photography team. While there are indeed a number of skills needed to run successful fundraising campaigns, we want to let you know that it’s not as scary or mysterious as you think.
While there might be unfamiliar tools and apps to use and strategies to deploy in a fundraising context, you already have the basics of what you need to fundraise. You just might not know it yet.
Fractured Atlas works with artists at all stages of career; from artists who are just starting out to well-established artists who have been working for years. We help artists fundraise by providing the platform to run crowdfunding campaigns and to accept recurring and one-time donations. Through our fiscal sponsorship program, we help artists access a wider range of funding opportunities. The programs we create and the resources we share are designed to help you support your creative practice and keep bringing your work into the world.
We share a lot of technical advice to help artists fundraise: from which crowdfunding platform to use to what a CRM is to picking perks and making videos for crowdfunding campaigns. But before you’re really able to make the most of the technical advice, you need to get yourself in the right mindset.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the skills needed to fundraise, we’re here to let you know that you already have everything you need to fundraise, you just need to see it. Here’s what you already have:
The Fundraising Pitch
Your pitch is the succinct way that you talk about your work and your vision. It can be scary to write something like a pitch for a few reasons. It’s hard to talk about your art, for one thing. It can also bring up feelings of guilt or shame around whether you should be fundraising at all. While these are important issues to address, the pitch part is actually not as hard as you think.
Any time you’ve been at a party or with a new group of people and someone asks what you do, the way you respond is your pitch. Whenever you explain your work to a new person in a friendly, accessible, concise way, you have the beginnings of what will be a fundraising pitch. Instead of considering a pitch as a totally alien form of communication, think about how you explain what you do and why to a curious stranger.
The Donor Network
You might think that in order to be a successful fundraiser, you need to know a lot of fancy old rich people whose families have been patrons of the arts for generations. It probably doesn't hurt if you do know these people, but in reality, your donor network already exists. The donor network you actually already have is made up of the network of people who care about you and who believe in your work. Think of your friends, family, and fellow artists in your community. Especially if you are running a crowdfunding campaign, donations from people who you already know (and their contacts if they share your campaign) are a powerful place to start.
To learn more about how to find these potential donors in your network, check out our guide to DIY donor prospecting.
The Support Team
It takes a village to fundraise. We aren’t going to dispute that! If you don’t have access to a full creative production studio, a development team, a social media manager, or other official support staff, you might not think you have the people power to successfully fundraise. But in reality, the same community of people who make up your donor network can also be your support team.
Your community is likely full of creative people with a variety of skills. Ask your community for advice, hire them for their help, organize work trades so that you can offer them something in exchange for their knowledge and labor. Collectively, we are able to accomplish much more together than we could on our own.
However, keep in mind that you should always try to compensate people for their labor. If you can’t pay people for their labor, consider trades or other ways that you can demonstrate that people’s expertise is valuable to you.
In order to fundraise, you need to figure out how much money you should be asking for. That means building a budget.
Talking about money tends to make artists nervous. Even though it’s not true, there’s a perception that artists are bad with money because artists might prioritize creating work with funds that non-artists might put in a savings account.
As an artist, you might be better with money than you think. If you are one of the many artists who is balancing multiple jobs, working on a shoestring budget and timing bill payments and purchases based on when different paychecks will come in all while figuring out how to create your work, you are savvy with money! You know what you need, what’s coming in, and how you can adjust your plans if finances change.
Just because you might not be rich or doing your finances in a formal way that a professional accountant would doesn’t mean that you don’t know how much money you need and how you should allocate it.
This is the part of fundraising that you might not even think about, but it’s crucial! You need to have a vision, a plan, something that you want to do. As an artist, you already have this. You might not necessarily know exactly what your next big project to be, but you likely have a general sense of what you are interested in exploring, who you might want to work with, which media you want to use, and who you want your work to be for.
It might be hard to recognize how important it is just to know what it is you want to create, but really this is maybe the most important part. Before you fundraise, you have to actually know what it is you want to make. And artists usually have that part already!
Ok, this part might be a bit of a cheat. It’s entirely possible that you don’t know this one automatically. You might have the pitch, the community, the budget, and the community, but not the strategy to bind them all together in a cohesive plan.
That’s where we come in! Fractured Atlas is here to help you figure out how to use what you already know, and add our collective expertise around helping artists get the funding you need.
One place to start is to learn the different ways you can fundraise and which would be best for your needs.
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Content Specialist 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.