Kickstarter: funding for (and by) the masses

Crowdfunding websites are a simple way for artists to solicit and accept donations online.  One of the best-known sites is Kickstarter, which hosted the record-breaking crowdfunding of Diaspora. With Kickstarter, you set a fundraising goal and have three months to achieve it. If you reach your goal within three months, you keep the cash. If you don’t, the funds are returned to your backers.  You design a menu of rewards to motivate backers to give.  And, you keep 100% of ownership over your project -- an important consideration for artists dealing with copyright and distribution issues.

Helen DeMichiel, who funded a series of webisodes with Kickstarter, says the all-or-nothing structure is a great motivator. “You have to hustle,” she explains, and your backers get caught up in the excitement.

A previous project backer and current project starter, Tirzah DeCaria points out that most projects are funded largely by backers within the artist's existing network. She advises artists to look at Kickstarter as an opportunity to consolidate and mobilize your network rather than as a tool for reaching large groups of new fans. Of course, Kickstarter isn’t for everyone. The site is curated, and in addition to an application process, projects must have a U.S. address and a U.S. bank account. And there are the guidelines.

In a quick scroll through Kickstarter’s current projects, I came across many projects posted by individual artists or small groups, as well as projects by a design studio, a non-profit performance company, and a video game developer.  Kickstarter clearly doesn't exclude businesses, but established organizations aren't the primary users.  If your organization is considering a project, Joe's post on micro-donations has some good thoughts and advice.  And, again, consult Kickstarter's guidelines.

Other crowdfunding sites for artists:

  • Projects on IndieGoGo can be based anywhere in the world. Unlike Kickstarter, the site isn’t curated, so projects cover a broad spectrum -- creative endeavors, causes, and entrepreneurial work.  And, IndieGoGo is not an “all-or-nothing” enterprise.  You can keep any funds you raise along the way.  IndieGoGo also has several innovative partnerships, including a fiscal sponsorship program through Fractured Atlas and the San Francisco Film Society.
  • RocketHub is another “all-or-nothing” crowdfunding site geared toward artistic and creative projects.  RocketHub is not curated, though projects must be legal and “in good taste.”   You must have a PayPal account to start a project.

What is your experience with crowdfunding art?  Should established organizations stay out of it or join in the fun?