WHY ARE YOU CROWDFUNDING AGAIN?
Two years ago yesterday, I was celebrating surpassing my stretch goal of $5000 for the fundraising campaign supporting the first ever "...that's what she said." One year ago, around this time, I was launching an $8000 campaign to fund the second "...that's what she said." The campaign closed out at $7200. Today, I am announcing that there are just five days left to donate to the ongoing campaign of $10,000 to fund the third annual "...that's what she said" - and we are less than 20% to our goal.
Why in the world am I doing this again? Shouldn't I have found a way to be more sustainable by now?
maybe, maybe not
Did you know that crowdfunding becomes exceedingly more difficult the more years you do it? I did in 2017, when I launched my first campaign. This is why I tried to use the momentum of its initial success to build a community of support, to scale the project so it would be attractive to more people, and to provide merit statistics to potential grant funders. I think I succeeded in two out of three of these goals: there are quite a lot of people who have bought into the importance of the work I am doing as Lady BOS Productions, and quite a lot of people who have benefitted or seen benefit in the ways I have scaled "...that's what she said" and affiliated or similar projects. Grants... have not been so easy.
This will not become a post about the frustration of grants. Most of my friends are artists who are intimately familiar with grant rejection letters. For those who are less familiar with how the grant world works: grant funding provides critical opportunity for artistic projects to get off the ground, and it is an incredibly competitive (and political) world. Getting a grant does not mean a project is good, and, similarly, not getting a grant doesn't mean a project is not good. I have achieved some small success in the world of grants, but I am definitely still learning to navigate it... hence: another crowdfunding campaign.
creativity and capitalism
I think crowdfunding campaigns struggle the longer they exist for the same project because there is an assumption that at some point, the project should find a level of sustainability that does not involve asking friends, family, and a community of supporters for money. I think this stems from a capitalist business mindset. I am not going to be knocking capitalism here. I will just say that capitalism does not apply in the art world. Dance will literally never make a profit - most performing arts do not - and that is not an indication of failure. It is, perhaps, an indication of the cultural value of the arts, but netting a loss on a dance project does not mean the presenter did something wrong. Celebrity Series is one of the leading dance presenters in the city of Boston, bringing in companies like Alvin Ailey and Batsheva (nationally and internationally renowned dance companies), and they still estimate losses of thousands and thousands of dollars on dance productions. That bottom line red is washed out and made up by a combination of grants and individual giving.
a rose by any other name
What is individual giving? It is donations made by individuals who support the producing entity making art happen. It is... essentially... crowdfunding.
Individual giving campaigns have been a thing in the art world for..ever? They have been a thing in the nonprofit world forever. Are you a person who donates to the Red Cross every month, or every year? Do you participate in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life or Susan Komen Walks for the Cure every year? Do you donate to Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, the Heffer Project, or any number of other charitable nonprofits regularly? Then you are participating in an individual giving campaign. You are part of crowdfunding. It just didn't always have a fancy name and slick online portal - but it is essentially the same thing.
SO, what I am saying is that crowdfunding year after year shouldn't somehow be considered a sign of weakness or failure in an artistic organization. It goes by many different names and disguises, but it is essentially how a number of creative and nonprofit organizations- ranging from very small to very large- fill in the gaps of their budgets year after year. And it only works if lots and lots of people buy in.
the bottom line
I would love an angel donor to hand me $5000 for my project. That would make my life a lot easier. But without access to highly wealthy people, that is difficult. And beyond that, I would really like to know that my project is supported by a large community of individuals. Last year, I made it to $7200 via a combination of two large gifts totaling $2500, a few gifts of $100-$300, and a LOT of small gifts ranging from $5-$25. A little can go a long way, if a community is buying in collectively.
If what I have been doing as Lady BOS Productions has benefitted you in any way - a touching performance, an opportunity to create work, a way to meet other artists, a reminder that you aren't alone - then I need you. I need your $5. Or your $50. Or your $500. Whatever is financially feasible to you.
And if you don't want to donate to Lady BOS Productions this year, but see other projects crowdfunding that do strike a chord with you - then please, donate to them. Donate any amount. And then do it again next year. And the year after. I have chosen to dedicate a portion of my budget each year to arts donations. I give A LOT of small donations to A LOT of artists that are impressing me in some way shape or form. And - just for the record - I don't give a lot to the American Cancer Society, or to Habitat for Humanity, or to other charitable nonprofits or science-research-based nonprofits, because - yes they need support, and yes they do great work - but they have a crap ton more support than arts initiatives in the city of Boston. My dollar goes a lot further supporting my local arts community, so that is what I have prioritized.
WRITTEN BY: Kristin Wagner
Published on February 18, 2020
This blog contains contributions from several women with who we are grateful to work. Head over to our TEAM page to learn more about who we are; scan our archives to learn more about what we think.
Top Cover Photo: "shell" by I.J. Chan, Image by Haley Abram Photography