Once you know more about the different ways you can fundraise and feel like you have a good handle on some of the emotional challenges that come up when artists ask for financial support, you’re ready to start putting together your fundraising campaign(s).
Decide Which Fundraising Method Is Right For You
As we’ve already covered, there are several different ways to fundraise. You can crowdfund, seek recurring donations or general support, and apply for grants.
To decide which fundraising method or methods you should use, think first about what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.
If you’re looking to fundraise to support a specific project, consider a crowdfunding campaign or a project-based grant. If you want to fundraise for ongoing work beyond the confines of a specific project, you should explore recurring donations, general support, or look for grants that support general operating funds.
These different fundraising methods aren’t mutually exclusive, but deciding ahead of time which method or methods are right for you will help you fundraise more successfully.
Build a Fundraising Budget
The next step to fundraising, once you’ve figured out what kind of fundraising you want to do, is to figure out how much money you need to raise.
When applying for a grant or setting a crowdfunding goal, don’t just set a random number. Here’s how to get started with your budget.
First, consider all of the resources you need to accomplish your goal. Start with these aspects:
- Venue: Where will you want to have your performance, rehearse your work, or gather with your team? This may include rehearsal space, performance space, storage, fabrication space, display space, or even administrative or office space. Not sure what kind of space is right for you? Here are some things to think about when renting a studio space. Plus, here’s where to find studios to rent!
- Technology: This may include apps, programs, remotes, microphones, integrated software, cameras, and computers.
- Staff and Contractors: Everyone that contributes to your project in any way should be listed including vendors, consultants, developers, fabricators, performers, and crew.
- Equipment: This may vary widely depending on your project and often includes lights, dollies, cameras, tools for assembly purposes, musical equipment, and uniforms.
Shop around to see the costs associated with all of the resources you need. We encourage you not to just pick the cheapest options. Low-cost items can be poorly made and typically cost you more time and money in the form of increased labor on your part. They also can be unreliable and don't come with the warranty provided with higher quality items that cost a little more. Working with low-quality resources can lead to frustration and burnout, which you want to avoid.
As you’re building your budget, you can create a full budget and an austerity budget before finding the middle ground. The full budget which will reflect the cost of all of your dream resources without any discounts or deals. The austerity budget will reflect the opposite side of the spectrum; the least amount you could spend on each item, or the minimum number of items you need to reach the finished product. Your actual budget will be somewhere in the middle.
There are plenty of tools to help you create a budget and stick to it. We recommend that artists check out tools that are easy to use, and either free or low-cost. If you really don’t consider yourself a numbers person, it can be intimidating to start budgeting or to invest time and energy into learning how to use a new platform or app. If that’s the case, check out the budgeting template from Google Sheets or from Airtable. It’s likely that you’re already using some G-suite tools like Gmail or Google Docs and are familiar with G-suite’s general operations. Airtable is a nice choice because you can also use it to manage projects, stay in touch with donors, and more.
If you want a more hands-on budgeting tool, check out You Need a Budget or Mint. YNAB allows you to link bank accounts to your account and set up a monthly budget for various types of expenses. Mint, which is owned by Intuit, will create a budget for you, letting you know how much you spend in a given category a month based on your own activity, past spending patterns, and average spending in that category.
Once you have your budget and a tool or two to help you manage that budget, building a fundraising strategy is next on deck.
Build a Fundraising Strategy
Having a strategy that you outline ahead of time (even if it changes!) will help you stay focused and keep boundaries on your fundraising work. It’ll help you clarify what your goals are and how you are going to achieve them. Your strategy should include considerations for the following:
Timing is key to a successful fundraising campaign. For one thing, you should think about when it is that you need to have raised a particular amount of money, especially if it’s for something time-sensitive. You should also consider your own capacities. You should plan for your fundraising efforts to happen when you have the capacity to give them the attention they deserve. It’s also important to consider your potential donor pool. When are they most likely to be interested in giving or following your work? If you’re planning multiple waves of fundraising (for example, a crowdfunding campaign and a push for grant applications), consider the order in which you will do them. Thinking through timing in advance will prevent you from feeling like all of a sudden fundraising has taken over your whole life, indefinitely.
In order to successfully fundraise, you need to figure out what your story is. What makes you and your work unique? You can think about this as crafting your elevator pitch, the way that you distinguish yourself and your work from other people seeking funding for similar projects. This messaging will come together as you fill out grant applications, film your crowdfunding video, and talk to people about your work, but thinking through the first steps of your messaging strategy in advance will help you move forward and not reinvent the wheel every time you’re asked to present yourself and your work.
One way to think about developing your messaging strategy is to create a mission statement. In one or two sentences, a mission statement can help you clarify the effect that you want your work to have for yourself, for your audience, and for donors. Missions statements are used to help others understand why you do what you do rather than what exactly it is that you do. Mission statements are about the “why” instead of the “how” or the “what.” A great mission statement is broad enough to encompass the ways that a project or organization changes over time, but specific enough that someone reading it will know what exactly it is that you want to accomplish. Mission statements can also help you communicate about your work in other ways. Going through the process of crafting that statement can help you clarify the ways that you talk about your work to collaborators, peers, partners, and your audience in addition to potential donors. Once you have done that big thinking and soul searching about why exactly you feel called to make the work you want to make and what impact you want it to have, it’ll be easier for you to share that information in succinct and meaningful ways, both in-person and in writing.
How are you hoping to get the word out about your fundraising campaign? If you say “word of mouth,” how are you encouraging that word of mouth spread or making it easy for people to share you and your work? Are there particular people, organizations, or institutions that you have a relationship with who you could ask to share your fundraiser with their networks? Think about who you want to know about your fundraising efforts and how you will tell them.
Following directly from your outreach strategy is what’s known as prospecting.
We, like you, first thought that prospecting just referred to old timey guys looking for gold in them thar hills. But, it’s more than that!
Prospecting in fundraising refers to the way that you can think about who might be a prospective donor to you. It’s finding out who your “targets” are. This can make prospecting sound mercenary or heartless, but prospecting is really just about figuring out who in your network is most likely to be excited about supporting your work, and determining what’s the most impactful way for them to help you out.
Individual donor prospecting is when you think about your personal connections and how they could best support you. The overall goal is to have a better understanding of donors and whether or not they might be interested in making a donation. It also helps with knowing how much money (or non-financial support) to ask for.
There are three fundamental attributes by which we can measure the likelihood of a donation from potential donors: affinity, propensity, and capacity.
- Affinity: How well connected is the prospect to you and your project?
- Propensity: How accustomed to supporting artists and organizations are they?
- Capacity: How much time, money, or other resources do you estimate that they can give?
A distant wealthy relative might have low affinity but high propensity and capacity. Your best friend might have high affinity but medium propensity and capacity. Or maybe the opposite! Every person is unique, and these three areas of measure help to quantify something which can be difficult to predict.
To get started with individual donor prospecting, look at mailing list recipients, past donors, professional connections, current and former collaborators, family and friends, and social media followers.
Check out our guide to DIY donor prospecting for your next steps.
You can also consider looking for corporate donors or institutions as part of your prospecting work. If you are looking at working with institutions, don’t be afraid to call them!