First let’s look first at crowd funding (next month I’ll be looking at organisational funding).
Over to Inzar Haq of Insight Consultancy, who specialises in small business funding, to explain: “In the last few years crowd funding has become increasingly popular – this is basically where you are able to raise business finance by sourcing small amounts from a large number of individuals (the ‘crowd’), rather than getting a large amount from one lender or investor. In recent years a number of website offering this type of funding have come into existence – each operate in their own niche and can easily be found on the internet.”
This isn’t the same as tapping into a pot of money which already exists and needs to be spent. This pot isn’t there to begin with – you create the pot, by convincing people to put money into it and then rewarding them in some way for doing so. Although it lacks the lengthy forms and means you aren’t placing your fate in the hands of one or two decision makers, it still requires a huge amount of work, first engaging potential investors and then delivering on your promise. Filmmaker Rhys Davies shares “Crowd funding is hard. The amount of planning, updates when the campaign starts and delivery of rewards is staggering. And this, remember, is on top of the art you are creating.
My main advice is to make people feel a part of the project. Get them involved so they are getting an experience,
not just a DVD or poster. A great way to fund films, for example, is crowd sourcing through Indie Go Go and Kickstarter.”
Crowd funding is also exposing – the masses have every right to analyse and criticise anyway but giving them a platform to do it with some ownership, however small, can be daunting. As self-published children’s author James Sykes says:
“For the somewhat pessimistic or self-deprecating figures amongst us, crowd funding can seem like a magnified failure waiting to happen.
It may cause us to shudder at the mere thought of strangers mocking our creative efforts, but there are many success stories which continuously provide evidence that if people enjoy and value what you do, they will be willing to support you financially.” That’s why crowd funding works – because people enjoy and value the work creatives are producing.
It works especially when related to a collective cause or passion, as Performance poet Lydia Towsey has found: “I’ve seen it work very well, for example, with two anthologies I’m connected to: ‘Welcome to Leicester’ (Dahlia Publishing, 2016) and ‘Over Land, Over Sea’ (Five Leaves, 2015), which have been entirely funded and published through crowd funding. It feels like an immediate way of gathering support around an issue or responding to a suddenly arising need, as in the case of ‘Over Land, Over Sea’, a project and publication instigated by writer/activist Ambrose Musiyiwa in response to UK refugee legislation. For day to day gigs I’m more likely to depend on the public for my wage, as my fee can sometimes be raised directly from ticket sales – I guess that could be seen as crowd funding of the most old skool and immediate kind!”
But crowd funding isn’t the only way to secure investment from individuals rather than organisations-there are individuals themselves who may wish to invest in a creative project. This is similar to organisation funding in that you need to demonstrate a sound business plan, with clear Return on Investment objectives. As Rhys Davies says,
“To access funding from private investment you need both a track record and a good head for business.”
It’s not an ideal route for a first timer – with organisational funding, you know the contracting is standardised, legalities are taken care of and practice is regulated. Making investment deals with individuals should only be done with the help of a lawyer (representing you as well as them) and a watertight contract.
You don’t, however, have to find the local equivalent of James Caan for a few bucks. It’s always worth looking closer to home for help in the very early stages of development, as James Sykes found…”I have been fortunate enough to be offered financial support from family and friends who believe in my product and are wanting to aid me in spreading my work into areas that I initially may not have considered possible,” he shares. Often it’s a long shot. But it’s worth an ask.
But it goes both ways – don’t expect people to have much goodwill if you don’t have plenty of it in your own reserves. As Alan Chapman, writer, producer and musician with Rude Angel, a band with a mission to raise suicide awareness since losing lead vocalist Lianne Ashberry in 2015 says
“I’ve generally taken the view that if you want to receive, then you must first give.”
He shares his ethos: “We are still focusing on trying to be giving, generous and productive. Liane was especially like this – she would do free gigs for charity without question. She organised fundraisers. So as a general rule I would say that you should start by offering or asking what you can do for people, including potential sponsors and benefactors… give to receive.” Hear hear. Although I personally have never required financial funding or investment (funding my coffee and cake consumption is hardly a worthwhile cause), I have always worked on the principal of giving time and advice freely…in moderation. Most of the times I’ve given ideas and advice without charging have been rewarded with a recommendation, a good word or inclusion in a project further down the line. It’s what makes the best business relationships thrive: honesty, respect and goodwill. Sometimes it’s taken for granted but I believe in karma – rip someone off in this life, come back as a toad in the next. And toads don’t get to cross many roads successfully.