All we needed was the money

[6 mins] We’re on Story 3 which I’ve named ‘All we needed was the money’. This story goes back to our first crowdfunding campaign, and why we chose Kickstarter over a public funding body like the Arts Council England.

Enjoy & feel free to post any questions or thoughts.
If you missed the last stories, click on the titles.
Story 1 We learn by doing so we’re doing it
Story 2 Work hard and be nice to people
Story 3 All we needed was the money

I’d like to dedicate this story to the early adopters, the 1st round of Kollektiv artists. Some of you didn’t even know me then! But you stuck by me while I nervously twitched and desperately tried to do everything for the first time. Thank you for believing in me and Kollektiv. Thank you for taking part and helping to shape this story. Without you guys sharing the Kickstarter like mad crazy people, we wouldn’t have managed it. You’re my homies. How many times can a girl say thank you? Honestly, I really mean it, thank you.

“Scared but completely committed – the countdown began. T-minus three months. I got in touch with illustrators, artists and makers. I knew enough people who were bored of working in retail and bars and making posters for bands. People said yes, and introduced me to their friends who were illustrators, artists and makers. Before I knew it, we were an army of 21 early career artists who wanted to take on this project.” From Story 2 Work hard and be nice to people

All we needed was the money. I barely knew what our outgoings would be. Rent? How much is rent on a decapitated shop? Where the hell do you find out these things? I remember glancing at an Arts Council England application. Just under three months until I planned to open a gallery. I kept reminding myself of the professional practice classes at University. The curtains closed and the lights turned off, we’d squint at projections of lengthy Excel budgets on darkened room walls.

My dyslexic, unpractised writing ability worried me. Doubled up with regurgitated stats of funding cuts and the 6 week wait once you’d sent the application. I remember during one lecture an Arts Council rep explained “people don’t usually get the funding the first time round”, then asked the audience to raise their hands if they’d applied for funding before. 30ish people’s hands went up, then he asked them to keep their hands up if they’d received the funding first time round. 1 hand stayed up. I scrapped that plan pretty quickly.

Voicing my opinions to the growing group of artists I’d gathered in a Facebook group. The decision to avoid Arts Council was unanimous. Luckily one of the artists told me about Kickstarter, the online crowdfunding website. She’d put money towards illustrator, Mike Perry’s solo show 6 months before. It’d been his vast incentives list of discounted prints and books which sealed the deal for her decision to pledge.

I loved it. I loved the concept. I loved Kickstarter’s website interface. Bonus points that the 1st Kickstarter I ever laid eyes on happened to be the best illustrator in the world, whose books i’d been collecting for years. DIY. Friendly. Different. We jumped on the bandwagon immediately.

If you’re unsure what crowdfunding is, i’ll tell you. It’s an ingenious global fundraising tool, that allows families, friends and supportive online communities decide your project’s fate. By giving you money in return for incentives you offer, you’re able to raise money for all sorts of initiates. If your community or audience sees a need, they’ll support you with cash.

Before fully committing to Kickstarter, I checked out some other crowdfunding sites, Indiegogo, Crowdcube… But Kickstarter won hands down thanks to it’s dedication to creative projects. But there was something else. Unlike Indiegogo, when you set a financial goal over a period of time, lets say £5000 over 30 days. If you don’t reach that £5K goal in the period of time you’ve given yourself, you can’t keep any of the money you’ve raised. This extra condition creates urgency. You’re either gonna succeed or fail.

If there’s just one person sat in a room filling out Arts Council applications, with the money magically appearing in their bank account, the money seems distant and abstract for the rest of the team. I found when we raised the money so transparently, watching the numbers bump up each day, the team and I felt we were earning the money. And once we reached the funding goal, we wore our Kickstarter achievement like a badge of honour. As a side note though, funding applications like the Arts Council England are mighty helpful for organising your project’s benefits and budget. Fill out those questions they’re…ahemm ACE. Sorry.

So we got started with our campaign ASAP. It was a race against time. On a zero £ budget we set up a Kickstarter hoping to raise £3,500 in 30 days. That’s all we needed, and it seemed like a lot to us. After watching about 100 successful and unsuccessful videos on Kickstarter, we got together in a cafe one rainy October afternoon. Dave from Wild Stag Studio recorded us individually smiling and holding our art and illustration to the camera. I wrote and recorded the voiceover, some music was added, and voila.

It makes sense that creative people prefer to make beautiful videos than write lengthy applications. We didn’t know what would happen in the project, we didn’t know what the wider benefits were just yet. Kickstarter really is a great starting point.

I asked all the artists to contribute something they’d made to the incentive list for us to raise the cash we needed. Stickers, prints, piece of arts, terrariums, bespoke artworks, workshops.. the lot. We made the Kickstarter page beautiful, neat and friendly. The key was to avoid writing too much text and make it easy to navigate.

We nervously prepared to launch the Kickstarter at the beginning of November 2013 in time for our December gallery. We didn’t know anyone else who’d gone through the Kickstarter process. We didn’t know what to expect. I prepared textbook style. Press release, tick. Teaser tweets and posts, tick. Begging emails to family members, tick. An agreement with the artists to tell as many people about the campaign as possible, tick.

Monday morning we launched. Amazingly to our surprise in the first 24 hours you the crowd helped up reach 50% of our funding goal. It motivated us to share this wonderful achievement more and more. We told everyone, we handed out flyers, we created social media competitions, we did interviews with the press and local blogs.

A sense of community emerged. Two weeks later we decided to do something fun to raise a bit more money. For one night and for one night only, you the crowd could request to have any scuzzy animal of your choice painted onto the Marwood Cafe wall in Brighton. Once you told us what you wanted and paid, you could watch us paint the animals on a live stream on the Kollektiv website.

That night you helped us raise all the money we needed to open our first gallery. Thank you so much.

The Kickstarter was a success. In just 14 days we reached our goal, 2 weeks before the deadline. It’s an experience we’ll never forget. Raising money this way is creative, risky, collaborative, educational, and a bit stressful at times. It was also incredible publicity. Kollektiv wasnt a project people knew about in Brighton. But after that Kickstarter, we’d reached so many eyes and ears, that people waited with anticipation till our first gallery would open 🙂

That’s all for now. Until next the next story!

Click on the titles to take you to the story
Story 1 We learn by doing so we’re doing it
Story 2 Work hard and be nice to people
Story 3 All we needed was the money

Sophie Giblin is the director of Kollektiv Gallery.

See more posts by Sophie Giblin

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