Tips on how to rise $8,000 USD on IndieGogo
[This is an excerpt from the full interview with composer, pianist and improviser Andrew Jamieson. In this part goes into detail on how he managed to successfully fund his experimental music opera, Heaven Down Here.]
Diego: I think it’s quite amazing the way that you got funding for your opera. Could you tell how did you managed to do that?
Andrew: Oh yeah, thanks. It was a quite an experience. I learned a lot, I wish that I had known before. So, one thing that I regret, I´m just going to throw it right away is that I only used this sort of crow founding, Indiegogo, which is equivalent to Kickstarter and others; and I depended entirely on them; which means that I didn’t tap into the conventional grants that are still out there. What I’m seeing now is that people have a “do all of the above” approach.
I’m not sure how many people are able to fund their projects entirely with conventional grants but they are out there and since I didn’t use one, I didn’t have as much fundings as I could’ve had, so I would first of all encourage everyone not to use something like Indiegogo or Kickstarter as a replacement for the conventional grants. However I did use Indiegogo with a lot of success. I set an $8,000 dollar goal and raised just about exactly that amount. So one lesson in there is the goal is important and it makes a difference. It could well determine how much you raise.
Diego: So how did you determine the goal?
Andrew: The goal really should primarily come from how much money you need for the project. For example, I knew that I needed to hire about twenty performers and I wanted them all to receive something and I knew that would run over $5,000 dollars total, which it did. So, I had, you know, if I had only set 5000 dollars as a goal or a less than that. I guess I was slightly under 5000, it was more than half of the budget. So if my goal was under that amount then I wouldn’t have as much credibility, because even if I make the goal, I’m still gonna be underfunded. It’s possible to raise them with the crowdfunding platforms are set up, it’s possible to raise for more a new goal and that does happen. At some point I thought that maybe if I set my goal lower than what I needed then people would surpass the goal but that is not what happened, and I’m glad I didn’t follow with that idea. I had eight thousand dollar goal and I got about eight thousand dollars.
Second, in Indiegogo you set a [proper] time frame for your campaign, I set it for thirty days which, I think was the right decision, and that’s definitely what they recommend for a medium level crowdfunding campaign. First I thought it should be longer but any longer than that would be a problem because you lose the momentum, you lose interest. It might work if I was trying to raise maybe twenty thousand, that would give some extra time for things to come together and people to come forward and spread the word, but for eight to ten thousand, if there’s sixty days then it is too long.
Thirty days was about the right amount of time, but you know, two or three days before the deadline I was around $6,000 dollars. A lot of people gave at the beginning and then things kinda dropped off for most part, then things picked near the second half of the campaign but two days before I was still at six thousand and then shout out for the last day. You know, people are watching, people also procrastinate, people wait till the very last minute, and you have to remind them, because a lot of people wanna do it, but they’re busy. They might be thinking “I wanna make sure that I can make a small contribution to help kinds of things happen” but they forget or they put it off, not because they are out of funds but because they are busy. Everyone’s gonna do that, but people have to know “okay now is your time”. A lot of procrastinators dropped in on the last day and then it shot up almost two thousand dollars in the last day, or in the last couple days. A few people, not a lot but a few people gave something extra near the end, many more people were prepared to give something extra and did not, because they wanted to wait for other people to step up, which they did. That’s why the goal was so important. If those people saw that I only needed six thousand then my real goal might not have happened, or maybe if I had said that I needed $10,000, some of these people actually would’ve steped up, so the goal truly makes the huge difference.
By the way, Indiegogo, you do have an incentive to make your goal which is why people are tempted to make the goal lower, because they do take a percentage of what you’ve raised, that’s how they fund their operations and the percentage goes down when you make your goal. And also there’s a little secret about Indiegogo and it is that they can actually partner with Fractured Atlas, an organization which offer various services that are very useful for artists, and one of them is these tax deductible spending accounts. People can give to them, directly to the account, and then they get a tax deduction for it, so they make the contributions for your campaign tax deductible. They do not partner with Kickstarter, and that was the biggest reason I didn’t use Kickstarter. But just, just in case people are, people want to know that the whole truth about this, the way that it works when Indiegogo and Fractured Atlas partner, is that they take the same percentage whether you make your goal or not. That’s just what they worked out between the two of them and then they split their funds. It’s a good deal, it’s not, I think it’s about seven percent total between the two organizations so it’s better. In Kicksarter you ended up with about twelve percent if you make your goal. So, I would recommend this better arrangement. You do have to go through paperwork for actual people to read in order to get approved for an account. The bar’s not that high but they need to know that you’re doing legitimate art with the public service and with some kind of the public access component to it, like your concert. That would make it tax deductible. I was set back about a month because I didn’t knew that I needed to go through that paper work, they are on a monthly schedule so they can only approve you once a month. Indigogo will automatically approve you but they’ve not really gonna be tax deductible.
Another thing I would say is that a lot of people expect to find total strangers, people on the internet, who are looking to give money to projects, and that is definitely not true. What makes something like Indiegogo work is using the people that you already know and creating a platform to bring all of them together and help support you. That’s why our conventional grants are good, because that’s money that’s outside of who you know, of the communities you are connected to. Then you don’t have to depend entirely on the resources of your own personal support network. You can actually do that, but you have to be intentional about contacting people in your own network. Many of them won’t come through but many of them will. I wrote lots of personal e-mails, by the way, to everybody that I knew. You have to be prepared for that, but even with many people ignoring it, enough people responded so that I still got where I needed to be. A few people will respond in unfriendly ways and you have to be prepared for that too. Don’t let it scare you away, what you’re doing is still important and you need to trust that even if there’s people who in the end won’t give you any money, many of them will still upport what you’re doing.
There’s one last thing to it that I should add. When I started no one gave less than twenty dollars and more often than not people were giving like fifty or a hundred dollars. It wasn’t that many people but when they did do it was something substantial. I think people can be afraid to give less than that, or embarrassed. So, what happens is, you know, all these people who would’ve been happy to give you one or two or five dollars, didn’t do it, they didn’t step up. So, that’s a challenge. What I did was a “Dollar Donor Day” that I invented. I had a neighbor Terri Odabi, the jazz singer who happened to live across the street from me, she had a campaign at the same time and she kind of copied my idea a few days afterword but she came up with a catchier name for it: “A two dollar Tuesday’’, I like that. Then two days later, of course, she did “A three dollar Thursday’’. One of the advantages is also that some people would say “oh, well, I don’t have to just give one dollar, I have two or three I can give you” or more often “I have five or ten or twenty” or “I have means to give fifty, haven’t done it yet, so today’s my day to do that”. So during that period of time I got a lot of people signing on, I think I was able to double the amount of people who had given during that period of time and you should also look at that as success, because they are getting invested in your project, and that also counts a big deal.