Digital Fundraising - how can we use it in the arts?

Digital Fundraising - how can we use it in the arts?

Digital Fundraising.  Everyone’s talking about it at the minute, particularly Crowdfunding, with the news this week that donation-based crowdfunding has raised £785m over the last three years, with 20% year-on-year growth.  Digital platforms engage and inspire people to become donors, and, being creative and passionate, arts organisations and professionals are well placed to capture people’s imaginations to donate via digital platforms. But what’s the best platform to use? And how do you do it?

This week, Sarah Gee gave the first Digital Fundraising Training session, run by the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme. Sarah is a fundraising whizz, having run the capital campaign for mac Birmingham, where the session was hosted, as well as starting the arts and culture consultancy company Indigo Ltd. Interestingly I noticed that mac Birmingham even have a plea for donations on their toilet mirrors – a great place to catch people at a time of peace and quiet, and a clear sign of an organisation that has fundraising at the core of their activity.

Many of the attendees were the first to admit that they were there because they don’t use digital platforms, and felt that they needed to learn about them. Immediately we received lesson 1: digital platforms are a great way to fundraise if your organisation already has a strong digital following, but can be a real waste of time if you have a target market that isn’t digitally literate (the very young or the very old) or your geographical area doesn’t have a good broadband provision. Digital activity, whether it be raising £5,000 on a crowdfunding website, or simply attracting new followers to your Twitter feed, takes a lot of time and effort, so make sure your audience will appreciate this and tap into it.

Leading on from this, digital fundraising takes time and LOTS of legwork, so you need to be willing to invest. Simply setting up a campaign will not be enough. In order to raise money you need to tell people, tell people again, and keep telling them.

For a successful campaign, you really need to spread the word and get people talking about it.
For a successful campaign, you really need to spread the word and get people talking about it.

I’m painting a picture of a lot of hard work for not much gain. But digital fundraising can be really successful in both fundraising and developing your audiences. In 2012 Kickstarter enabled 86,000,000 visitors to pledge $319,786,629.

It’s not rocket science either, here are a few key things to remember when planning a successful online campaign:

-       Choose your platform wisely. Different platforms charge different commissions (from 5% to more than 16%) and some crowdfunding platforms will only let you claim the pledges if you reach your target.

-       Tell a story. People who donate through digital platforms want to know what they are giving to and how their money will help. A good story may also engage new donors to become new audience members – a double win.

-       The 51% rule: if you already have some money, people are more likely to give. Digital campaigns can be most effective when they are finishing off the work of a non-digital campaign.

All the evidence suggests that digital fundraising will only become more important, and artists and arts organisations need to use their creativity to stay one step ahead of the game and attract new online donors. We are creative in our work and activity – so it should be easy to convert this creativity into meaningful campaigns.

What do you think? Do you know any good examples of digital campaigns? If you want to learn more about digital and other means of fundraising, the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme is running a series of training courses for arts fundraisers. If you would like to attend one of these sessions or to find out more please go to our website