We all need a little help when we are trying to get a great idea off the ground. Of course there are crowdfunding sites like crowdfunder, Indiegogo, Fundable (great for small businesses), Kickstarter, GoFundMe, RocketHub, and Fundly (geared toward nonprofits) that can be a place to start, but those can be time-consuming and not every project is ready for that just yet.
Start with you
The first thing that you need to do in order to start your fundraising efforts is to start at home! “At home” means starting with your followers, friends and family (and your own savings - a lot of funders want to know that you believe in your project enough to contribute your own money first!).
Tell your story on your website and connect your followers with the information through social media posts and email blasts. As with branding, emphasize the mission, purpose, foundation of your work to allow the audience to emotionally connect with what you are trying to do. If done well, you will compel them to be a part of your mission (including investing and / or helping you to spread the word).
Include engaging pictures and anecdotes. Make your story come alive visually and through sensory details and definitely add a donate button to your website and social media - make it extra easy for people to become a part of your efforts.
Branch out locally
Your next step is to research local opportunities for building your brand and business. Send press releases to local media, talk to your Chamber of Commerce and ask what opportunities there are to raise money through local Angel investors and/or community foundations. Your community’s Small Business Administration is also a helpful resource regarding loans, investment capital, and grants available.
Support your efforts with great fundraising tech
Businesses like Mightycause offer fundraising solutions for creatives to get the funding they need. Unfortunately, many of them require you to spend money in order to make it, but typically those fees are a percent of monies collected, and they can be vital for tracking potential donors, communication with them, etc.
Calling all Angels
Angel Networks are a good source of mentorship as well as funding. Angel Capital Association and the Angel Investment Network both help entrepreneurs and investors to connect with one another and foster positive and profitable partnerships. Getting money from an Angel Investor does come with cost as you will likely have to give them some equity (think Shark Tank). Additionally some Angel and Grant funding will come with conditions and/or reporting requirements to ensure that you are spending the money the way it was intended to be spent.
According to CommercialAppeal, there are many ways to get your project funded. There are business plan competitions around the nation, for example, the New York Public Library has one that gives the winner $15,000, no strings attached, to the person/business with the best idea. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Award, Shopify Build a Business Competition, Visa Everywhere Initiative, FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, are just a few.
Look into local competitions that can help you achieve more than one goal at a time. First, you are in a smaller competition with a localized theme (more chances to win), and secondly, you will get your name and brand out with media coverage of the event. In West Michigan, Start Garden has a local event that allows entrepreneurs in the area to compete in Pitch It! Participants receive recognition while the winner receives a monetary prize for their efforts.
There are a number of organizations, businesses, and companies that offer funds for special projects and for different demographic groups. For example, if you are a woman who comes from a background of poverty but needs a supplemental amount for lift off, then Grameen America is a great place to start! Here are just a few examples of other special niche project fellowships and take a little time to check out ProFellow; they post new opportunities often! There seems to be something for just about everyone!
For artists who are in a pinch or are struggling because of the pandemic, there are a number of other organizations where you can get help, here are a few:
Take it for Granted
A plentiful number of organizations offer grants to artists - the good news is that grants are typically not repaid, however, they often require a lengthy application, and can also come with reporting requirements to ensure you use the money the way you said you would.
Queer Art offers grants, contests, and residencies to help LGBTQ art initiatives and businesses. If your project or work is centered around “promoting the elevation and preservation of Black arts & culture,” check out the Black Arts Futures Fund. Through “grant making, board-matching, and organization-to-donor cultivation,” they help artists secure funding for their work.
National art organizations like The National Endowment for the Art are also a great place to search. Be sure to look for grants at the state and city levels as well.
Take it to the bank
If you don’t want to wait and see and are ready to dig in, you may just want to take matters into your own hands and look for a traditional business loan to get your artistic enterprise launched. The Small Business Administration offers help to find lenders.
There are several organizations like Kiva, and Kabbage that work to help people get financial access for their small businesses by offering opportunities for lenders, borrowers, trustees, and supporters. These loans are geared towards small start-ups and creatives.
Getting funding to help launch your projects is possible! You can get started right now, at home and then expand locally. The only thing you can’t do is give up!
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to funders in the Creative Catalyst Online Certificate Program. To join our next cohort or request more information, email CreativeCatalyst@uncsa.edu.