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Crowdsourcing, and digital fundraising

This learning journey was curated by AmbITion lead consultant, Hannah Rudman.

Online social media tools and consumers’ growing confidence at using online payment and donation platforms means that there’s never been a better time to gather your community around you online, to help you build your reach, your impact and your scale. In an era of cuts, you might be needing this support as austerity hits government and charitable foundation pots. Arts, culture and heritage organisations have been crowdsourcing volunteers for years, but online technologies help organisations draw in ideas, funds, content, and lots of goodwill! User Generated Content (or UGC) is a topic the cultural sector has hotly debated – does it blur the line between what’s professional and what’s amateur? Does it increase the public’s engagement with creative organisations and if so, should it be encouraged? Business models are also changing because of the opportunities of crowdsourcing funds and digital fundraising tools. This learning journey introduces the concepts; provides case studies of arts, cultural and heritage organisations; and offers tips and how to guidance on getting started.

1 Background reading

Back in 2009, Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner wrote this article, proposing that the audience now had higher stakes in productions, especially if they had funded them. Read on for an interesting insight into the then emerging landscape of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing via digital platforms.

Nesta have also developed a number of reports on crowdfunding, which are worth reading.

The new theatre – made by audiences

From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2009/apr/06/theatre-london-bubble-company

Lyn Gardner of guardian.co.uk writes:
When I had my first child, I remember that I kept on talking about “when things get back to normal”. It took me an age to realise that this was “normal” and that my life had undergone a complete shift. I feel as if something rather similar is going on with the world economy. Talking to people working in theatre, everyone agrees that money is tight and it is likely to get a whole lot tighter over the next few years, with both funding and sponsorship affected. People are prepared for the worst. But I also detect a sense that many of them think that if they just hunker down, normal service will resume in a few years’ time, although perhaps not until after the Olympics. I’m not so sure.

Whatever happens, it means that in the coming years artists, companies and producers are going to have to be much more tenacious and entrepreneurial. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Yes, of course it is crucial to keep the pressure on both local and national government regarding funding, in case it conveniently slips their minds what a terrific return they get – artistically, socially and economically – when they invest in theatre rather than in bankers.

Even so, it is high time that theatre-makers recognised that it is impossible to thrive and produce your best work when you are hanging on by your fingertips. Rather than waiting around hoping that a few crumbs might eventually come your way, it’s better to get out there and make the cake and find new models. Nobody working in theatre would doubt the need for creativity and enterprise in the rehearsal room, so why not apply that creativity and enterprise to the business plan too? Theatre companies may have a particular mission – but they are businesses too and they can’t fulfil that mission successfully unless they have enough money.

So, it’s great to see London Bubble coming up with its Fan-Made Theatre initative, which invites audiences to buy a £20 stake in the company’s upcoming summer show. The Bubble’s promenade summer shows in London’s parks and open spaces have given me and my family enormous pleasure over the years.

Now you can help choose what the company will stage. Fan-Made Theatre works like this: in return for your £20, you not only get a ticket to one of the performances, but also a chance to submit ideas and scripts suggesting what the company might stage. The website allows discussion of the various proposals and an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss their favourites before the ideas are whittled down to a shortlist of five. There’s an opportunity for stakeholders to vote on the shortlist before the winner is selected by artistic director Jonathan Petherbridge and a team of advisers. There’s also an invitation to a party in the summer.

No, this little but ingenious idea is not going to transform arts funding on its own and neither is it new. In football, the Blue Square Premier club, Ebbsfleet United secured its future last year by offering fans a £35 membership that gave them a stake in the club and an opportunity to select the team. Music intiatives such as Bandstocks allow fans to invest money in new acts as well as in more established talents such as Patrick Wolf.

Other theatre initiatives have involved the audience at grassroots level: in 2008, Fierce encouraged audiences to choose which shows would be programmed; Pilot Theatre has developed scripts with audience input online. But this is the first time that I’ve come across somebody in the theatre combining investment and creative input. It strikes me as an interesting idea, and one that has only come about because London Bubble has had to think laterally after losing its revenue funding last year.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that the company wouldn’t have preferred to have remained an Arts Council RFO (Regularly Funded Organisation), but rather than curling up and dying it has gone out and successfully reinvented itself. If necessity is the mother of invention, this is as good an example as you are likely to find: one that combines money-making potential with an opportunity to engage audiences in the process of making theatre and not just the final product.

With many businesses already using social media to make customers partners in their development, why shouldn’t theatre do the same? For London Bubble, you have until 17 April to buy your stake but even after that there will be a chance to join and vote for the final piece, help shape it and attend rehearsals. Sounds like a good deal to me.

2 Background reading

And then in 2011, AmbITion Scotland organisation Woodend Barn launched a crowd funding initiative.

AmbITion organisations are 3D filming live theatre & crowd funding albums!

Two AmbITion organisations launch ambITious digital experiments this month – Stellar Quines and Woodend Barn.

Can 3D film offer an artistic and commercially viable alternative to the live theatre experience?

3D filmThis is the question Stellar Quines has been grappling with in conjunction with the Federation of Scottish Theatre‘s (FST) Action Research Group, facilitated by Hannah Rudman, set up to experiment with the digitization of live theatrical content. Stellar Quines’ contribution to the FST project has been to create a 3D recording of a live theatre performance – a first for Scottish theatre and film!

To achieve this Stellar Quines commissioned Freakworks to film a live performance of ANA in 3D at the Traverse Theatre. We are now hosting a presentation and initial screening of the recorded show and would like to invite you to come along, see what we’ve done and give us your feedback.

Saturday 31 March, 11am, DCA, Dundee
Stellar Quines will present a screening of ANA in glorious 3D and invite audiences who saw the live show, and those who didn’t, to tell them what they think. This is a chance to hear what audiences really feel about digitized live theatre and if it has a future. DCA, 152 Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4DY. Tel: 01382 909 900 www.dca.org.uk

There’ll also be a chance to catch up with the Stellar Quines team at the Digital 2012 pre-conference networking event on 29th March – there’s still chance to sign up!

Woodend Barn crowd funding an album for their 20th Birthday!
As part of Woodend Barn‘s 20th year celebrations, they are looking for a financial birthday gift, however small, to fund an album of new music by some of Scotland’s greatest folk musicians who have performed at the barn, time and time again. Woodend Barn are using local myths and legends from the area as inspiration for the new work and a way to engage with different communities across Deeside.

To fund this project they have a launched a crowd funding call on sponsume in a bid to generate income to support all costs associated with this project.

These are great, exciting digital developments, undertaken with the enhanced digital confidence, capability, and capacity of organisations who have digitally developed through their participation with the AmbITion Scotland programme.

Related videos:
Woodend Barn staff talk about their AmbITion journey in this 2010 mini case study

Stellar Quines case study on their digital filming experiment of 2011

3 Case studies on digital fundraising

A great overview of more arts, cultural and heritage sector projects using crowdsourcing and digital fundraising techniques.

Also, check out Nesta’s 10 1/2 tips on how to reach your crowd funding goal!

Digital fundraising

Arts and cultural organisations could raise more money by using tools they already have and by tapping into current relationships. The cultural sector doesn’t always think about itself as a charity, but a few changes in practice and in thinking could make a difference to income.

4 Doing it yourself

This How To… Guide explains how social media channels can be used for fundraising online. A good, basic, introductory guide.

Also, see Nesta’s interactive website Crowdingin, which lets you compare the services of crowdfunding platforms, and webplatform Crowdsurfer, which analyses over 800 crowd funding and peer-to-peer lending platforms to match your plans with the best system/platform for you.

5 Doing it yourself with specific online platforms

Watch this webcast masterclass to get insights from Rachel Beer on how third sector organisations and major NGOs are using crowdsourcing platforms for digital fundraising. Sarah Gee gives an overview of culture sector specific digital fundraising platform, Angel Shares Scotland.

6 Case studies: using specific platforms to digitally fundraise

Interviews in this podcast include US crowdfunding site Kickstarter which has recently launched in the UK, the BFI which talks about digital and its plans to launch the BFIPlayer, and Digital Theatre whose high quality British theatre productions are available to an international audience via an online platform and Samsung SmartTV partnership.

Digital Business Models: podcast from #artsdigital


Interviews include US crowdfunding site Kickstarter which has recently launched in the UK, the BFI which talks about digital and its plans to launch the BFIPlayer, and Digital Theatre whose high quality British theatre productions are available to an international audience via an online platform and Samsung SmartTV partnership.

What is the attention economy?
What happens if you point a flip cam at Carmen?
Do digital business models only work at scale?

Peter Tullin, Co-founder of innovative online shop Culture Label, Simon Tanner, Director of Digital Consultancy Services at Kings College London and digital, arts and technology journalist Patrick Hussey join John Wilson in the studio, debating all of the above as well as changing royalty distribution models and working in partnership.

7 Case Study: Eigg Box, the data necklace and Indiegogo

The fourth presentation at AmbITion Scotland’s roadshow on the subject of Glo/cal is by Stef Lewandowski, who has worked with Eigg Box and crowdfunding site Indigogo to launch the Eigg inspired data necklace.

Watch: Glo/cal – Roadshow Shetland on demand!

The amazing new arts, music, cinema and creative industries centre, Mareel in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles, hosted our first 2012 AmbITion Scotland roadshow. On the topic of Glo/cal, the roadshow explored how local and community focussed projects can encourage global participation and engagement through utilising digital tools. Hannah Rudman gave an overview of the topic and opportunities available to the arts, culture and heritage sector through AmbITion Scotland; Gwilym Gibbons, Director of Shetland Arts gave a case study about their work including Mareel; and Lucy Conway founder of Eigg Box explained her vision with Stef Lewandowski (Eigg Box’s Geek in Residence) showing off the first glo/cal art object to be created at Eigg Box – the renowned Data Necklace. A Q&A with online and live audiences finished this great webcast masterclass.
Hannah Rudman overview of Glo/cal and AmbITion Scotland opportunities

Gwilym Gibbons, Director Shetland Arts and Mareel – a glo/cal case study

Lucy Conway, Founder, and Stef Lewandowski, Geek in Residence, of Eigg Box – a gloc/cal case study, including glo/cal art object, the Data Necklace

8 Risks and mitigating them

Crowdfunding in the UK is now under a trade body with a code of practice. This article also highlights the risks of crowdfunding and how to mitigate them.

Also, check out this Nesta guide

Crowdfunding in the UK: codes of practice, and other risk management ideas

The UK Crowd Funding Association (UKCFA) has just launched as a new trade body for crowd funding operators, with membership being conditional to agreeing to the code of practice. Says Arts Professional reporting on the establishment of the body:

The code is aimed at protecting the growing number of investors, donors and businesses using the technology and to ensure that all services are operating to a minimum standard. It states that crowdfunding sites must segregate donors’ money and money for the operator, offer a cooling off period after making an investment, and publish information on customer complaints on the UKCFA website. The UKCFA will comprise the country’s twelve leading crowdfunding businesses and will work to promote this as a method of fundraising, as well as working with policymakers to help develop appropriate policy frameworks.

This sounds like excellent news to enhance consumer confidence in crowdfunding, and their technologies and economic processes. Despite the risks of using the technologies diminishing, Creative Choices also just published an article on the Dark Side of Crowdfunding: it considers what risks are there and what you can do to mitigate the potential of:

  • your IP or business model being stolen,
  • your traditional investors being turned off,
  • tax and accounting issues,
  • being sued for misrepresentation, or
  • even just the project failing!

A great read.

9 Digital Giving in the Arts

This December 2012 report for the DCMS by Matthew Bowcock. It’s a good read, with an overview of the current economic and cultural climate, as well as the technology tools available and insight into the general public’s online behaviours to help with digital fundraising. There are then case studies of NGOs and charities who have run successful giving campaigns, and it concludes with a vision for what digital giving in the arts could be, the implications of that and some recommendations to the government and arts funding bodies on overcoming the challenges to achieve the vision.

Digital Giving in the Arts

Says Matthew Bowcock, author of DCMS’s new Culture Ministry report Digital Giving in the Arts:

“It may seem obvious to state that voluntary giving does not happen in isolation; it is an
outcome from a process of audience engagement which may occur over a long period.
In a similar manner, digital technology alone does not magically enable greater giving;
it is just a set of tools for better engagement.
It is not productive, therefore, to focus on digital giving in isolation, so this report
examines how technology can be used in all aspects of the arts and cultural sector to
involve audiences and visitors more so that they feel a sense of participation. This in
turn can motivate them to give. Some organisations already do this well but for others
it is a daunting task for which trustees and management may feel ill equipped.”

It’s a good read, with an overview of the current economic and cultural climate, as well as the technology tools available and insight into the general public’s online behaviours to help with digital fundraising. There are then case studies of NGOs and charities who have run successful giving campaigns, and it concludes with a vision for what digital giving in the arts could be, the implications of that and some recommendations to the government and arts funding bodies on overcoming the challenges to achieve the vision. The full report is below.

Digital_Giving_in_the_ArtsV2

10 Crowdsourcing ideas and content: an introduction

Guests on this podcast talking about crowdsourcing user generated content and audience curation are Simon Collister Senior Lecturer, University of the Arts; Spencer Hyman, CEO and Founder of Artfinder and Holly Goodier, Head of Audiences, BBC Future Media plus case studies from live social audience curation projects at Nottingham’s Art Exchange and London’s Imperial war Museum.

Podcast: user generated content, social media & audience curation

Looking for inspiration for a suitable project or angle on your current developments for the Make:IT:Happen fund?

Check out this Digital Capacity in the Arts podcast. The theme of the first Arts Council England/BBC Digital R&D podcast is user generated content, social media and audience curation, guests include: Simon Collister Senior Lecturer, University of the Arts; Spencer Hyman, CEO and Founder of Artfinder and Holly Goodier, Head of Audiences, BBC Future Media plus case studies from live social audience curation projects at Nottingham’s Art Exchange and London’s Imperial war Museum.

Listen here:

11 Crowdsourcing ideas and content: doing it yourself

This How to…. guide gives an overview of how you can aggregate together content generated by your users (using your content as a source, or your organisation as a amplifier), to then share and show on your website or social media channels.

12 Crowdsourcing in archives and for accessibility

The Horizons Report for Museums in 2013 highlights interesting crowdsourcing practices by museums around the world – the Museum of Victoria in Melbourne is crowdsourcing for better accessibility for people with sight problems in their Describe Me project.

Horizon Report for Museums

This is a great read for discovering trends that impact museums (and other heritage institutions) now, with predictions for what’s just over the horizon, and will become mainstream in the next couple of years too. Museum Edition of the Horizon Report by the New Media Consortium.

Download this document (PDF, 1.43MB)