Before the rise of crowdfunding as a medium to raise funds, photographers relied on either their personal savings or institutional grants for financing their pet projects. Showcasing their work typically involved holding photo exhibitions, chasing publishers and organizing book launch events. Not everyone could do this and it was mostly the senior photographers who followed this path.
Today, crowdfunding has changed the rules of the game. It has not only made raising funds from several donors much easier but it also provides a platform to a photographer to showcase his or her work. It harnesses the power of the internet to garner global attention, build a network of valuable contacts and receive feedback from a discerning audience. As per Kickstarter (one of the world’s biggest crowdfunding platforms), out of 7,868 listed photography projects on their website in 2014, 29.66% of projects were successfully funded translating to $18.58M worth of pledges. Creative pursuits of Independent photographers had probably never raised so much of money before. Surprisingly, out of all these photography projects, only 31 were from Indian photographers. And only 6 of these 31 had more than 50 backers. Furthermore, out of more than 6500 photography projects that are currently accepting funds on Indiegogo, there are only 2 projects from India. Indian Crowdfunding platforms like Catapooolt and Ketto don’t have a single Photography project listed.
Clearly, crowdfunding as a serious way of raising money has not received enough attention or acceptance from the Indian photography community. Some of the reasons for this could be a mindset that leads photographers to a sense of shame in asking for donations or reluctance to put their work out there for scrutiny or may be discomfort with disbursal rules of crowd funding platforms.
How can photographers effectively use crowdfunding?
Simply put, making a crowdfunding campaign involves creating a project, sharing the genuine story behind the project, showcasing a vision, determining a realistic funding goal & timeline and, offering attractive rewards to backers. If people connect emotionally with your project they pledge money to make it happen.
While entering the arena of crowd funding a photographer needs to don various hats. Here are some must-dos
- Choose the right crowdfunding platform after due diligence. For example if 80% of your donors are going to be in India choose domestic platforms. Ones like Ketto are keen to showcase photography projects on their platform and will help you get funded. If you want to benchmark your project against global work then consider US based platforms.
- Think like a marketer. As photographers that may not come naturally to us. Create a compelling project page by writing enticing but honest story. Have a well-made website, a personal video that explains your vision and a gallery of some of your best images
- Promote your crowd funding campaign on social media and ask friends to share it earnestly. Try and get PR coverage, but that will happen if your idea is original, creative and oozing with passion.
- Post your campaign on promotion websites like Backercamp and others to reach out to donors who are continuously scouting the internet for interesting work
- Create a mailing list of personal contacts with an opt-in sign up to develop a network of intent donors who understand your dream. At least 50-60% of donations will come from these people
- Be a salesman. Continuously interact with people on one-to-one basis and explain what this means to you and why you need funding for your vision. Tell them, “Please donate only if you like what I am doing.”
- Set realistic funding goals and offer creative perks that do not require a lot of overheads. Build your perk and other processing costs into funding goal.
- Be comfortable with usage of popular email, social media marketing and photo editing tools
- Keep your audience engaged with updates and showcasing bits and bytes of your work behind- the –scenes.
A ThankYou Postcard I emailed to all my donors during my campaign for my project ‘One Life, One Passion’
A small investment towards creative effort, marketing and networking is worth it if your project and your vision hold promise. Donors place their belief in one’s creative vision and personal genuineness when they donate.
Have you crowd funded your photography project before? I would be happy to hear from you! Do share your experiences in the comment box below.