In the last 6 months, two new websites have launched, WeFund and the newer WeDidThis*, both dedicated to crowd funding within the arts in the U.K. I first noticed the ‘trend’ in the FT article ‘Arts projects try to net crowd funding’. The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins wrote a similar blog in January and Daily Candy even got on the bandwagon last week writing a post entitled: ‘WeFund Helps You Become a Mini Patron of the Arts’.**
The basic premise of these sites is that you can log on, learn about projects that need funding and provide a variable amount of funding for which you receive a tangible benefit (NB: in all cases this is funding vs. equity)). For instance, WeDidThis, is currently trying to raise £3,000 to ‘Fund two newly-discovered playwrights’. Benefits for donation range from ‘a handwritten thank you postcard from our selected playwrights’ for £10 to ‘a personalised 20 page play written by a newly discovered playwright’ for a £500 donation.
What the articles don’t mention or only lightly touch on is that these sites are following in footsteps of the U.S. success of Kickstarter. For background, Kickstarter ‘the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world’ was founded in April 2009. Kickstarter’s model, like WeFund and WeDidThis, is all-or-nothing, non-equity, and with a limited-time frame. The site takes 5% of the fees earned, if successful. Kickstarter currently only accepts U.S. based projects which has no doubt led to the creation of the U.K. based sites.
Some key facts on Kickstarter from a Wired report this past week: ‘More than 14,000 people have posted projects on Kickstarter, and more than 400,000 people have supported them, contributing a total of more than $35 million. Eighty new projects are launched every day, and $1 million is pledged every week. The site has tapped a source of patronage that was all but nonexistent before. The result, says cofounder and CEO Perry Chen, has been the realization of thousands of passion projects—a lone sailor who wanted to travel the world and send Polaroids and origami boats to backers, a designer who created a free online library of symbols, a vegan food truck in Louisville—that might never have found funding otherwise.’
I do hope that these sites are successful and a new funding model is born in the U.K. although I think to be successful in the U.K. these sites will need to:
- Create a large community of individuals who are willing to donate and engage with the site on a regular basis. This can take ages and is my biggest concern. Currently, as a proxy, Kickstarter has 55,979 followers on Facebook (including yours truly), WeFund has 4,536 followers and WeDidThis has 373 followers. The reason this is my biggest concern is I can’t imagine many of my peers from the corporate world following these sites (I did a little test over the weekend)…although there is a certain circularity to sites like these, whereby those who put up events also often act as funders which may support the community needed
- Attract good ideas worthy of donation. As one techie friend said in discussing this post ‘Kickstarter only works for really good ideas’. Whilst I couldn’t find an overall historic success rate for Kickstarter, one blogger last year did an analysis showing that 38% of projects were funded. In addition, Kickstarter did an analysis in the early days that suggested that if a project manages to get to 25% of its funding goal, it has a 94% success rate
- Have a couple of high-profile big wins that can be used to generate more interest in the community. The Wired article profiles Scott Wilson, an industrial designer who ‘had an idea to create a wristband that would convert an iPod nano into a watch…he posted it [his idea] on Kickstarter, asking for $15,000 to cover tooling costs for the parts. After 30 days, he had raised $941,778 from 13,512 people—the biggest haul any Kickstarter project had ever received. Seventy-six percent of those people didn’t even own a nano but planned to buy one specifically to use with the watchband’ It is stories like these that stick and generate interest across donors and artists
What are your thoughts? Will you use sites like WeFund or WeDidThis? What would make these sites more attractive to you?
* I also with a quick google noticed at least one additional site for crowd-funding the arts in the U.K., Sponsume
** The WeDidThis founder Ed Whiting also wrote a guest blog on the Guardian’s site highlighting all the benefits (e.g., greater awareness and support for individual art’s organisations) and reasons for donation (philanthropy as well as tangible benefit received, e.g., a ticket or a programme mention).’