Last week on the blog we brought you a wee introduction to crowdfunding for the arts. Serendipitous timing really considering New Zealand’s own, Boosted, have teamed up with the wonderful people at Monster Valley to bring some “Crowdfunding 101” workshops as part of a week long festivities of arts & performance down at Basement Theatre called The Experiment that’s on until Friday this week - more info & tickets here.
With that in mind we headed across the courtyard into the main BizDojo office to sit down with the delightful Simone Hunter, GM at Boosted, to get the lowdown on where it all began and why, what makes Boosted different from all the rest, and some top tips to get you started! (Boosted’s own blog is also packed full of useful resources and tips for all you budding wannabe crowdfunded artists out there too..)
“Everyone needs art... But most art needs money! So at Boosted we're here to remove every possible barrier between artists and backers.”
HC: What were the motivations/inspirations behind Boosted? How did it all get started?
SH: Boosted launched March 2013 after the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, Executive Director, Simon Bowden returned from a trip to the States and saw the impact crowdfunding was making in the non-profit space. He also thought that creating a model in which a Charitable Trust was the ‘principal’ for a crowdfunding platform created an advantage for donors as it offered the 33% tax credit.
The other motivation obviously was to create a platform for arts philanthropists to give and for artists to fund their projects that otherwise may not come to fruition. It was a pretty entrepreneurial and risky move at the time, but it definitely paid off.
HC: What would you say have been your highs and your lows?
SH: I’ve only been in the role for 6 months but I know the first 18 months was tough as like any start up is; the investment and expectation was big; the platform had its challenges as the functionality was new for everyone, and it’s always a testing, stressful time for any team, but they faced every obstacle head on and overcame every challenge to get us to where we are now.
A high for me was hitting our $1 million dollar milestone in April and tracking to hit $1.5 million next month. I get high on our fantastic team, their passion, commitment and drive to keep improving what we do and their love of the cause; essentially empowering artists to make cool stuff again and again.
(To celebrate that $1 million dollar milestone, they chucked paint at a bunch of folk, covering them in vibrant colours in honour of 170 arts projects that have already achieved success on the platform, & the 6,000+ donors that have joined them along the way!)
HC: How do you guys differ from other crowdfunding organisations, like Kickstarter or Indiegogo for example? Why would artists choose your platform over others?
SH: We are a donor based platform which means that for a donor you get the 33% rebate, unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo which is rewards based. We don’t do rewards because if you offer a reward it is no longer a charitable donation, which is what it essentially is via the Arts Foundation; but secondly and more importantly we have proven that rewards don’t necessarily drive donations and support to the artist. People support an artist because they believe in them and love their work; it becomes much more of a personal connection than a rewards based one. Also we think rewards are a pain in the *&^* for an artist really. It detracts from their project at hand, and having to deal with 200+ donors and sending rewards out etc, takes up a massive amount of time and cost. We also have the highest project success rate that we know globally at 81% - the global industry standard is 44% so we hang our hats on that.
We work closely with the artists to make sure they understand the work involved, align expectations, and skill them up with planning tools and templates. So we are not just a platform where we stick your project up, whack on a target and hope for the best. We really work with you on all levels to make sure you succeed, and that is very powerful for an artist. We are just launching the Boosted School of Crowdfunding which encompasses all our intel, resources, tools, tricks and tips under one umbrella so we can share and educate on a much wider scale.
By niching in the arts and having the backing and credibility of the Arts Foundation, we have an established and connected arts community from patrons to artists, so that community is pretty attractive for artists to be in front of.
HC: Is there a curation process or selection procedure behind the scenes at all?
SH: The only selection process is that it has to be an arts project. If there are any questions around that or its borderline as an arts genre then it goes to the Governors of the Arts Foundation who make a call. Other than that we encourage everyone from the ukulele group in Pukekohe to the New Zealand Ballet.
Through our advice we set the expectation up front about the work and resource required to see a campaign through and we find that is a pretty good filter too.
HC: What type of success rates do your artists have with funding their projects and how can they achieve greater funding success?
SH: Our high success rate is based on the fact that we work with artists early. We have a whole strategy that we share pre campaign which may begin up to six months before a campaign for a really big one, or six weeks for an average sized campaign around $5K.
Then we work on their campaign strategy which includes how they share their story – it has to be compelling and succinct; how they map and size their networks; a comms and social media strategy; how they drive their campaign offline; what is a realistic target and loads more! Each campaign is different, but that is what makes it exciting and interesting.
HC: What tips would you offer to artists looking to crowdfund their endeavours via Boosted?
SH: Plan, plan and plan!! Make crowdfunding part of your business plan and understand that it is like executing a big PR, marketing initiative. It really helps to start thinking of yourselves as a brand; what do you stand for, what is your story, what are you motivated by. These are things that are unique and compelling for your fans to hook into. Start collecting emails, contacts and adding to them all the time. Get social media savvy, start building your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. These are all necessary things to get going as you consider a crowdfunding project.
HC: Who are the people behind the name? Who is Simone?
SH: The Arts Foundation conceived and grew the brand and now we have a team of nine who work either full or part time on Boosted.
I’m here because I love what they do and I have a mixed background that bridges both the arts and commercial which helps. I graduated with a Fine Art degree and thought I’d be an artist; then worked for XtraMSN as a Producer, freelanced, ran a marketing and sourcing agency in China and then worked the past five years at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. I feel like I’ve come full circle; I want to use what I’ve learnt commercially and pass that onto artists so they can keep being artists – but entrepreneurial artists! They have to have that go getting mindset.
- Helen Clegg is the manager of the Print Room and a photographic artist - view her portfolio