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Blog: Young directors – The craft of crowdfunding

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Young Directors

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In our last blog, Katharina Reinthaller discussed the trials and tribulations of funding and fundraising, but also their importance in mounting any production, festival or event within the theatre and arts industry. Throughout our planning and development, we have mounted a five-prong attack, the fifth of which is crowdfunding.

The term itself is a slightly elusive one, sitting somewhere between the formal notion of fundraising, and the more open and informal appeal of social media. It is precisely that which, I believe, is what works in its favour. Crowdfunding exists to provide an unobtrusive way for the project organisers (director, producer etc.) to approach a wide network of potential supporters, through an easy-to-manage campaign page with an appeal for small amounts of money (£5, £10…£100, £200) as opposed to huge sums. Asking for money is always tricky, so going about it on a smaller scale makes it a simple and accessible way for family, friends, colleagues, and interested potential donors to provide sponsorship for a project without too much faff and fuss. Small donations provided by a wide network can raise a fair proportion of a project budget. With the social media ‘share’ button only a click of a finger away, and a huge crowd of possible funders out there, isn’t it a perfect tool to bring in those all-important funds?

As with everything in the realms of fundraising, there are pitfalls. The major crowdfunding sites, including Kickstarter, Sponsume and Wefund, have a number of requirements that need to be fulfilled, and beyond those there are several elements which need to be conducted well if you want your campaign to succeed. Produce a poor campaign video which has little to no connection with your project (they do exist!), write and present an unclear or convoluted project description, or fail to research and reach out to your potential audience, and your campaign might well fall flat on its face.

So, how can these problems be avoided? No crowdfunding campaign is devoid of risk, but put the effort in, allocate a solid amount of time to its preparation and do your research – and then you are more likely to succeed than flounder.

Research other crowdfunding pages, the good, the bad and the ugly, and you’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. For me, the best have been clean, clear and to-the-point. I can read the page and have a good grasp of what I may or may not want to donate to. Use headers, use questions, use bullet points, where appropriate, and it all becomes more user-friendly.

Crucially, be clear about how much you want to raise and what the funds will go towards; there’s nothing worse for a potential donor than wondering where the money’s going. Transparency can be underrated.

And then there’s the video or trailer. There are many approaches, but those which are simple, open and communicate what the project is about are infinitely more appealing than those which shut the audience out. It really doesn’t need to be super high-tech.

Last of all, spend time researching and thinking about your audience and how you will get your campaign page out to them, by Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or word-of-mouth? And how can they get to know you and your project? After all, it is all about the social side of things as much as it is about raising funds. And maybe it’s possible to achieve both.

If you want to check out  our crowdfunding page, get ideas or maybe donate (we hope so!) then take a look…

Jude Evans

Photo by Flickr user James Cridland under a Creative Commons licence.

Young Directors

Young Directors

StoneCrabs Theatre’s Young Directors’ Programme is a platform for young directors, centred around production, project management and theatre directing. The programme culminates in February 2014 when the young directors will put on the Play-ground Festival at the Albany. The 2013-14 Young Directors are: Eleanor Chadwick, Hattie Coupe, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Jude Evans, Camilla Gurtler, Lynette Linton, Antony Nyagah, Mariana Pereira and Katharina Reinthaller.

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Blog: Young directors – The fundraising attack

Posted on 19 December 2013 by Young Directors

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In the process of becoming a director you will be confronted with many different tasks, and as with everything in life there are the fun, exciting ones and the ones you’d rather stay away from but can’t avoid. Diving into new writing or re-inventing classic work, experimenting with movement techniques and exploring the stage space with actors – these are the moments when you love being a director and can’t think of anything else you ever wanted to be. On the other hand, begging assistants for e-mail addresses or constantly being on the phone pleading for money makes you wonder if your parents were right after all, suggesting a career in finance or law rather the inconsistency of theatre.

I’m not going to lie: fundraising is a depressing, frustrating job and it makes you question not only your profession but also what kind of value the arts hold in this world. I am sure neither Aristophanes nor Sophocles would appreciate the attitude of today’s politicians towards the arts industry. What happened to the days when being a patron was a respectable position, accepted and admired by the citizens? To be the sponsor of the Dionysia was an honour for powerful business people and something achievable – and so should it be today to support the new generation of theatre-makers.

But in 2013 priorities obviously lie elsewhere and the struggle to find money in order to provide a regular working environment for your team is exhausting. Nevertheless, in fundraising there is really only one way forward: be persuasive and persistent, find the unusual approach and never give up. Call people before you send them a letter of appeal, get their names and call again. Know your stuff so you can answer questions and explain clearly who you are and what you want.

There is nothing worse than stuttering feebly when talking to the CEO of a big Investment Fund. After all it is your project, your baby so to speak, so you should really know exactly what it is you want the money for, how you will use it and why they should give it to you. Apart from contacting the obvious trusts and arts councils, don’t be afraid to get in touch with companies that are not related to the arts industry – construction companies, estate agents, car dealers – they all might want to invest some of their money back into community projects. When planning your budget, see where you can save. In our case we found support from Theatre Delicatessen which provides us with free rehearsal and audition space, and the Big Red Bus restaurant will be hosting our fundraising event.

So good luck with getting cash for your next production – let me know when you’ve found the magic trick that makes the dollars flow!

Katharina Reinthaller

Photo by Flickr user images_of_money under a Creative Commonc licence. 

 

Young Directors

Young Directors

StoneCrabs Theatre’s Young Directors’ Programme is a platform for young directors, centred around production, project management and theatre directing. The programme culminates in February 2014 when the young directors will put on the Play-ground Festival at the Albany. The 2013-14 Young Directors are: Eleanor Chadwick, Hattie Coupe, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Jude Evans, Camilla Gurtler, Lynette Linton, Antony Nyagah, Mariana Pereira and Katharina Reinthaller.

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Climbing Arthur’s Seat: Producing greatness

Posted on 20 June 2012 by Rush Theatre

There are times when you look back and wonder if what you once thought was a Really Good Idea was actually a gin-and-tonic-induced disintegration into madness. Be warned: taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe is an experience that puts the fear of God in your heart and the bottle of gin back in your hands. It’s the only place where you 100% don’t just turn up and do your job – not least if you want your show to be a success! Producing and performing in a show is both a blessing and a curse, you get incredible insight and responsibility into differing roles, but you also get double the amount of work, stress and headaches.

Producing for the first time at the Fringe can be so full of unintentional trip-ups that you can sometimes feel like you’re starring in your own version of Total Wipeout. Firstly, it is vital you start to prep everything way before deadlines, as changes are about as common as rain on a British bank holiday. Secondly, you must adopt that classic Spiderman/Shakespeare mantra: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Regardless of which category you fit into, you must believe that you and the show will be great, and unequivocally roll with the punches. Finally, having a functional working relationship with your production team and cast is imperative for your sanity and your mobile phone’s longevity. Fortunately, there is a whole network of people available for support, to answer the little questions and help you figure out the big ones. This network is mostly embodied by the Fringe Office and your venue, which should also be praying for your show to be a success and should be happy to talk you through mind-numbing things like contracts and insurance. Not to mention the multitude of other Fringe performers and goers across Twitter and IdeasTap who will readily dispense advice.

Funding your project can, and will most likely, be a pain in the ass. There are gabillions of trusts and foundations to which you can apply for funding, but usually they’re only interested if you’re staging your piece in aid of something more honourable than your own ego, such as community development or working with disadvantaged kids. IdeasTap also offer a huge monetary prize but beware of the very early application deadline. Then, beyond contacting local or national businesses and asking for sponsorship as part of their community ventures, there’s always crowdfunding – an excellent, cheap and easy way to promote your show and garner online donations from friends and strangers alike. You should try to exhaust every fundraising possibility you have time for and be creative! It is desperately important that you begin to fundraise from the word go as the majority of your payments will be in advance of the show and you will not be reimbursed through ticket sales till after the Fringe ends.

So why do it if it is such hard work and feels like you are straddling a tectonic plate? Because where else but at the Fringe do you meet a hoard of generous folk (besides your doting parents) who are willing to invest their time and money by watching you flounce around a stage hoping to communicate the profundity of a text? Where else do you get to do everything yourself, learn everything the hard way, stay up half the night rehearsing, sell your soul on the Royal Mile, or race up Arthur’s Seat in order to bare your naked skin to the sunrise over beautiful Edinburgh?

Come the 28August, when we leave Edinburgh, we can look back at it as the train speeds away, laden with bags in our hands and under our eyes, an empty bank account and a sense that, yes, we did that, all by ourselves: We Conquered the Fringe.

Written by producer Francesca Murray-Fuentes.

Image: Rush Theatre’s Francesca Murray-Fuentes and Chi-San Howard.

Find out more about Rush Theatre by visiting their Twitter or website.

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Top tips for pitching for funding

Posted on 14 November 2011 by Jake Orr

A Younger Theatre’s Editor, Jake, recently sat on a panel for Farnham Maltings’ No Strings Attached funding bursaries. The scheme is designed to be completely open to ideas relating to theatre and young people; there are no set agendas, no commitments and there is the chance for an individual or company to secure a propotion of £5,000, with no strings attached.

Here, Jake shares some of his top tips for pitching a panel your idea with the aim of getting funding, based upon what he experienced:

1. Know what you want and what you have
It may sound obvious, but knowing what you want to get out of the funding, and knowing what it is that you already have, can be an overlooked area. Funders want to find out what it is that you already have in place, be it an idea, a working model or even a fully developed practice. This, along with what it is you want from getting funding, will paint a clear and coherent picture of how the funding they can give you will support your current work.

2. Prepare a budget – and make it add up
You’ve come up with a brilliant idea but you need money to make it work. You pitch it to a funding scheme, but, hold on, you have no budget… oh dear. With any kind of project or production the key to an excellent pitch is knowing your figures, and being able to show these coherently in a budget. You don’t have to know how you’ll spend every last penny, but knowing exactly how much each part of a project will cost will really show that you have researched and explored potential outgoings for your work. Your budget doesn’t have to be a work of art, either, a simple spreadsheet separated into different areas for each stage of the project will make it clear to those you’re seeking funding from how the money will be distributed. Don’t forget to include any other funds, such as in-kind support, other fundraising or current funds. Remember to have copies of your budget available for the panel, too, for them to refer to.

3. Plan your pitch – make it pitch-perfect!
When money is in on the table, would you rather wing it or come in prepared and ready to wow? Make sure that you have planned out what you want to say, who will say it (if there is more than one person), and that you have any extra multimedia ready. It’s good to practise your pitch with a friend or family member; they might spot something you’ve missed or offer useful advice. Most important of all, stick to the time limit. It’s better to come prepared than to be fumbling and distracted whilst pitching.

4. Do your research
Is the funding for a certain aspect of your project? Are there conditions to the funding? Who is on the panel? What about the organisation or funding body – what is it and what does it do? Before applying for funding, you must do your research. Not every project will suit every possible funding opportunity. Equally, be sure to research any terms and conditions relating to the funding. If you have to pitch in front of a panel, it’s always good to know who you are pitching too; call up and ask in advance – you never know, one of the panelist might know you or your work. As for the organisation or company itself, just like applying for a job, researching beforehand and showing that you have an active interest in what it does will help you – especially if questions are asked. Finding out who or what it has funded before might give a clear indication as to what it likes – do you fit this?

5. Presenting yourself
You might think that pitching to a panel is all about the idea you’re talking about. Well, it’s not. It’s also about who you are as a person. You can have the best project in the world, but without a smile, and a presentable and engaging individual standing before the panel, you might as well be talking to a brick wall. Presenting yourself is almost as important as presenting the idea. Dress appropriately, smile and engage with the panel – they’re not there to shoot you down, they want to know about you and your work. Try and remember to smile!

6. Media – keep it relevant
Sometimes it’s good to have extra material that you can show the panel while you’re pitching an idea. Perhaps it’s photos from previous projects or a video of a performance, maybe you’ve scanned sketches of the ideas you have and you’re keen to show them. Whatever it is that you are using, make sure that you keep it relevant. Whilst it’s good to get an idea of your work through a video, keep it short, make it presentable, and don’t expect them to watch 10 minutes worth. A video can only show so much. The same can be said for images. What is it that you are trying to show? Is it relevant, and can it be said better with your own words?

7. Question time
You should expect to answer questions about your pitch. Do your best to answer the question – don’t waffle on in the hope that eventually you’ll say the right thing. Better to be direct, and honest – if you don’t know the answer, then say so! Equally, it might be a good idea if you have some questions that you’d like to ask or get the panel to clarify regarding the funding. It’s not essential but it does show that you are keen to find out more.

8. Thinking big
We’re young and bursting-full of ideas, and this is a vital thing to maintain as we grow up. Whilst we might have crazy ideas, it’s good to think about how realistic your idea or project is. Thinking big isn’t a negative thing, but it’s good to have one foot firmly on the ground as your imagination lifts you into the clouds. It’s good to think creatively and to potentially think big – the panel will want to see a certain drive, determination and adventure/excitement in the work that they might fund, but they also need some realism. They will want to see that your project will actually happen, and that it’s realistic, but you still need to have a sense of ambition. It’s a fine balance, but one that should be addressed before you start pitching.

9. Education doesn’t solve everything
Running workshops or education programmes will not solve all your monetary requirements or problems. An alarming amount of pitchers felt that their work could be supported using educational work as a source of revenue. It is extremely difficult to do this, and it takes commitment, skills and a real desire to work in an educational environment. It shouldn’t be your source of funding. Why mention this in an article about pitching? Because educational doesn’t solve everything, and pitching for funds to start up an educational side of your work as a means to support your work isn’t always the best idea.

10. A little goes a long way
There is a temptation to apply for the biggest amount of funding that you can get your hands on. This shouldn’t be the case. Even the smallest grant can go a long way, and will put you in better stead for when you apply for further funds from other sources. Some companies or projects just need a little helping out – a little money – for them to realise their goals or potential. Like point number 8, it’s good to think big, but let’s keep it simple too.

So there we have it, 10 top tips for when you’re next pitching for funding. Have you got some more tips to share? Why not add them to the comments below, or tweet us at @AYoungerTheatre.

Image by Howard Lake.

 

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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