“When bankers get together they talk about art. When artists get together, they talk about money.” – Oscar Wilde
To make money for your arts project, you can apply to trusts for grants, companies for sponsorship and write endless letters of appeal. You can use your online media to promote your work and create an online donation page. But once you’ve asked every company, trust and individual who might be interested in helping you, what else can you do?
For the StoneCrabs Young Directors’ Festival, the fundraising team decided to be proactive, embracing its creative network, and were surprised at how rewarding a fundraising event can be.
Step One: Approach an ideal venue close to the venue of your performance, such as an arty café, restaurant or bar. Ask for sponsorship and when they say they’d “love to but don’t have any money”, suggest hosting a performance evening in their venue which would bring lots of customers and would be an opportunity for you to raise money for your project. We were particularly lucky that John Cierac (the owner of Big Red Bus Pizzeria in Deptford) is hugely supportive of young artists and agreed to host us. It’s a sensible collaboration, as both parties gain publicity and a financial boost.
Step Two: Once you have a venue (for free, ideally), the owner or manager will have an idea of what they want you to do and that dialogue is important. Between the Young Directors, we brainstormed and decided we could put together a mixed-performance event. In hindsight, this ambiguity was really helpful as artists of all kinds will drop in and out of the commitment, up to the last minute. In the end we had an amazing mix of comedians, poets, musicians and spoken word artists. So my advice would be to not narrow your event to a comedy night or a poetry slam; try and celebrate a variety of performances as you can cast your net far and wide across your artistic network.
We made money from donations and a £2 entry fee to the performance space. One idea that worked really well was having a small raffle throughout the evening made up of two tickets to the festival, a donated bottle of champagne and a few joke presents such as a pack of stick-on moustaches. Between each act we announced the winner of a prize as a way to build momentum throughout the evening and a fun incentive for audience members to chuck in an extra few quid.
It is important to remember that all the artists you ask will be doing it voluntarily, so this requires a particularly polite and grateful approach. Sure, there are benefits for the artists too; they have a chance to practice some new material with a friendly audience and you can also promote them a hell of a lot with your online media. But first and foremost, they are there to help you out. You owe it to them to be organised, you owe it to them to make a schedule and be flexible in accordance with their availability, you owe it to them to make sure their performance needs are adhered to, and you owe it to them to be visible and communicative. It is a lot to think about and it’s a lot of pressure: be organised and keep the communication open and not a lot can go wrong.
With our small-scale event, we raised a respectable £240. Although this amount may be dwarfed by our target, the rewards from the evening were not restricted to financial gain. I recommend doing a fundraising event because it is a beautiful opportunity to connect with your local area, build your audience for your project, broaden your network of artists and take a proactive approach to raising money. When faced with the task of raising thousands of pounds for your project, don’t be crushed by the numbers, percentages and the weird jargon that comes with fundraising. My advice would be to keep focused and organised, but make sure you let your creative juices flow!