Cash strapped artists read this: Funding Strategies & Tips

Submitted by FreshArts on Tue, Sep 6th at 10:36 pm

Money is nearly always a main factor in determining when and how you will do your next art project. Other than art sales, commissions, performances, and/or your day job, where do you find it?


We recently hosted a workshop on Funding Strategies for the Individual Artist that touched on this very subject – where and how to find funding for your work as an individual artist. Workshop presenter and ED of Spacetaker Jenni Rebecca Stephenson covered four sources:

  • - grants
  • - fiscal sponsorship
  • - contributions
  • - crowdsourcing




When searching for and identifying potential grant opportunities, Google is your best friend.

  • - Be specific in your queries. Start narrow, then open up your criteria
  • - “individual artist grants Houston Texas” will obtain better results than “arts grants”
  • - Specificity will help narrow down the results for which you’re eligible. For example, some grants won’t fund degree-seeking artists, some require 501(c)3 status, some fund only specific aspects of projects…take care to read the details so you don’t waste your time applying for a grant that you’re not eligible for in the first place.


For example:



In addition to Googling, here are a few good resources:

Creative Capital 

United States Artists

The Foundation Center

National Performance Network


Local resources:

Spacetaker’s Field Guide 



Pay careful attention to eligibility and grant terms! (For more on this, view the full presentation.)


Once you’ve found a few grant options that sound like they might fund the type of work you do (or want to do), actually completing the grant application can be a daunting task at first. If you are new to grant writing or have a little practice and are looking to refine your skills, SIGN UP TO TAKE OUR GRANT WRITING PRACTICUM course on October 1st! (space is limited!)



Moving on to another option for individual artists (and groups without 501(c)3 status)…fiscal sponsorship! What does that mean?


Definition (from our friends at Wikipedia):


"...the practice of non-profit organizations offering their legal and tax-exempt status to groups engaged in activities related to the organization's missions; typically involving a fee-based contractual arrangement between a project and an established non-profit."


In a nutshell, artists can become fiscally sponsored by an organization and, in effect, use the organization’s 501(c)3 status as their own in order to become eligible for additional grants and funding opportunities. Additional benefits include having a degree of legitimacy (depending on the fiscal sponsor) and a tax deduction for your contributors!


Here are some national* organizations who offer fiscal sponsorship services:

Fractured Atlas 

The Field 




*Be careful here! Some funders want fiscal sponsorship in the same state as the granting institution. Read the fine print.


Here is a quick comparison of Fractured Atlas vs. The Field’s fiscal sponsorship programs*:




Contrary to popular belief, here at Spacetaker, we believe that patronage is NOT dead. We see and hear of plenty of examples of individually-driven projects being supported by other individuals.


What it comes down to in fundraising is relationships. We all know this, right, but who is really doing it well? Your friends, family, and colleagues are the foundation for a support network. Their support can also be used to leverage other funds.


Developing a supporter base doesn’t happen overnight. Here are steps you can take to get the ball rolling in the right direction:

  • - Stay in regular contact with those who buy your work or attend your shows
  • - Communicate with patrons in a way that’s not esoteric, sophomoric, or needy
  • - Keep it casual and low pressure
  • - When someone does you a favor, thank them (consider small art gifts)
  • - Explore commissions; they’re a great way to develop relationships
  • - Recognize your champions; treat them as such
  • - Work on developing relationships BEFORE you need something
  • - Consider that even someone who might not be able to afford your work might be willing to support you


We know that asking for money can feel tacky or uncomfortable. The key to breaking out of that mentality and seeing results is to change the way you think about asking/giving. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, that will shine through and people will be more likely to want to support you. The reality is that many will happily support your projects if only asked.



Crowdsourcing allows you to present a project to a cultivated audience to seek funding. It’s an online platform to aggregate any fundraising efforts.


Popular Options:





What crowdsourcing does:

  • - Showcases the campaign in a public forum
  • - Expresses the fundraising campaign’s need
  • - Presents the fundraising goal
  • - Aggregates & showcases fundraising activity
  • - Incorporates social media, allowing donors to engage with & share your fundraising message


How crowdsourcing works:

  • - All campaign info lives on crowdsourcing site
  • - Campaign owner (you) designs giving levels & corresponding “perks” for donations
  • - All donations filtered through site
  • - Receipts & campaign updates go through site
  • - Crowdsourcing site retains a portion of the proceeds (% to site, % to any 3rd party processors, etc.)
  • - Funds disbursed after campaign is completed to your Paypal or bank account


We are partial to IndieGoGo’s crowdsourcing platform, primarily because, unlike Kickstarter, you get to keep whatever money you raise even if you don’t reach your campaign goal (however a higher % is taken).


Here’s a quick comparison of using Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo campaigns:


We asked our friend Jerry Ochoa, violinist and composer for Two Star Symphony, if he had any advice or tips on how to run a successful IndieGoGo campaign and he went above and beyond our expectations. To give you some background, Jerry Ochoa has worked in nonprofit and arts fundraising for several years and recently ran a successful IndieGoGo fundraising drive for Two Star that raised over $7,000 for the recording and release of a new album, Titus Andronicus.




Tips and advice on running a successful IndieGoGo campaign

1.  Make a video. It doesn't have to be pro -- Two Star Symphony made our promotional videos on an iPhone -- but you want prospective donors to get to know you and your project, and a short intro video is a great way to do it. Introduce yourself and your project, ask for support, crack a joke, demo the project, whatever works best, but you're asking people for money. Put yourself out there and personalize the ask.


2.  Scale your giving categories and incentives to fit your fundraising goal. If you're trying to raise thousands of dollars, skip the $1 and $5 giving options. There are two main arguments for this: A) for a $5000 goal, success would take literally thousands of donors contributing at the lowest giving levels. Do you have that many willing donors? B) If someone supports you enough to dig out their credit card and enter it online, they'll be willing to give you $10 instead of $5. Make it easy for them by limiting the options to $10 and above.


3.  Assemble a team. Before the campaign begins, know that you'll need all the help you can get. Take a good look at your friends, fans and family and identify the people who can help spread the word about your fundraiser. Remember that publicity and opportunity are vital to your success and ask your team to create those opportunities. One supporter of Two Star offered to turn his annual birthday party into a fundraiser -- he hosted an in-home recital and asked guests to donate to us in lieu of gifts -- and we raised over $1000 dollars from the event.


4.  Maintain momentum. You'll want to make an initial splash by throwing some dollars up early, but you also need to sustain the momentum. There's danger to the perception that your campaign has stalled out -- people don't want to donate to a lost cause -- so avoid this by arranging with friends or family (your team) to make gifts at specific intervals, so that people will see your numbers rising steadily.


5.  Do the legwork. Remember that an Indiegogo page is a fantastic tool, but it's just that -- a tool. It is NOT a substitute for doing the work and you still have to take all the steps that fundraising has always required. Throw fundraising parties, hold benefit shows, make phone calls to friends and relatives with money, and blast it out through email lists. An Indiegogo page is most useful as a one-stop- shop; a place you can direct people that holds all the relevant info and includes a way to donate. But it's not magic and it's useless unless people are visiting it.


6.  Make giving as convenient as possible. When you throw benefit parties, host events and approach potential donors, have a wifi-enabled laptop or iPad with you. If someone says they're willing to make a donation, hand them the open page and offer to walk them through the steps to donate. If they say they'll donate later, they will have forgotten about it by the time they walk away or close the email window. One reality of fundraising is that people have short memories -- get them to do it on the spot, or it most likely won't happen.


7.  Take advantage of the Fractured Atlas/Indiegogo relationship. With a little advance planning, you can get your fundraiser fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas. This means that people can write off their donations to you as a tax deduction, just like nonprofits offer. It makes a huge difference (especially with higher dollar donors) and increases your legitimacy, but the biggest benefit is that most major corporations offer to match the nonprofit donations their employees make. With fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas, your project qualifies! It's an easy way to double (sometimes more) any donations you receive from employees of those companies.


8.  After the campaign ends, follow through. One of the great long-term benefits of running an Indiegogo campaign is that it allows you to find out how deep and how wide your support runs. Once you have the names and email addresses of people who will donate to you, build a relationship with them. The first way to do that is by completing your project the way you described it in your campaign. Stay on schedule, keep your donors updated and make sure they know that you are upholding your end of the bargain. Help them to feel ownership and a personal stake in your achievement, and never give them reason to question your ability to finish. Once they know you're responsible with their money, they'll support you that much more strongly down the line.


Artists everywhere – you can do this! Even in these troubled economic times, money is still out there…it just takes deliberate effort on your part to do your research, cultivate your fans, and share your passion about what you do with others.


For additional tips and resources, download the full ARC Workshop: Funding Strategies for the Individual Artist presentation and make sure you’re signed up to receive our Artist Resource Newsletter.


Happy fund hunting!


Team Spacetaker


PS: Here are a few more links to enhance your fund-seeking experience... enjoy!


Grant Information Clearing Houses

Art and Art

Foundation Center: Granter list & resources

Foundation Center FAQ (scroll down)

Philanthropy News Digest

NYFA Source

Art Deadlines List

Artist Help Network

Mid-America Arts Alliance: Travel Stipends

Texas Commission on the Arts: Artist Opportunities


Artists Wanted

Mira's List

Poets & Writers

Spacetaker Artist Field Guide

Glasstire Classifieds



Houston Arts Alliance

Texas Commission on the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts

Foundation for Contemporary Arts

Creative Captial

Map Fund

United States (Artists must be nominated)

Puffin Foundation

The Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences


A Few Local Prizes & Grants Not to Miss


All disciplines:

Idea Fund

Houston Arts Alliance Individual Artist Grant

MAP Fund


For visual artists:

Hunting Prize

The Big Show

Artadia Fund


For writers:

Poets & Writers

NANO Prize

Barthelme Prize


For dancers:

Weekend of Contemporary Dance


For musicians:

Ima Hogg Competition


*Information valid as of September 7, 2011.

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