Nonprofit arts organizations help people express themselves and build community to create new ways of looking at the world. In order to do this well, arts groups need to juggle many priorities, from planning programs to spreading awareness on social media to enlisting volunteers – and of course, there’s FUNDRAISING. At ioby, we think crowdfunding can be an important tool in every nonprofit’s toolkit, and arts nonprofits have been some of our greatest fundraisers.
Why should my nonprofit arts organization consider crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a great tool for nonprofits in general! You can read a few of our top reasons in this blog post. We’ll expand on one idea in particular here—the notion of invigorating and growing your donor base—to emphasize that different kinds of people give, in different ways, for different reasons:
- When ioby’s own Detroit Action Strategist Rhiannon Chester decided to raise support for her work at the 2017 Allied Media Conference by crowdfunding, she learned that the social justice community she was a part of was glad to help—but so was her mother, who didn’t know much at all about the conference. She was just interested in supporting her daughter.
- When John Bailey crowdfunded on ioby to open a tool library in Saint Paul, he made a point of appealing to “people of different ethnicities and genders, and entrepreneurs to homeowners to an organization that serves formerly incarcerated men. We showed that the idea is not just a white middle class environmental thing.” Diversifying his outreach paid off.
- When Lee Forbes-Belue set out to revitalize a playground in her Memphis neighborhood, she was amazed that even people whose kids had grown up—and some who didn’t even have kids!—donated to her ioby campaign, simply because they understood the importance and benefits of the playground. She also saw a range of donation amounts and types: from $25 to $250 and from advice to hands-on labor.
How crowdfunding a project can help your nonprofit arts organization
In all of these cases, crowdfunding helped ioby Leaders connect with people they might not have previously envisioned as donors. (We can’t say the same for grantwriting!) That in itself is a boon, right?
Yes, but there’s more! Crowdfunding a project can also help your organization branch out into new programmatic territory, make new creative alliances, and offer new ways to pursue your mission. Diversifying your activities can help refresh your perspective as well as attract new donors.
So: if you’re looking to diversify your nonprofit’s funding sources, scope of activities, or both, we hope you’ll find inspiration in the following examples of ioby crowdfunding campaigns that raised money for an arts nonprofit while enriching its mission.
10 terrific ioby crowdfunding projects led by art-focused nonprofits:
1) Go in on a multipurpose space
Talk about something for everyone! Sure We Can, a nonprofit recycling center, community space, and sustainability hub in Brooklyn partnered with local organizations Artfully Unforgotten and Musgo to help build a Recyclers’ Urban Farm that would “transform what otherwise would be garbage into art, beauty, and useful space.” Their plans to host a compost bin, chicken coop, vertical garden, murals, sculptures, theater productions, and more made Sure We Can’s crowdfunding campaign appealing to donors with a wide range of interests.
2) Partner with an independent artist
Mexico City-born, Memphis-based artist Yancy Villa-Calvo had been a longtime volunteer with the nonprofit Latino Memphis when she asked if they’d like to work with her to produce a public art project. They accepted, and the Barrier Free crowdfunding campaign was born. A textbook example of “think globally, act locally,” this topical and compelling installation helped one artist and one organization reach countless individuals and families (and lots of supporters) with their common vision: a world without barriers or deportation.
3) Partner with a community garden
Since its founding in 2011, Pittsburgh’s Assemble has been all about community. The nonprofit encourages youth to pursue STEAM activities (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) by working with local artists, technologists, and makers to offer interactive gallery shows, learning parties, and workshops in their own space and throughout the city. But they really got out there (or at least out of doors) when they worked with the Pittsburgh Children’s Discovery Garden to make artful signage for the garden’s plants. The result? Both the garden and Assemble could tout this mutually beneficial relationship to their donors—and no more mistaking that tomato plant for sweet basil.
4) Partner with your city
Paint Memphis is a small nonprofit arts organization with a lot of connections. Though its team members share a passion for public art, they have backgrounds in fields as diverse as academia, professional photography, hospitality, law, and accounting, all of which they successfully leverage to convene dozens of artists to paint large collaborative murals. But before they accomplished that, they forged a connection with Memphis’s Office of Engineering and Public Works to help the city see that painting public walls is about more than graffiti: it can be about community. Their ioby campaign expressed this sentiment, too, and clearly it resonated with contributors.
5) Travel to your community
If your organization has been fretting about securing a physical location, consider how you could deliver on your mission without one. While many nonprofit arts groups raise money on ioby to improve their space for the community they serve, some opt to take their work to where that community already is. One example we love is NYC-based Music on the Inside, which brings musical mentorship to young people incarcerated at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York. Their ioby campaign didn’t raise money for art supplies or other physical goods; it paid for teaching artists’ honoraria, transportation, and training. When people know exactly what they’re giving toward, whether it’s physical or not, it can help them feel more confident about donating.
6) Give an award
An awesome way to raise your nonprofit’s profile, pique interest in and funding for your work, and applaud people doing great things in your world is to organize an award—and crowdfund to pay for it! After she passed away, admirers of the architect, professor, community advocate, and urban designer Mojdeh “Moji” Baratloo got together to create the Urban Urge Awards, which give interested community members worldwide small grants to fund creative urban projects—anything from an art installation in a vacant storefront to an app that directs people to fresh food in their neighborhood. Every grant given elevates Moji’s legacy and brings attention to the important work she continues to inspire.
7) Do it for the kids
The Carpenter Art Garden in Memphis is brimming with art, from the painted wooden canvasses lashed to its metal gates to the art classes that take place inside its “Purple House” to the community mosaic it’s helping to create on the corner. In addition to offering vocational training for adults and a laundry co-op for families, the Art Garden also caters to kids by offering tutoring, bikes to ride, and, of course, lots of art-making. Kids are famously adorable and honest, making them great elements of a winning fundraising campaign!
8) Involve science & nature
As if it wasn’t enough to spend its first year “bringing children from all economic and cultural backgrounds to play, learn, explore, and problem-solve through hands-on learning and guided discovery in a lush garden,” the Delray Beach Children’s Garden in Florida fundraised on ioby this fall to expand its Science & Nature program next year. On their shopping list were microscopes, telescopes, art supplies, garden tools, musical instruments, kitchen tools, and more so they could offer cooking instruction, nature-based art classes, yoga sessions, woodworking, and other activities. The importance of science education keeps making news, and many experts agree the ideal setting for teaching it is the great outdoors. Show donors you’re up on the latest research and are putting your knowledge into action by working a science and nature component into your existing art program.
9) Renovate a space
Sometimes it’s the project or program you’re working on that needs a cash infusion; sometimes it’s the four walls you want to work within! In 2016, the city of Athens, Alabama leased the historic but deteriorating Scout House to the Athens Arts League and challenged the nonprofit to raise the money to renovate and repurpose it to become a music venue and student music lab. The crowdfunding campaign Athens Arts League ran on ioby helped them to purchase the paint, light fixtures, used musical instruments, and even the chairs and tables necessary to refurbish and prepare the structure for its next occupants. Don’t think your crowdfunding campaign has to be flashy to be successful; people enjoy giving to support “nuts and bolts” projects, too.
10) Bring arts into parks
NYC’s East River Park Coalition was formed in 2015 by three Lower East Side community groups who all wanted to see this historic but underutilized park enjoyed by more residents—especially as an “open studio” for the local creative community. The coalition is raising funds on ioby to hire visual artists and musicians to teach workshops and play live in the park, host an exhibition of artwork by local young people that’s inspired by or created in the park, produce a combination scavenger hunt and historical walking tour in and around the park, and lots more—all free to the public. When you bring art lovers and park lovers together, you get twice the love!
Convinced that crowdfunding a project could be a good move for your nonprofit arts organization? Share your idea with us, and we’ll set you up with one-on-one coaching to help you strategize your campaign for success!