Crowd funding. We’ve all kind of heard of it, heard of someone raising a whole bunch of cash to do some sort of creative thing or raise $70,000 to make a potato salad, but I guess I never thought I’d have the kind of project that would do it successfully. But I just did.
Over the last two years or so, I’ve put a fair bit of energy into Melbourne Spoken Word, what started as a blog to list all of the amazing spoken word and poetry gig going on in Melbourne, and to talk a bit about the scene, has kind of exploded and gained more support than I could’ve imagined, to the point it’s now more of a mini arts organisation.
It’s mostly been run out of my own pocket and energy, with a few people helping write for the site and assist me with gigs, plus the Melbourne Poets Union and Book World have sponsored us a bit which is awesome. But it became a time when taking MSW to the next level required more cash and resources behind it than I could afford or could garner from a few sponsorship agreements. And applying for grants to be honest, is fucking terrifying, confusing and complicated, plus under Abbott is looking even harder, though something we want to try in the future.
The main thing was the current free WordPress template we were using didn’t really fit with who central we wanted Upcoming Events to be to the site and we wanted something a bit more dynamic and in your face. I found some quotes and asked around about costs, all of which were well into the four figures. I think someone mentioned crowd funding and I thought it was worth a shot, but probably seemed a little unlikely. It’s not like poets are known for being loaded and to be honest, I almost felt guilty for asking all of this from people, what amounted to $4,500 grand which I thought would be for the whole poetry community, but also felt like I was asking it for my own personal project.
The thing is though that in hindsight, the project, a new website for MSW was what is really needed and it’s a pretty solid project to ask donations for. It’s clear and tangible. Alongside the rewards people get from pledging, we’ll all get to see this amazing website soon and it’ll feel like we all contributed to make it happen, and that would be my advice if you wanted to launch a crowd funding project, it has to be for something tangible as well as something that will benefit the people you’re asking to cough up a fair bit more than change from their wallet in a bucket.
It’s incredible. Two people in particular pledged over $1,000 to the project. Many more donated $50 or $100 or more. Some gigs even passed around buckets to collect donations. Aside from the website we’re getting, it gives you incredible confidence in the project that is Melbourne Spoken Word that people were willing to support it in that way.
We were also lucky enough to surpass our original target, reaching $5,235 in the end, which meant we also bought a portable PA system to use in venues where we have to provide our own sound equipment. We also think we’ve probably earned enough to buy a recording interface (the thing that connects microphones and instruments into your laptop) which will help us launch our audio journal of spoken word in 2015.
Crowd funding is said to be past its peak, and my advice is you wouldn’t be wanting to ask money for just about anything, and certainly your ability to keep asking for money from subsequent campaigns would diminish unless your profile grew massively, and so you’d wanna be real sure that this is the project you want to ask people to pledge for.
But now that I’m done and dusted, unless your really wanna donate to MSW and keep it going you can email and we can arrange something, I thought I’d recommend a few projects worth donating to below.
Right Now write about human rights, through essay, storytelling, poetry, they give a voice to human rights struggles. I was very lucky to work with them on the above anthology, I edited and commissioned all the poetry in it, judged the poetry section of their competition and worked on the poetry for the online magazine. They’re currently trying to raise enough funds for re-do their website and expand the online magazine.
My friend and fellow poet, Randall Stephens is riding across Australia on his bike, you know, like the ones with pedals not engines. He’s raising money from Haemophilia and doing poetry gigs on the way.
Equal Love are the guys who run the rallies for same-sex marriage rights in Melbourne. They’ve been doing it for ten years and putting on and promoting the rallies unfortunately isn’t cheap, and if artists find it hard getting money out of the Abbott government, imagine how hard it is for LGBTI activist groups.