Amy Reusch

Modern and Other Dance Small Backer Funding Projects

28 posts in this topic

It raises the issue about whether Kickstarter shuld be used by very wealthy individuals to finance private, potentially for-profit ventures. It also reports Kickstarter's stats that 63% of the contributors to Braff's film-- between 29-30K -- had never contributed before and that these new contributors returned to make 2200 contributions over 400K, with a 40/60 film/non-film split, in other words generating leads and traffic not only to 160K in other film projects, but 240K to whatever other things caught their interest.

Of course, MMDG is a non-for-profit charitable organization, so the philosophical argument about profit-making does not apply, even though few complain about funding start-up inventors, who have had projects in the high 1000's range and have returned for second and third rounds of funding, and who have the potential to be bought out for millions personally, just as this film was bought. They are also not asking for millions. And simply because an inventor or artist or filmmaker creates a project doesn't mean it is either the only means of raising money and that they don't have funding from other sources as well. Whether MMD brings new donors to fund other indiegogo projects won't be answered until there is data.

Kickstarter and indiegogo -- and all crowdsourcing schemes -- are not donations, like choosing from a catalog which family to give a goat, nor are they microfinancing, like choosing from a website to loan to a home improvement project vs. someone's food cart, nor are they venture capital schemes, which are investments. They are businesses which provide an infrastructure to create and manage project proposals and ongoing administrative management of the proposal (ex: communications via email and rewards management), and they provide a payment processing gateway and financial reporting, as well as other reporting. They are like match.com, matching people and their money to projects who want their money, and, like match.com, they offer a combination of enticement -- project vs. personal descriptions -- and incentives -- rewards vs. walks on the beach, essentially eBay for groups.

Ultimately, it is up to the potential contributors to decide whether to support the project. If they think the project owners are too big, with too many other sources of income, if they think they are greedily taking funds from lesser-known artists -- rightly or wrongly -- if they think it is somehow unfair or unseemly for an established org to do it, they won't donate. If it's a big enough project to make the news, the Guardian or the NYT might pick it up and ponder again whether the project is appropriate. If they say, "Great project" or "I really want to have dinner with Mark Morris, and that's worth 10K to me," then they'll contribute. Or maybe they don't, but think "That's a DVD that goes on my "to buy" list.

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I'd missed that NYT article -- thanks for the link. These crowdsourcing sites are so new they're still sorting out how they work and where they fit in the general landscape. I'm not surprised to see such a wide variety of projects, budgets, and levels of experience there during this period. As Helene says, in the end, it comes down to the donor and their choices.

LeVar Burton just closed an incredibly successful campaign to fund an online version of Reading Rainbow that will be available to classrooms as well as on smartphones and other hand held devices -- I think it surpassed the Veronica Mars film project in the largest number of individual donors, getting all kinds of buy-in from different parts of the film/television and online worlds for both "gifts" and donations. Does he already have the gravitas to leverage funding from more conventional or traditional places? You could argue yes, though it seems that he did not, at least for this project. He needed to turn to the general public.

But a Kickstarter campaign provides more than cash, especially in cases like these. For Reading Rainbow, the campaign allowed individuals who felt they had a connection to the original show (and were dismayed when it was cancelled) to "vote" for the program -- in much the same way that public television and radio tout the number of their memberships as proof of their utility to the community, the number of participants is considered an asset as well as the final balance of donations. For the Morris company's costume project, which is in the nature of an unbudgeted special request, it's a chance to make a wider appeal than they might have if they just reached out to their existing donor lists.

At least right now, a Kickstarter campaign raises attention as well as cash -- a commodity that is sometimes harder to manipulate than money.

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The NYT article also addresses the non-cash value to the contributors, quoting one contributor who described how the experience of being involved was why he participated.

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