Crowdfunding: now why didn’t I think of that?
Since its founding in 2011, the Irish version Fundit has had pledges of €2.25m
From Heterodyne, by Fiona Hallinan. Photograph: Sean Breithaupt
It’s one of those ideas that’s so brilliant it seems blindingly obvious, and the wonder is, why no one had done it before. . . I’m talking about crowdfunding: the internet-driven platform where creatives connect directly with the public to raise money. Following on from the international site Kickstarter (kickstarter.com), which itself piggybacked on other experiments, Fundit (fundit.ie), the Irish version, was launched in 2011. Since then the scheme has had a 74 per cent success rate, enabling 568 different projects to come to fruition, with 42,000 people making pledges amounting to €2.25 million.
The way Fundit works is simple: people pick a target sum to raise, decide the different levels of support people can pledge, and then offer rewards at each level. There’s a closing date, and if the target is reached, the project gets the money; if it isn’t, no one pays anything.
As Stuart McLaughlin of Business to Arts, who co-founded Fundit with Martin McNicholl, puts it, the beauty of the scheme is that it allows people’s supporters get involved in making work happen. So singer Julie Feeney, whose award-winning album Clocks was crowdfunded, can not only offer CDs, concert tickets and private recitals as rewards for support, she can also connect directly with the people who have helped make her latest album a reality – and they get to hear the music first, and become advocates.
Fundit projects go beyond music to cover exhibitions, publishing, design, fashion, theatre, science and film projects. Dublin’s delicious Cake Café raised €3,283 to help cover the costs of producing their Cake Café Bake Book, with rewards ranging from a copy of the book (€15), to a personal cookery class (€175+).
Nathalie Weadick of the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF) did one of the first Fundits in 2011, and raised €17,347 from 399 pledges to fund a book as part of their annual Open House event. “More than the monetary success, it was the first time we’d tested our followers to reveal if they shared our passion for the project,” she says, adding that “the IAF feels closer to our audience as a result, and I’d like to think that’s mutual.” She’s also keen to stress that Fundit is hard work. “It’s not sitting back and watching the percentages go up, we’re a small team and we had to focus on pushing the campaign all the time. It became a preoccupation, it had to. It was constant, but also exciting.”
Artist Fiona Hallinan ran a successful Fundit in 2013, raising €7,605 towards her Heterodyne project (Heterodyneprojects.com), which has the gorgeous premise of commissioning composers to create soundtracks for different Irish roads: you play them as you drive along. With rewards ranging from free downloads and a thank you (€10), to a pop up dinner party (€250+), Hallinan says it was easy to set up, praising the team at Fundit; but challenging to implement as there is a great deal of asking involved in securing the pledges. But Fundit made sense because she wanted “not just to source the funding but to broach the project to the public, to see if the idea was worth pursuing”.
In the US, where things are naturally bigger, Pebble Technology’s customisable watch, the largest Kickstarter to date, raised $1 million (€0.73m) in its first hour in 2012, and reached more than $10 million (7.3m) by the time the project closed. But maybe it’s not so new. . . in 1844, after the money ran out, Joseph Pulitzer used his newspaper, New York World , to solicit donations to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. More than 125,000 people contributed, raising $100,000 (€73k). Many contributions were less than $1 (73 cent).