Producers Toolkit # 5: innovative funding models

Friday, 9 December 2016

Our presenters at the Producers Toolkit #5 were Esther Gyorki, Program Coordinator at the Australian Cultural Fund (ACF), and Stuart McMillen, an ACT based cartoonist. Stuart has run a few very successful crowdfunding campaigns in his time and generously shared his tips and experience with us.

The ACF is a fundraising platform for Australian artists, managed by Creative Partnerships Australia. Through the ACF you can start a campaign, set a target, raise funds and you receive all donations made – even if you haven’t reached your target. Uniquely all donations over $2 are tax deductible through the ACF, which means individual artists can access donations from large foundations and companies, who will often request that their donation be tax deductable.

Over the course of the evening, Esther and Stuart took us through the stages of developing a successful crowdfunding campaign through the ACF and their hot tips for how to get those dollars rolling in:

Is crowdfunding for you? Crowdfunding is the hot new way to raise money, but it may not be the best method for you and your project. Think carefully about what your goals are and do your research about the benefits of various fundraising options. The ACF has a great “ABC” guide to its unique platform here.

Can you commit? Anyone who has run a successful campaign will tell you it can feel like a full time job. A successful campaign take a great deal of time and effort. Esther also mentioned that a benefit of using the ACF can be the opportunity to make more lasting connections with your audience and patrons, who may very well become a more sustainable source of income for you and your artistic practice than the constantly revolving door of grants.

Clue yourself up. If you’ve decided the ACF is for you, then you should delve into the ACF’s Artist Handbook for all the “need-to-know” information about starting a campaign. One of your first questions will be how much to fundraise and when – for example, just before tax time people are often looking around for places to donate.  When considering the amount, Stuart explained that he had made a list of the people you think will give you money, and estimate how much they might give. Once you have added this up, consider if this is enough to support your project.

What’s your pitch? A lot of our really interesting conversation centred on the task of developing your pitch – both the text and media you’ll use on the ACF campaign page as well as way you will talk about your project and the reasons people should support it. Some tips here are:

  • Ask yourself, “why does my project need to exist?” and “why should people help me?”
  • Consider whether you want to create patron levels like “$50 superstar” or “$100 Megastar” or leave it to your audience to decide how much to give. There are positives and negatives to both approaches, and it will depend on who your audience is and what your fundraising target is.
  • Make sure to include the basic details like who, what, when, where, why and how
  • use positive language, give people a reason to feel excited about donating, and how their donation will make a positive impact
  • Ensure there is clarity and consistency across all your marketing – for example make sure the information on your Facebook page is the same as on the ACF campaign page.
  • Developing your marketing plan

Develop a marketing plan. This is one of the biggest tasks you’ll need to get underway as soon as you’ve made the decision to plunge into fundraising through the ACF. Esther and Stuart had these tips:

  • Know your audience and if you don’t know them yet, do some research! Your pitch will always be better if you know who you’re speaking to and what they might want to hear!
  • Be prepared ahead of time: have your plan developed and all your materials ready before you go live
  • If you get into the campaign and you start to feel like things aren’t going to plan stop, refocus, seek advice from the lovely people at ACF and start again. It’s okay to change your tactics throughout the campaign if you find your original approach isn’t working
  • Often some of the most effective marketing can be done face to face, or through personal contact. Think about how you would like to be contacted what personalised and genuine ways you can contact people.
  • Stuart recommended doing a “soft launch” to friends and family so you can drum up some early donations that will look good once the campaign formally launches
  • Your marketing will often be judged on the quality (not the quantity) of the content. Think carefully about what best represents you and your work
  • Research has shown that campaigns that feature quality video content are more successful. Stuart made 2 videos for his successful campaign and he recommends keeping the video short (30 sec to 2 mins max), including a call-to-action (i.e. ask for the money!), and being inventive and creative with the content

Follow up. While the campaign itself is the peak period for your communication with donors, what you do after the campaign can be just as important. Staying in touch with your donors and other supporters can help build an audience for the project you have raised money for, and for future projects that you might create. Donors also love to feel special and know what the impact of their donation was, so be creative about how you keep in touch with them.

For more guidance and tips on using the ACF platform, check-out the ACF website, and some of the links below. Esther and the staff at the ACF are also able to discuss your project with you, answer questions and provide advice – send them an email via

Some great resources

  • Artist Heather B Swann