When you’re raising money to fund your creative efforts, don’t overlook the possibility of fundraising on your own. What do I mean by that? I mean you actually ask your friends and colleagues to donate money for your project.
This “ask” can take many forms. One way is to throw a fundraising party. This party can be a swanky wine and cheese tasting in a friend’s home where you read some of your work and then ask for donations. It can be a theatrical event where ticket prices are donations. You can raffle something off. You can host a donor dinner. You can even solicit donations from businesses to pay for the refreshments or party favors at your fundraiser. The list is endless. Morrie Warshawki’s book The Fundraising Houseparty is a good resource to check for more ideas.
You can also write a direct mail fundraising letter where you solicit donations from people you know and who know your work. This is easier than throwing a party or putting on an event, but it will still take guts to ask people directly for money.
I raised several hundred dollars with a direct mail campaign when I wanted to attend an expensive workshop with a prestigious instructor. I still ended up applying for a grant to fund the full cost but the few hundred dollars I raised on my own showed the funder that I had a team of individual donors behind me who believed in my work enough to write me a check.
As I’m sure you can imagine, doing your own fundraising is not for the faint of heart. The whole topic of money-having it, spending it, asking for it-can bring up your own beliefs, fears and neuroses. However, the sooner you discover these, the sooner you can sort through them and find your own clarity.
To be successful at any fundraising, you need to believe in your project enough to be willing to ask others to help you bring it into being. Fundraising forces you to clarify your project, consider your audience, and create the highest quality work. You need to do these things anyway, so fundraising just helps you with a process you are already engaged in. That can be scary, but no scarier than going to the writing desk and creating your work.
Even if you only earn $300 from throwing a fundraising party, that $300 may be what separates you from another grant applicant who doesn’t have any other sources of revenue. Your project is much more competitive in the eyes of funders if your budget shows money you have already raised towards your project. And fundraising on your own shows chutzpah and determination, two qualities that granting organizations find irresistible.
This month: Put on your party hat! Brainstorm the most fun, creative ways you can to invite people to invest in your work and in your future as an artist.
Gigi Rosenberg writes about motherhood, relationships and the writing life. Her latest essay “Signora” appears in the Seal Press anthology The Maternal is Political. Her work has been published in Parenting, Writer’s Digest, The Oregonian, The Jewish Review and featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Gigi coaches writers on how to read to an audience. She is currently writing Get Your Art into the World: How to Fund Your Creative Endeavors a book to supplement her national workshops on grant writing.