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New way to boost the arts

Boosted, New Zealand’s crowdfunding platform for the arts, was launched in March this year and has quickly become one of the most effective ways to fund arts projects.

Initially a couple of dozen projects were launched but that has rapidly grown to 45 arts projects, which so far have gained $250,000 in funding with a success rate of 62%. 

Boosted was established by the Arts Foundation and run by experienced business leaders, who are themselves artists with an understanding of the commercial landscape in which artists work.

With a proliferation of crowdfunding websites internationally and a growing number of sites in New Zealand catering for different needs, there is an increasing need to determine the effectiveness of such sites. The main measure for site performance is the percentage of projects that reach their funding goals. This is often confusing as many sites return donations to donors for projects that do not reach their goals.

With other international and national success rates averaging less than 50%, Boosted's success rate of 62% makes it one of the more successful sites. The Boosted team’s approach of working closely with artists and arts professionals on their individual endeavors has helped drive this exceptional success rate. 

Boosted manager Mark Michel notes that Boosted does not choose or curate the projects: “It is for the crowd to decide which projects are funded. It is the networks the organisation has which will ultimately decide the level of support.”

Boosted differentiates itself from other crowdfunding websites in a number of ways including providing high-level campaign advice to projects within the context of a deep understanding of the funding opportunities for artists. It also enables artists to reward their audiences in sophisticated ways that do not require costly items in return for pledges like CDs and T shirts as is required on other sites.

“The traditional approach that many crowdfunding sites employ is that of incentivising. We believe that that approach is a bit of a distraction for the artist and it becomes more of a marketing campaign. We are happy for organisations to offer rewards as long as they are not seen as incentives," Michel says.

Donors benefit through their contributions as all donations qualify for a tax credit. Donors receive a 33% tax credit on any donation made to a project, while the artists receive 90% of the donation, with 10% retained to help the Arts Foundation run Boosted and cover hard costs.

“We have had a great response to the tax effective status of donations on Boosted,” Michel says. “There are a number of donors that make significant donations and many who make regular small donations. These donors tell us they are looking forward to receiving their tax credit at the end of the year.

“The timeframe and the amount requested for the project are entirely up to the artist or group. It's up to them to decide what sort of campaign they want to run. We can provide some intelligence about what is working.

"We generally recommend 30-40 days, which is the most successful time frame for such campaigns. It is important to keep the conversations going throughout the campaign. There is some who want to run for 90 days but that is a long time to keep up an interest in the project."

The timeframe appears to be applicable to both large and small amounts of funding. The recent Circa Theatre campaign got to its target in less than two days.

The Wellington-based theatre requested $1500 to enable it to hire equipment for audio description of the non-verbal action in their Mother Goose production by giving headsets to blind and visually impaired audience members, so that they can have as complete a theatre experience as possible.

“The campaigns are very much about networks, so the more links to arts, social and community groups that the organidation can make use of the better their chances of obtaining the funding,” Michel says.

Highlights from 2013 include Boosted’s first successfully funded project, Gabby O’Connor’s Some Time. The Wellington-based installation artist requested $3000 toward the cost of an installation at Corbans Estate in May. It is the sort of exhibition where normally an artist may have gone to Creative New Zealand and had to wait several months for a decision. Her campaign meant that she was given funding of $5000 in less than a month by 41 donors.

The extra funds allowing an “unexpected level of support removing many of the usual stresses that occur when trying to make art happen - namely the financial ones,” commented the artist.

Michel is very pleased with the outcome of the NZ Dance Company project.

“We worked with them recently because they had been invited to perform Rotunda at the prestigious Holland Dance Festival in February next year and wanted the funds to assist in getting the eight dancers, conductor and production crew to Holland. They had a lot of intelligence around the dance communities and had a really good understanding of their networks and that meant they were able to achieve their target of $15,000 provided by 82 donors very quickly."

The Big Bang, Drum Up Support Appeal is another recent success story, gaining 103% of the project target, $25,000. The Big Bang will see 200 young drummers from Auckland and Wellington, in a drumming group led by top percussion ensemble Strike and special guests; and opening the 2014 New Zealand Festival with an explosive event in Wellington’s Civic Square.
This week Boosted had a series of talks in Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Blenheim aimed at arts practitioners who had projects they wanted help with in providing information on all things to do with crowdfunding and tips on making project succeed.

The presentation in Christchurch also included one of the series of art talks - YOU CALL THIS ART was a conversation among Gavin Bishop, Madeleine Pierard and Jacob Rajan, hosted by the Arts Foundation and Radio New Zealand Concert. 

More by John Daly-Peoples

Comments and questions

Finally we have a local option for fundraising, for the never ending stream of "arts organisations" who expect the taxpayer to fund their hobby.

Now, fans or followers of weird and wonderful "arts" can decide if an art event or project is worthy of funding, and if so they can put their own money on the table to support it, instead of expecting yet another hand out from the taxpayer.

Its called private enterprise.

You mean, like the America's Cup?

Participating population: about a hundred. Cost to NZ taxpayer in last 10 years: $40m+

I'm not complaining about that. There are - arguably - benefits to NZ.

And I suppose you could run similar numbers against tax exemptions etc. given to The Hobbit and other movie projects. Not exactly direct funding, clearly of direct benefit.

So by the sounds of the previous comment this project will only have the opposite of the intended effect and decrease arts funding, as right wing art haters use it to justify a reduction in public funding of the arts. If art, or indeed everything in life, had to show a direct positive _economic_ effect it would be a joyless world indeed.

Nowadays looks like these crowdfunding platforms are popping up everywhere.. which is great news of course! I should have known it but I would admit that this came to me as a total surprise.. Boosted is simply revolutionary news for all the independent artists out there.. and that counts for many! I also hope that crowdfunding platforms for artists will appear in other countries too.. however national identity is something that plays an important role in it's success. I will be following these news closely. -Richard Br.