As an event organiser myself, I sometimes wonder if people realise what goes on behind the scenes. Because for every little event, there is a team of trusty sloggers (usually volunteers) who pull it all together. They book the bands, the stalls, the food. They sort out the venues, the advertising and the insurance. They pick up the litter afterwards! And of course, somehow, they find the money to make it all happen.
Organisations like the Arts Council and Failte Ireland give a huge amount of support in grant aid, and there are plenty of cracking good times that would never happen without them. But getting a grant doesn't mean that your worries are instantly over... because you have to spend the money up front BEFORE they give you the grant (and notta lotta people know that).
Up until a couple of years ago, no problem, because if you had a letter guaranteeing that you would be getting your grant, banks would happily give you a bridging loan to get the ball rolling. But in 'the current climate', that's all changed. Organisations are being turned away because guarantee or not, the banks aren't lending to ANYBODY. This isn't only affecting events, but community projects and small enterprises too. So if you want to make amazing things happen, but you don't happen to have a huge stash of cash in the bank, what are you going to do?
For a lot of projects, the answer has been CROWD-FUNDING. It's a relatively new idea, especially here in Ireland, but listen up because it's set to be the next big thing. So what exactly is crowd-funding? Also known as crowd financing or crowd sourced capital, it's a simple enough idea... instead of looking for a big donation from a single sponsor, you pull in lots of small donations from a wide network of sponsors. It has a long-standing tradition among charities... if you've ever put 20 cents into a donations box, then you've already been part of a crowd-funding campaign. But that's old school.
There are now lots of internet sites where you can launch your own funding campaign, most notably Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Sponsume and in Ireland FundIt. Anyone can become a member of these sites, and setting up a campaign is simple... similar to setting up a Facebook page. You describe your project and your goals, set a fundraising target, and try to set up a good selection of rewards to encourage people to donate. You also need to set a closing date for donations. Once you have your campaign in place, the word is spread through your social networks... Facebook, Twitter etc. When people visit your campaign, they can make a secure donation (usually via Paypal) from as little as €5 to well, as much as you like! You set the limits.
Once you get to your deadline date, sites differ a little. Some, such as FundIt, have an all-or-nothing approach, so if you don't reach your target amount by your deadline date, then you get nothing. No money is taken from your sponsors, and you're back to the old drawing board. If you choose a site like this, it's really important to set a very achievable target.
Other sites let you keep whatever you raise, even if you don't reach your target. Sponsume runs this way, which is why I chose it for my latest campaign (why yes, of course you can make a donation, see my campaign HERE ). The only setback is that you are committed to delivering your rewards, even if you get nowhere near your target... so be careful what you offer.
Crowd-funding has helped to make arts, education, food and aid projects happen all around the world. Some people use it to fund entire projects, others as the first step. And of course, not every project makes it. Browse around the sites to see what works, because as government funding begins to dry up, this really is the future.
The Irish site, FundIt, is only 10 months old and has already drawn in half a million Euro in donations. If you could get your hands on a share of that, what would you do with it?