Crowdfunding lets you ask for small amounts of money from a large number, instead of the usual model of asking large amounts of money from a small number of people.

At its heart, crowdfunding is a social networking campaign through which you ask people to pledge small amounts of money to support your project. Generally, the funds are only released to you if you reach the target for the campaign – otherwise your donors get their money back.

Any crowdfunding campaign begins by publishing a proposal (sometimes a short film or press release type introduction) about your project, and presenting this on one of the growing number of websites that are springing up in the field. People who donate money are rewarded with small gifts depending on how much they give – someone donating a small amount might get a mention on your website, a T-shirt or DVD of a finished film; someone donating more might get a credit in a film, a meeting or dinner with the artist, or help with production. Check existing crowdfunding campaigns via the listings below to see the kinds of rewards other artists offer.

Essentials of a campaign

Network – crowdfunding lives or dies by getting the word out through your network, and asking your friends to recommend to other contacts. Artists without an extensive online social network will struggle with crowdfunding. Since information and payments are hosted online, linking to your project from your social networks, website and mailing list will make it more likely to succeed. Even though the most popular sites have their own independent audiences, who will browse to find something to support (probably based on the quality of rewards as much as the project), it is down to you to spread the news about your project and to ask for money. The real power of crowdfunding is that people you know can donate you money.

Be realistic – explain in your proposal exactly what you will do with the money you raise. It might fund your whole project or only part or it, but if you keep the amounts quite low (up to £2000) the target will seem reachable to your funders. The more people who join in, the more likely other people will be to join in as well – people like to be part of something that they see is successful and growing. If you need a great deal of money, you might consider either splitting it into different phases and fundraise for them separately, or approaching different funders for different elements.

All or nothing – remember you only get the money if the pledged amount is reached by then end of the campaign.

Compelling and simple presentation – a short video is often the preferred – and most successful – way to present a project, but a video will only be engaging if it’s well done. If you don’t have the technical expertise or equipment, and can’t find a friend to help you, you could try a blog to allow people to feel involved in your project and find out more.

Pick your platform – familiarise yourself with crowdfunding sites before deciding which one to use – we list the main ones below. Some are more established in certain fields (such as film or visual arts) and by studying successful (and unsuccessful) bids you’ll be able to pick up useful tips. Learn from the mistakes of others.

Suggestions from the experts

Listen to photographer Marc Wilson, veteran of two successful crowdfunding campaigns, talk about his experiences.

Create an interesting project: this may sound obvious, but there are a huge amount of projects competing with each other. Your project needs to engage and interest your audience, and make them want to see its completion enough to partly fund it themselves.

Video: don’t make this too ‘slick’ looking, since that’ll make it look like you don’t need the money! But it does need to engage an audience, both with project and your motivations for doing it. Contributors not only want to fund project but need to have faith and interest in you.

What / Why / How: make your proposal clear and concise. What you’re doing and why you’re doing it will be quite obvious to you, but how you intend to do this project will require more thought and explanation: this is about how the contributed funds will be used, so it’s a chance to really sell the need for this activity. Also make it really clear and transparent as to how to contribute.

Rewards: rewards have to be enticing, but contributors want to back your project because they want to see it completed. See rewards as perks to help entice and make a contributor feel special. They must not cost you so much to produce that you have nothing left to make project.

Contributor contact and updates: the most important aspect once campaign is up and running is to keep contacting people and reminding them to donate. If contributors feel special, they will pass on the campaign to their friends. This makes all the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful campaign.

After the campaign: once you have their money, it’s really important to continue to keep in touch with people. You want these people to be fans of your work for life – and possibly support you again in the future.

Watch Deborah Curtis talk about crowdfunding at the ArtsAdmin, Live Art Development Agency and Home Live Art event Money Talks in 2013.

Find out how Sophie Giblin of Kollectiv Gallery ran her successful crowdfunding campaign for more tips and experience.