Safety in numbers
Read what our guest speakers Emma Wilcox, Henrietta Norton and Maxine Horn had to say about funding, finance and IP at the Cracking the Safe seminar last month
‘Cracking the Safe: funding, finance and income-generating initiatives for artists, groups and creative businesses’ was a special seminar organised by Cibas in partnership with the University of Portsmouth and Aspex Gallery which took place at Aspex in Portsmouth on 26 April 2012.
Paola Campari-Moss, Director of Cibas and Joanne Bushnell, Director of Aspex introduced guest speakers Emma Wilcox, Relationship Manager, Arts Council England South East, Henrietta Norton, Founder, WeDidThis and Maxine Horn, Founder and CEO of Creative Barcode.
The seminar was designed to offer an insight into, in particular, Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts funding scheme and to introduce the concept of crowdfunding, a relatively recent innovation in fundraising for ideas, concepts and projects. A panel discussion and questions from the audience followed the three short presentations which we’ve summarised here.
Emma Wilcox, Relationship Manager, Arts Council England South East
Emma talked about Arts Council England’s ‘Grants for the Arts’ (G4A) fund which are for individuals, arts organisations and other people who use the arts in their work. They are for activities carried out over a set period and which engage people in England in arts activities and which help artists and arts organisations to carry out their work.
The Arts Council England (ACE) website features detailed information about making an application, including information and guidance on how to apply and information about what you can apply for and how applications are assessed.
Emma highlighted a number of points in her presentation that, from her experience, she felt beneficial to clarify to the Cracking the Safe audience.
A strategic framework for the arts
Arts Council England has published a strategic framework for the arts, which is called ‘Achieving Great Art for Everyone’. Emma stressed that the strategy was aspirational by design, but that it means that ACE seek to fund high quality (great) work that is widely open and accessible (for everyone). She went on to describe ways in which applications might seek to achieve this through, quality of research, evidence of previous work and, for example, by incorporating engagement, participation and an audience development strategy.
The ‘Achieving Great Art for Everyone’ framework incorporates 5 strategic goals. Emma advised that applications should reflect both the overarching strategy and at least one of the goals highlighted within it. In essence, ACE seek to fund projects that help them to achieve their goals:
1. Talent and artistic excellence are thriving and celebrated. England is regarded as a pre-eminent centre for artistic excellence
2. More people experience and are inspired by the arts. The arts are at the centre of people’s lives – more people are involved in arts in their communities and are enriched and inspired by arts experiences
3. The arts are sustainable, resilient and innovative. Collaborative and networked, the arts are known for resilience, innovation and their contribution to the nation’s reputation and prosperity
4. The arts leadership and workforce are diverse and highly skilled. The diversity of the arts workforce reflects the diversity of society and artistic practice in England. Outstanding arts leaders play a wider role in their communities and nationally
5. Every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts. Children and young people have the best current and future artistic lives they can have. They are able to develop their artistic capabilities and engage with, and shape, the arts
Making an application
Emma explained that the G4A scheme has no deadlines by which to apply, but that a dedicated, centralised team (based in Manchester) met regularly to review and assess applications. She stressed that G4A is a limited fund and therefore competitive. As a result, some applications are unsuccessful due to high demand, rather than the quality of the proposal.
She strongly advised first-time applicants to apply for amounts smaller than £10,000, adding that ‘smaller’ applications are assessed within 6 weeks, while applications for funding of up to £30,000 are assessed within 12 weeks of the date that they’re submitted.
On the subject of ‘matched’ funding, Emma advised that ACE were very unlikely to fund 100% of the cost of a project and that applicants should identify a minimum of 10% of funding from other sources. This could be another funder, a sponsor or investment by the artists making the application. Unless there is strong evidence of revenue that will be generated from sales, earned income is not always a sufficient source of matched funding, and neither are ‘in kind’ contributions (such as volunteer hours or the loan of space or equipment).
Emma also stressed the importance of engaging with your Local Authority Arts Officer and either Relationship Managers or Artform Officers at your regional ACE offices. There are two good reasons for this; firstly, it provides reassurance to the assessors that you are well networked, that you’ve identified key people that can provide advice and support and who could be important to the success of your project. Secondly, if the assessors have any questions about your proposal or, for example about similar types of activity in your region, they will most likely ask at your regional ACE office and at the arts office at your local council (or the council responsible for the area where your project is due to happen).
“I was lucky enough to have attended the Cracking the Safe last night. What a brilliant evening! So much relevant, straightforward and well-presented advice. I now feel prepared to have a go at the ACE Grants for the Arts. Thank you very much for a brilliant evening” - Sarah Filmer, Unit 11 Studios, Cracking the Safe delegate
Henrietta Norton, Founder, WeDidThis
Hen spoke to the Cracking the Safe audience about crowdfunding, but more specifically, about project planning and project management. She explained that she set-up WeDidThis with business partner Ed Whiting in January 2011 and that the site had helped to fund more than 40 projects through more than 1,600 individual donations in its first year.
Despite this success and the recent proliferation of online crowdfunding platforms, many projects that sought crowdfunding were unsuccessful. This realisation led Hen to become a trainer and facilitator, helping artists and organisations to build better projects and manage more successful campaigns.
Henrietta Norton speaking at Cracking the Safe
Crowdfunding is tool and not a solution
Hen spoke passionately about how she believed that the secret to successful crowdfunding was in the development of sound projects with clear objectives and outcomes. She spoke about how all of the elements of a successful campaign should be present in the project that is seeking support, such as a management team with clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountability and research that identifies who the primary audience for the project will be, accompanied by a clear vision and a strategy (eg, staging this event will allow us to pitch our acts to TV producers; creating this learning space will benefit the whole community).
Build a following
Of course, you wouldn’t simply add your project to a crowdfunding platform and wait for people to find it. In fact, Hen suggested that the most successful projects that she’d seen had brought large audiences, memberships, social networks, friends, family and followers with them. The benefits of being part of larger community of peers and supporters and of building a following of friends and potential investors prior to launching a crowdfunding campaign meant much less work for those seeking investment when it came to publicising it.
Social media, social sharing and subscription services are fundamentally important to the success of crowdfunding and they’re open and accessible to all. A well managed mailing list, a good Facebook fanbase, an active and engaging Twitter account and a steadily increasing amount of appreciations via your Vimeo or YouTube channel are signifiers that you could have a very good chance of building a successful crowdfunding campaign.
An excellent tip that Hen shared with us was to use video. In particular, video with people in it. In her experience, Hen suggested that potential backers were less inclined to read and absorb a large amount of text about a project, and more inclined to watch a short (2-3 minute) embedded video. Having members of the team or potential beneficiaries of the project speak directly to camera, she added, was particularly compelling.
For some, perhaps, having the confidence to commit yourself to film may be the hardest part to overcome—a good project management team should have someone with the confidence and ability to ‘pitch’ the project—the technical expertise or equipment to make it happen, however, shouldn’t be a barrier. Hen advised that your video needn’t be too high spec, as potential investors may question why you need the cash. Instead, a home-made feel, achieved by using a smartphone with a simple video function is affordable, achievable and accessible to a wide audience.
Offer genuine and meaningful incentives to investors
One of the founding principles of crowdfunding is that those seeking investment offer their investors something in return for their support. Hen explained that, while some people simply want to support what they consider to be worthwhile causes, many potential backers would like to feel a little more involved and engaged in the work that they’re supporting. This is the area where crowdfunded project managers need to be their most creative.
Many projects use crowdfunding to make a product or hold an event, turning on its head the traditional business model of first manufacturing the products or organising the event and then selling enough units or tickets to make back the investment, plus a profit. Therefore, if by sponsoring you, your backer receives a copy of your book or tickets to your show, they’re effectively placing advance orders. The next step should be to enhance that offer by featuring sponsors in the pages of your book or offering backstage passes, but consider carefully what it is that you friends, fans, followers and potential backers really want.
Could you offer a theatre or film fanatic a role as an extra or a walk-on part? Could a comic collector be convinced to invest more money if they were—literally—drawn into a frame of the action? It’s also important to remember that many of your backers won’t be artists, inventors, creators, producers, technologists or makers, but either keen consumers or those with a fascination in the creative process. Simply offering them a look inside or behind the scenes can be huge incentive to invest.
“I just wanted to say what a great event Cracking the Safe was last night, it was a real eye opener for me, especially the crowdfunding” - Chantelle Cheshire, Cracking the Safe delegate
Maxine Horn, CEO, Creative Barcode
The barcode was developed to allow artists and designers to authenticate business proposals and concepts; to protect, track and value them through to commercialisation; and to grant permission-based usage for creative works.
Creative Barcode members are part of a community of creative businesses, innovators, universities and brand owners who all value original work and agree to the principles of the Creative Barcode Trust Charter. Members receive access to a barcode generator and pay £30 ($47) per 5 barcodes.
The system has been designed to be cost effective and quick and easy to use. Each barcode you create contains the specific details of the project that it relates to, your ownership details and a unique ID number. The barcode can be applied to all files associated with a design, invention or concept to enable its development to be tracked and valued from concept to completion.
When used to protect ‘pre-commercialised concepts’, a potential client or investor, for example, is required to use a secure file transfer system to enable files to be downloaded, in the process, agreeing to Creative Barcode terms and creating a virtual ‘receipt’. The immediate benefits of which, Maxine suggested, are faster, easier, more visible and more robust than a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
For use on completed works displayed in the public domain or for marketing purposes online, on exhibition and in marketing materials, a barcode can be used to hold information about the creator(s) and their contact details.
Digital barcodes can be used to protect and track new business pitches, proposals and tenders; concept generation and its protection during (pre-patent) development; concepts entered into open competitions; pre-contract discussions with potential clients or partners; to disclose confidential information; to support IP management of open innovation; and to support permission-based digital rights management.
In essence, Maxine explained, Creative Barcode facilitates conversations and negotiations over creative works without complex legal paperwork and costs, while also tracking design and development iterations over time.
Creative Barcode users are supported by, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Centre.
“The diversity of speakers was fantastic, with a variety of options provided for creatives working in all areas. I was really inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of Hen’s speech, and I loved the down-to-earth no BS approach of Maxine who raised some really interesting issues that I had never really considered, particularly the ways in which Creatives, solitary practitioners, are frequently vulnerable to exploitation if they do not know or understand legal issues such as Intellectual Property Rights” - Sarah Cheverton, Cracking the Safe delegate
Did you attend the event? What did you think?
Have made successful funding applications to the Arts Council? Or are you thinking about applying?
Are you thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign?
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