Arts organizations try online crowdsourcing for fundraising

By Aly Martinez

BUTLER UNIVERSITY

 

Low funding for the arts and changes in donor trends have art organizations in Indianapolis searching for other means of increasing donations.

David Lawrence, President and CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, said the council has been working closely with Mayor Ballard and the City County Council on maintaining and hopefully growing public support for the arts.

Lawrence said, “The economy is improving which is certainly helping the arts organizations get on solid footing once again, but it is still a challenging fundraising environment.”

The Arts Council of Indianapolis recognizes the need for support in fundraising efforts and that is why it is in its fourth month of experimenting with the online fundraising platform called power2give.

Bryce Bennett, chairman of the board of the Arts Council of Indianapolis Inc., described the program as a web based, crowdsourcing and funding tool.

Bennett said it allows businesses to put their needs in a video and post them on a website.  Donors can then make donations in small increments to fund certain projects based off what they see.

The Arts & Science Council in Charlotte, North Carolina first developed the program in 2011.  The Arts Council of Indianapolis then adopted the fundraising platform to continue their mission of building “financial support and widespread appreciation for meaningful engagement in the arts.”

The council in Charlotte overlooks all operation of the program.  It runs the website and helps the organizations with marketing by providing necessary resources.

Laura Belcher, national director of power2give, said the platform began as a small project, and then as it expanded, it was clear there was a need for specifically dedicated resources and staff.

“It’s a collective process,” Belcher explained.  “It’s an opportunity to diversify fundraising.”

She said the idea stemmed from the council observing donor trends.  There was an increase in online giving.

“The donors wanted to understand how their funds would be used, and power2give allows them to get a description of each project online,” Belcher said.  “It gives them an intimate look at how their money is put to work.”

Amber Sexton, director of data integrity and eCommerce for Fund for the Arts in Louisville, said it is as an innovative platform because, “It addresses changing donor trends such as the desire for more transparency and the ability to give an increased number of gifts with smaller average gift sizes.”

In other words, the gifts are smaller but more organizations receive donations.

“power2give leverages the wealth of social media outlets available today create a closer relationship between the donor and the organization,” Sexton said,  “which then encourages consistent, longtime support of organizations that are vital to maintaining the vibrancy of any community.”

“It [fundraising] was not so much a problem as an opportunity to connect with a new generation of donors in a different, fun and rewarding way,” Bennett said.

He said the council was looking for to create opportunities to help local arts organizations connect with new donors to finance specific project needs, while at the same time allowing those donors the satisfaction of making a real difference in making projects they believe in become a reality.

Any organization within the seven counties of Marion, Boone, Hamilton, Hendricks, Hancock, Johnson, or Shelby that have a venture concerning the arts, humanities or culture are able to use the power2give in Indianapolis.

Sexton said an organization does not have to be an arts organization to post, it only has to be regulated 501(c)3—nonprofit—to submit an arts or cultural project.  She said 92 nonprofits have submitted projects so far.

power2give began in Charlotte, N.C. and launched in August of 2011.  Since then, 14 other cities have adopted the program.  Some cities include Atlanta, Ga., Miami, Fla. and Houston, Texas.

The national website records the total donations since its commencement at over 1.9million dollars in support with over 1,000 projects posted and more than 8,900 donations.

Belcher said a goal for the platform is to bring new donors in and so far 46 percent of donors have never supported the organizations.  The council can see a significant increase in contributors.

Four cities—Orlando, Cincinnati, Detroit and Montgomery County are currently in the process of launching their own power2give.

VSA Indiana, Indiana’s state organization for the arts and disability has used power2give on several occasions.

Amy Bear, vice president of development for VSA Indiana, said the program has proven to be a very effective way of fundraising.

Bear said the organization began using the platform this past fall during its launch.  For their latest project, VSA, was able to raise $2,250 in less than 60 days.

Thanks to the successful fundraising, the organization will have the necessary resources to create a community arts class for youth only.  Twenty teenagers will have the opportunity to take an eight-week course at VSA that is taught by professional artists.

Other organizations in Indianapolis include well-known ones such as the Phoenix Theatre and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.  There is also Urban Arts of Indianapolis and Spotlight Players.

Roderic Trabue, executive director of Urban Arts of Indianapolis, Inc., said the organization wanted to find another way to raise some much needed funds and power2give seemed to have worked for others.

Trabue said Urban Arts is attempting to create a six weeks summer arts camp for children between the ages of seven through 13, and another camp for high school students between 10 and 15 years old.  The high school art students would be able to earn a wage of $300.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc., a community engagement organization, has roughly 43 days left on their post to raise $3,185 to complete its project Devington Community Hub and Bus Shelter.

Jenny Skehan, business director at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., said fundraising is always a challenge and the organization thought power2give could help.

Skehan said, “It is a very unique fundraising technique that seems suitable for certain types of projects and we thought our bus shelter project was a good fit.”

Fundraising has always been, and will most likely continue to be the biggest headaches for art groups, but organizations from all over the state have the opportunity to share their ventures and receive attention, no matter how small or how large with the power2give program.

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