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Kickstarting arts community needs

Fundraising for art projects is one of the toughest things to attempt in a recession. Traditional funding sources like foundations and grant makers generally have less to give and more and more applications to consider. New models for fundraising such as the online Kickstarter offer a unique way for people to pitch their projects directly to the public to enable micro-donation, and just like a long-tail model predicts, those micro-donations can add up to significant amounts.

Several local projects have seen the value in this new method of fiscal tree-shaking. Just recently, the non-profit WNY Book Arts Center (WNYBAC) in downtown Buffalo has taken their most urgent need to the Kickstarter model: people can give as little as $10 and get rewards and help make the WNYBAC printshop a healthier environment for workers, patrons, and visitors.

Kickstarter works on the premise that a good idea will get funded based its own merits;  the site itself reinforces the notions of meritocracy and a drift-net approach to fundraising:

“Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. We believe that… A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide… A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement. Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands.”

Kickstarter balances a fine line between corporate opportunism (it does take a small percentage of all donations as does its online partner Amazon payments) and grass roots direct support by individuals. By using a well known partner such as Amazon, it allows for a much greater number of individuals to donate.

The relatively young arts organization: WNYBAC has managed to gain some momentum since first moving into their downtown location at Washington & Mohawks Streets. One of the keys in the Kickstarter model of funding is the enticement of rewards to encourage donors. WNYBAC is using its prolific output of posters and printed materials to give to donors who wish to receive them. This type of funding for worthy projects can have a ripple effect for other creative projects looking for that elusive funding. The local community can support local projects but so can anyone with an internet connection, this lets the world in on the great projects launched regionally.

Other recent successful local projects funded via Kickstarter include a film about American Urbanism, the band Nocturnal Me’s tour van project, the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, and local band Failure’s Union vinyl album.

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