Launch a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

by guest blogger James Thatcher

Ready to crowdfund? You can do this.


Artist James Thatcher presenting

Artist James Thatcher presenting


Artist James Thatcher ran his first crowdfunding campaign, which was quite successful. It was also more emotional, difficult and surprising than he imagined. James shares his experience, and offers tips and encouragement for running a campaign that works.

You’ll find plenty of coaching on the websites as you create a proposal, but I want to share some observations after finishing my first successful crowdfunding campaign.

It takes a lot of work, much of it writing. It takes perseverance, and absolute confidence. It takes love, nurturing and patience too. It is very emotional. Lulls are common during these fundraisers and can be challenging.

Before even looking at a website, contact your biggest, most faithful supporters. Don’t even mention your plans or your project, but establish contact for the sake of the relationship. The dictum “People don’t support art, people support people,” is true.

Consider what type of funding website will work best for you—are they strictly for arts projects or a general crowdfunding site? What is their success rate? Look at several proposals, the applications and make notes. Begin to talk about it with your peers. Ease into this because it will suddenly happen and you want to have folks ready to support you.


Heron Mural

James Thatcher proposed a mural in Salisbury, Maryland to cover this existing one.


Write and re-write.

Read your proposal out loud in order to check the wording. This is very important–if it doesn’t flow off your tongue, change it. Beware of awkward phrasing and overusing big words. You need to communicate clearly and concisely. People relate to your project through your words.

After some revision and with no warning, I received website approval and my fundraiser was “going live”. SURPRISE! I went right to Facebook and announced that my mural was accepted on this great website for fundraising! Mistake… take your first week to get your heavy hitters lined up and on board.

Talk to your lead donors personally, over coffee or on the phone; tell them about your idea and be direct about needing their contribution. Contact the sponsor website for some advice before having these lead donor conversations.

I got a couple dozen “Likes” for that original Facebook post but no one contributed. Ouch… nonetheless, your communication is planting the seed for each person’s help. Notice the positive spin there?


Mural Facebook Appeal

A Facebook ad with the proposed mural shown and and appeal for donations moved James towards his goal.


Keep it positive.

To break week-long lulls, I had to do mass emails and send personal messages to every friend on social media. People give based on their emotions—some at the joy of learning about your new venture; others only during the urgent pleas of the final few days. Send donors thank you messages quickly after receiving their gift. This lets people know that they are an important part of your campaign.

Short weekly emails to your entire address book stimulate people to become a part of your work and engage their interest. Don’t be afraid to be direct. Finish with, “Can you help me with a donation of $25-$50?  Please donate today.” Always include the link to your project page after your direct appeal.

Remember that getting no response is not rejection; keep updating, give your midpoint report, tell special stories, and always thank those who have already given to your project.

The home stretch.

Most crowdfunding websites use an “all or nothing” funding model—you will not receive any of the monies contributed unless you reach 100% of your target. This urgency is the final message and motivator for your campaign.

Typically, the final week is when your network will come together for your cause. Let people know that you are closing in on your fundraising goal and deadline. “We are all in this together, these are the last days, and it won’t be possible without all of your contributions!”

I was able to reach my minimum funding level of $5,800 in 6 weeks, through 68 donations. Contributions ranged from $10 to $1,000; and I needed each one. I didn’t get a single donation from my lead donors.

A couple of the $10 gifts were precious—I knew their situation and they truly gave the most. When $1,000 came in unexpectedly, I cried; but my “Priceless” moment was when I realized that what I had thought was possible had been changed.

This is a roller coaster ride—expand your network, gird up your loins and believe.

You can do this.


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  1. We helped Memphis artist Rebecca Phillips run a successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter. It was for a much lower amount than your project but still came with all the stress and hopefulness you experienced! We also put together some tips on running a Kickstarter campaign for artists you might find helpful for your next project!

    • Thanks for your response, Caitlin. That “all-or-nothing” funding model really helps. The urgency is a great motivator both for artist and contributors–one donation came in at 11:00 pm on the last night of the campaign!

      Interestingly, there was an account set up through the local Chamber of Commerce for people who were uncomfortable with donating online. This has over 20% of the target amount in it and is yet to be added to campaign figures. Successful funders on USA Projects (the art specific crowd funding website I used) get an additional 30 days to raise money. This Chamber account will be added at the end of the 30 day extension.

      • I totally agree about the all or nothing model helping out. It also helps give the project creator a sense of urgency to put time into supporting their campaign while giving backers a reason to DONATE NOW, (ha!). The Chamber of Commerce support is really interesting.. that’s something I hadn’t heard of before! We found that most of all our backers either heard about it from a friend or supporter of the artist or the Kickstarter website. Go figure!

        • It isn’t that the Chamber supported the project, but the account was set up by the person heading up local fundraising with the Chamber of Commerce Foundation. It required board approval and was a bit of a special circumstance, but provided people who were uncomfortable with donating online a way to contribute.

  2. Please feel free to ask any questions folks–Carolyn mentioned that she has received many inquiries about the subject and it’s hard to hit all of the bases with the blog format. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Carolyn!

    • How awesome to have you here to answer questions, James. I hope everyone reading this will ask away – there are no dumb questions when it comes to this kind of campaign! It’s great to learn from things others figured out the hard way.

  3. Best wishes guys. Remember, some people can give, some can’t; of those who can give, some do and some don’t. Some who do give will give a lot, others not so much. It’s easy to take it personally and endanger relationships based on how people respond to your pleas–don’t let it happen and keep it positive!

  4. Thank you so much for your posting the crowdfunding and my own featured artist article from “ArtsyShark”. I hope your readers will seriously consider using USA Projects for funding their own art projects–more is possible than you may think!


  1. […] I was sent two articles from Artsy Shark. One is titled Tips for Launching A Successful Crowdfunding Campaign by artist James Thatcher. He shares not only the experience, but gives helpful tips about running a […]

  2. […] James Thatcher Arts presents    Tips for Launching a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign at Artsy Shark; Crowd Funding will work for you! […]

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