For young visionaries — musical and otherwise — the steep cost of higher education and living expenses leaves little money to take their ideas from inspiration to reality.
But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dreams.
The days of hosting bake sales and car washes behind the student union are long gone. The age of Fundraising 2.0 has arrived.
Thanks to the Internet, undergrads looking to record an album, direct a film or start a business can draw on one of the many new resources created to encourage innovation at all ages.
“There’s this huge demand of people who have these projects hiding in the basement, hiding in their brain waiting to get out,” according to Tim Hwang, one of the founders of The Awesome Foundation, a network of chapters that gives monthly grants to ideas deemed ‘awesome.’
Daphne Carr, series editor of Best Music Writing, an anthology of selected music writing, highlights the need for resources to help fund innovation.
“There is a major problem in the way arts funding and start up economics are structured in this country. In almost every other industrialized country, there is a Ministry of Culture and regional and local services that provide micro-grants, support and infrastructure for artists and creators,” Carr said.
Some of these new online tools rely on crowdsourcing, using the monetary or informational resources of a public to reach a goal, while others require only that the idea or project forward the interest of ‘awesome.’
Creative comrades, read on:
Picture a bulletin board with descriptions of projects that range from creating a new iPhone app to printing a compilation book of children’s drawings. An envelope is stapled under each description and passersby can donate to the ideas that seem most inspiring.
Kickerstarter functions as the online equivalent to that bulletin board — relying on crowdsourcing to fund projects.
It is the “world’s largest funding platform for creative projects,” according to the company’s website. Kickstarter campaigns have a 44 percent success rate, and the platform has raised approximately $60 million for creators.
Projects posted in the music and film/video categories are most successful, and projects that ask for less than $5,000 are most common, according to the company’s analytics.
Unlike other online funding projects, the campaign goal must be reached, or no funds change hands.
According to Carr, Best Music Writing raised $17,000 in six weeks through Kickstarter, the funds going toward publishing expenses and promotion for Feedback Press, a new independent press.
“We had a strong following and a lot of respect for our books, so people were in support of our project to go indie,” Carr said.
Indiegogo is similar to Kickstarter, but where the latter only accepts project postings from innovators in the United States, Indiegogo utilizes international crowdsourcing.
The site encourages creative, nonprofit and for-profit ideas. The most active campaigns are featured on the homepage. Indiegogo is integrated with social resources allowing users to tweet about or encourage their friends to ‘like’ their campaign.
The Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences
The Awesome Foundation offers “a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance,” according to the organization’s website.
Every month, each chapter of ten trustees chooses from a common pool of applicants and awards $1,000 to the project proposal it considers most ‘awesome.’
The chapters can choose winners based on geographic proximity, subject area or sheer whimsy.
The Awesome Foundation began doling out grants in 2009 after founder Tim Hwang noticed a peculiar trend plaguing his friends.
“I kept running into these people, they’d be really excited one month, and a few weeks later they’d be incredibly depressed. The reason they were depressed was they had these really exciting ideas of things they wanted to do. They were applying, getting into the grant process and realizing it was an enormous bureaucracy,” Hwang said.
The foundation that began as a joke, according to Hwang, has spawned chapters all over the world including cities as far-reaching as Melbourne and Berlin.
“It’s all very organic growth. One of the things that we’ve found is if we fund really cool projects a lot of people hear about The Awesome Foundation, and they submit an application as well. We call it the constructive cycle of awesomeness,” Hwang said.
The project sits at the crossroads of art and technology.
For National Poetry Month, Jung wanted to print QR codes – those black and white pixelated boxes – on stickers. When scanned with a smartphone, the QR codes would link to videos of people reading their favorite poems.
“I’ve had a lot of personal projects before, and have always gotten some degree of interest in them after they’ve been completed. But this is the first time a group of people [has] expressed interest in a concept, and gone so far as to give me money to realize it,” Jung wrote on his blog.
While college students have already received grants from The Awesome Foundation, others have begun to express interest in starting their own chapters, Hwang said, something he hopes will happen more and more.
“A lot of the trustees that I’ve talked too around the world say it’s not a whole lot of money, but they really get a lot out of it,” Hwang said.
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