About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Broken Abacus

Broken Abacus, founded by Chris Colston and Lucy Collett, is a sales and marketing platform for creatives that aims to put Cornish artists in the spotlight, in order to promote and sell their work to a global audience. Their rationale is that while Cornwall has a burgeoning artistic and creative scene, individual creatives are held back by their inability to reach a wider audience online - something they aim to change through the platform.

Together they raised £6,145 from 49 supporters, within that sum leveraging match funding of £1,500 from Arts Council England. The campaign was rapid - taking just 29 days to finish in early 2017. We spoke to Lucy and Chris to find out more about their experience.

Why did you decide to try crowdfunding?

We’re a start-up, so of course we were keen to raise money. But, in fact, a big part of the crowdfunding decision was about getting our brand and business out there for people to see. The crowdfunding campaign actually acted as a launching platform for our business. It was a great opportunity for people to see what we were doing and show their support.

What does the Art Council England’s £1,500 match grant mean for your project?

The match from the Arts Council England was invaluable for us, and we’re really proud. The contribution was huge because it pushed us over the finish line to reach our fundraising target. But their recognition of our project is also a great advantage. It’s personally satisfying but also gives us great credibility as a young business. They’re an internationally recognised organisation supporting our work in Cornwall - that’s really great.

How will you be using the money you’ve crowdfunded?

The money that we’ve raised through our crowdfunding campaign is fundamental to progressing our business. We want to help artists enhance their digital fingerprint, so some of the money is being used to develop our new website which will be launched soon. We also have various marketing needs, and we’re thinking about the possibility of getting into office space too.

What would be your top tips for others considering crowdfunding for an arts project?

In order to meet with deadlines, we had to put our campaign together very quickly. Our advice would be to make sure you are properly prepared. You need a good story to tell, a video and a well-presented campaign page - all of these things take time.

Secondly, don’t expect the crowd to just come to you through the platform. You will need to kickstart support within your own network of supporters, it doesn’t just happen. It’s important to try and build your own crowd, ideally before your campaign has even started.

Thirdly, if you’re running an arts campaign, definitely offer rewards. Ensure that your supporters feel like they are getting something in exchange for their support. Rewards can be really diverse. Ours included sets of postcards, hand-made porcelain dishes, a day in a pottery studio, or sponsorship for businesses on our site!

This blog is posted as part of a series in which we catch up with a number of the projects which were successfully matchfunded through our pilot programme. Read them all


Toby Baker

Toby Baker

Toby Baker

Mission Manager, A Fairer Start

Toby worked with local governments to develop and pilot improvements to services that support young children and families.

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