You would be forgiven if you thought that matched crowdfunding, where institutional funding is matched with crowdfunded projects, was all about tapping into people’s wallets and finding ways to stretch often finite sums of money.
Indeed, our pilot looking at matched crowdfunding for arts and heritage projects, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund, found that there is a significant financial benefit to working with the crowd on funding projects. The £251,500 provided in match funding helped leverage an additional £405,941, this mostly from new supporters bringing new money to the sector - 86 per cent had never backed the project financially before and 78 per cent said the money they gave was in addition to what they would normally give to good causes.
However looking beyond the money raised, our research uncovered the impact of matched crowdfunding on the non-financial benefits it brings to projects. This is an area where there have been many stories from individual projects that have crowdfunded, but one where there has been little quantified evidence.
Through the pilot, we found that matched crowdfunding is a way to mobilise more than the funds to get projects off the ground. 85 per cent of projects funded reported that they received some form of non-financial contribution from their donors, ranging from online support to tangible help. 72 per cent had received help with promoting the campaign from their backers, 45 per cent had received introductions to potential collaborators and 42 per cent had received offers of help and volunteering.
We also found some evidence that the crowd helps to make projects stronger while they are fundraising. 38 per cent of projects reported that their backers provided feedback and advice on their campaign while it was running. This support and engagement in the project, or crowd buy-in, is a promising sign of a project's overall ability to meet its objectives.
Our pilot found that not only were projects pulling in expertise, voluntary work and online support, they were also able to enhance their own skill levels in a variety of areas. This is particularly notable as the recent Digital Culture study by Arts Council England and Nesta found that a majority of arts and cultural organisations feel they are average or below average in both digital marketing skills and digital business model skills in comparison to their peers.
Through their matched crowdfunding campaigns, more than two in three projects reported that running the crowdfunding campaign significantly improved their pitching and fundraising skills. Meanwhile, there were also significant improvements in campaigning skills such as film creation (34 per cent), image creation (30 per cent) and media skills (25 per cent).
Although many of the projects have only recently completed their fundraising campaigns, we are still able to track some of the post-campaign impacts they have experienced.
64 per cent reported gaining more supporters for their project, while 62 per cent felt a more general sense of confidence and empowerment in their organisations or themselves.
“We have had an incredibly successful campaign, achieving our target was fantastic but that was just one part of the benefits of the campaign. The Crowdfunder (sic) helped us raise our charity’s profile, gained us new contacts and opened conversations about future funding and collaborations. It has been great raising money at the same time as promoting our theatre tour and charity.” Arts Project Owner
Matched crowdfunding also appears to provide a new channel for projects to connect with their local community and build new audiences. 41 per cent of project supporters live within 10 miles of where the project they supported is based and 64 per cent of backers expect to visit/experience the project they supported in person. Only nine per cent of those who backed a project said they expect not to engage with or use it.
While it will be tempting for funders considering matched crowdfunding to focus on measuring the success of funds on the ability to leverage money, they would do well to see matched crowdfunding as an investment in non-financial benefits. For many organisations, both within and outside the arts and heritage sector, the offer of a potential match could provide enough of a incentive for them to have a go at crowdfunding, which in turn could expose them to its many benefits.
Photo: courtesy of Jonathan Noades