Crowdfunding with a traditional audience

Crowdfunding the new Spitfire Gallery at Birmingham’s Thinktank
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Rebecca Atkinson
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Many crowdfunding projects take an “all or nothing” approach and focus solely on money raised through a specific platform.

But crowdfunding doesn’t have to be a rapid departure from more traditional individual fundraising.

Birmingham Museums Trust £215,000 Spitfire Gallery at Thinktank, which opened on 28 March, was funded through a traditional mix of public funds, trusts and sponsorship. The trust also wanted to do some individual fundraising, and decided to use crowdfunding to raise £5,000.

“About 50% of spitfires were manufactured in Birmingham, so we knew there would be public interest in the project,” says Rachel Cockett, the director of development at Birmingham Museums Trust. 

Cockett decided to use JustGiving, which the trust had previously used for fundraising campaigns, rather than an untested crowdfunding platform. The site allows off-line donations, which meant that the campaign was open to people who don’t use the internet or aren’t comfortable giving online.

Anyone who gave £75 or more was rewarded with membership of the Spitfire club – they received a thank you letter from Birmingham Museums Trust’s director, updates of the project, an invite to pre-opening view of the gallery, a certificate and acknowledgement online.

“We originally thought about making the amount £100 but we thought it might be a bit daunting,” says Cockett. “However, quite a few people rounded their donation up to £100, so perhaps we could have set a higher level.”

Some people also donated less, demonstrating that £75 benchmark didn't exclude lower levels of giving.

The campaign was promoted on- and offline, with promotion in the local press and the Friends’ newsletter as well on social media channels. But Cockett says the majority of money raised was sent by cheque.

“Even though people are increasingly online, that doesn’t mean they want to give online,” she says. “And people might use social media, but there is a big difference between following someone and being actively engaged with their communications.”

The campaign met its target, with the Spitfire Club raising £725 in online donations of £75 or more, and £3,455 in offline donations of £75 and more. The largest individual donation was £1,000.

“What really struck me was how passionate donors were about spitfires,” says Cockett. “This told me that there is an audience for raising money in this way, especially as they weren’t the audience we normally get at Thinktank.”

Now that the museum has gained a new audience, the challenge is to keep them engaged. “Will they give again or was it a one-off? How can we see what else they are interested in? We need to keep this community engaged and informed,” says Cockett. 



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