Finding the right crowdfunding project

Two campaigns run by the Bowes Museum
Alison Nicholson
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In 2014, the Bowes Museum in County Durham ran two crowdfunding campaigns. Both were successful, but were run on distinct platforms and for very different projects.

We chose Kickstarter to fund our first campaign, a Gavin Turk contemporary art installation on the museum’s 19th-century French facade. We needed to raise £6,000 but managed to raise £8,681 in 40 days.

Later in the year we were invited to take part in the first round of museums and galleries crowdfunding on the Art Fund’s platform, Art Happens. We successfully reached our target of £21,000 in 60 days to conserve and redisplay a 15th-century Flemish altarpiece.

There were several similarities between the two campaigns. For both, we saw momentum build towards the end, with much of the total raised in the final week. Promotion was intense, time-consuming and museum-wide – all staff, trustees, Friends and existing supporters were encouraged to share the campaigns with their networks, and we used online and offline communications to reach new audiences.

We found many distinctions between the two platforms. Kickstarter is a well-established platform with a global reach, and the product-based rewards proved popular, especially with donors from overseas. While it has a large community of backers, the site’s fees and commission can be as high as 10% of your end target.

Art Happens is a curated crowdfunding platform, housed on the Art Fund’s website. The donors we reached were mainly UK based and there was a more equal mix of those selecting experience or product rewards.

Art Happens doesn’t charge any fees or take commission, and donations are eligible for Gift Aid. You also have access to the Art Fund’s promotional channels, membership and supportive fundraising and marketing team throughout the campaign.

Both crowdfunding experiences were incredibly nerve-racking but exhilarating when we succeeded, and we engaged new audiences that more traditional fundraising activity may not have reached.

We’ll certainly consider crowdfunding in the future if the right project emerges.

Alison Nicholson is the digital communications and fundraising officer at the Bowes Museum  



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