Such a scary word, but never fear, gentle writer, for this is the fun part!
In the non-profit world, I have experience with two kinds of fundraising: the Annual Fund and the Campaign.
These two types are the bread and butter of fundraising for annual operations and specific projects, be that capital (ie buildings) or productions (music festivals, scholarships, etc). Similar techniques can be used for your writing projects depending on your goals. Let’s take a look at how a non-profit model can help you understand and build your campaign.
The Annual Fund
The Annual Fund is a catch-all bucket for general donations given at any time during an organization’s fiscal year. For our purposes, we will set our writing fiscal year to the calendar year, which is January through December.
Annual Fund gifts are primarily for administrative and operational costs and are typically ongoing in nature. If donors want to give but don’t necessarily want to support a specific project, then they will give to where the need is greatest. For our purpose, let’s say our operational costs will include a Scribophile annual fee, a Microsoft Office or Scrivner license fee, update costs for your computer, and an ergonomic vertical mouse. These costs can be ongoing and will always be in your budget. Use your recurring annual costs to determine your Annual Fund goal.
The monthly Patreon subscription is the closest equivalent to an Annual Fund for the Creator. Donors are charged monthly, and Creators may use the monthly gifts for costs associated with creating, such as an Adobe Creative Suite subscription, Wacom tablets, website fees, etc. However, many Creators will also use the monthly Patreon model in conjunction with a Campaign to fund specific projects.
Campaigns can be fickle things, but necessary for specific projects. In a campaign, a non-profit may choose from two models to cover current operationing costs (Annual Fund) in addition to a project like a building or production.
- The Campaign (ie Your Book) and the Annual Fund (your writing expenses) are Concurrent: this means your patrons donate with the expectation that their gift will cover everything and their gift counts for both. If they give once during the year they do not consider going above and beyond. The fundraising goals will be combined.
- The Campaign and the Annual Fund are not concurrent: campaign goals are separate from your annual goals. This means asking donors to not only fulfill their annual gift but to also give above and beyond for your upcoming projects.
Campaigns are not easy. In my experience, raising millions of dollars in 2-5 years can strain staff and exhaust your donor pool. During campaign time staff will plan events showcasing the good work they do, reach out to people, and invigorate their existing donors and solicit new ones. Campaigns should be spaced out to prevent donor fatigue.
An example of a writing campaign would be a Kickstarter project for your book. You have all of the details lined up–the book is written, the cover artist lined up, the copy-editor primed, and now need help underwriting the costs. Now you have to ask your current donors to give, plus your hairdresser and mother.
What Model is Best for You?
Fundraising isn’t great for introverts. Fundraising is exhausting, but if you plan to crowdfund your book it is a necessary evil.
I suggest the Per Project Patreon model for writers starting out because at the beginning of your writing career you may not have much content. It is harder to justify recurring gifts when there isn’t much content to binge. It will also put more pressure on you to keep creating content on a monthly basis. Maybe that’s the kick in the butt you need! Or, with a day job and family and friends, it may just cause you more stress.
Knowing how you write and your workflow will help you choose a fundraising model that fits for you. If you are a prolific writer who can spit out a short story every month then the Per Month model may be for you. If you are like me and take months between projects, then the Per Project model may work for you.
And, before I go, consider using a hybrid crowdfunding model to separate your annual operating costs as a writer and costs associated with a specific project (ie use Patreon for recurring and Kickstarter for a book launch).
Next up: You, Me, and Gift Management