Community funding

The power of the crowd is a major trend that has emerged thanks to the rise of internet-based online fund-sourcing combined with offline community building. A community funding model is supported by a stakeholder engagement strategy to enhance the cultivation of long-term philanthropic relationships between your Empty Space project and the communities in which you operate. 

Empty Space projects could tap into the crowd funding trend developing in creative communities; obtaining small sums in support from large numbers of individuals. For one-off supporter payments you may seek to utilise one of the many online crowd funding platforms such as PozibleStart Some GoodIndigogoKickstarter or Spacehive.

Additional administration will be required for on-going subscription-style support and you will need to be very clear on what the money will be used for, then follow through and be transparent on showing how it is used. In fact, communicating and showing how their money was used is a great way to deepen relationships with your supporters.

Heartfelt Connector model

One community funding model is the Heartfelt Connector, a framework adapted from “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models” by Foster, Kim & Christiansen. This program seeks to engage with individual donors by reaching out to local resident groups relevant to your project and seeking connection on personal and emotional levels by sending key messages on the social outcomes your project aims to achieve. Key messages might include:

  • Rejuvenation of listless precincts with new activity and vibrancy
  • Incubation of a local creative sector and creative community activity
  • Benefits of increased employment opportunities, skill development and recreation for locals
  • Advancing cultural, social and economic outcomes
  • Changing negative perceptions of an urban precinct

The levels of funding proposed and associated supporter benefits may include:

  • Empty Spaces Army $25 contribution – Supporters will receive one invitation to an exclusive pre-opening;
  • Empty Spaces Innovators $100 contribution – Innovators will receive one invitation to an exclusive pre-opening and name listed on a supporters website page;
  • Empty Spaces Action Heroes $250 contribution – Action Heroes will receive exposure on-site at your Empty Space project, two invitations to exclusive pre-openings showing and special mention on a supporters website page.

The sums and supporter benefits are indicative only, this framwork, of course, works works best when adapted for your specific project. Some of any initial funds raised should be invested in developing a series of networking events to showcase the local initiatives to penetrate further into your local community.

Beneficiary Builder 

This dimension focuses on developing your long-term relationships with the Empty Space Users. The relationship established between an Empty Space project and the artist/community users will assist in leveraging funding. In the long-term, the local creative enterprises, once established, may seek to return the support that was provided for them during start-up.

Your messages to artists should emphasise loyalty and benefits - career and brand development the project has provided. While this group is only ever likely to contribute small monetary donations, their contributions of time, expertise and personal networks will be essential for sustaining your project.

Empty Space Angels

Most Empty Space projects seek to address various social and community needs which adversely affect local residents and often drive negative perceptions of their precinct, suburb or city. With these strong community-building ambitions, it is important to enlist the support of local identities such as celebrities, business people and high net worth individuals. These people are potential 'Angel Investors'. Empty Space initiatives can engage Angels with the concept of creative activities as an innovative approach for addressing social and community needs facing their locality.

Such a strategy starts with using existing networks to facilitate connections to potential Angles. Suggested initial points of contact may include Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce and Business award recipients. In addition, relationships should be sought with Artsupport Australia, Australian Business Arts Foundation and Philanthropy Australia.

A word of caution, potential Angels are unlikely to be won over easily. As with the creation of any long-term relationship it is important to share values -  does your project align with an Angel’s values and emotional connection to social issues? Some social and community issues Empty Space projects aim to address include:

  • Tackling the high unemployment by creating job opportunities
  • Building community capacity for the arts to be a part of young or disadvantaged people’s way of life
  • Playing a role in lowering crime, suicide and drug use
  • Improving the quality of life in the community
  • Fostering a dynamic local creative industry
  • Instilling local pride
  • Enhancing connection to the arts
  • Facilitating creative exchange
  • Engaging professional artists to collaborate with the local community in creating art
  • Producing excellent art and long term community development outcomes: cultural, social and economic
  • Building community capacity to express and celebrate cultural identity
  • Rebranding and regenerating precincts as a vibrant, artistic, creative hubs

More information:

The Wisdom of Crowds feature by Storm Cunningham in NewStart Magazine looks at the success of the crowdfunding model on local renewal projects in the US and UK.

How to Crowd Fund Community Projects by Chris Gourlay, CEO of spacehive.com, in The Guardian, 7 March 2012.

9 crowdfunding sites to help you change the world by Paul Anthony

Spanner Films' How to Crowd Fund Your Film is their guide to getting investor funding for a one-off project based on their actual experience producing the 'The Age of Stupid' film in the UK.