By Dan Click of Grayson Gallery and Art Center
Earlier this year, Grayson Gallery & Art Center and the Mountain Association partnered to pilot a crowdfunding program to discover if it would be a feasible way for businesses in Eastern Kentucky to raise funds. Our organizations partnered with The Local Crowd (TLC), who provides training and support for crowdfunding. With the help of TLC’s hosting platform, we exceeded our goal of $6,000!
We began in late 2020 during COVID-19 shutdowns by bringing together our group to study TLC training modules, write our story, decide our needs, and set a fundraising goal. We met weekly, inviting other organizations to join us in working through the modules, so they could decide if they also wanted to try a crowdfunding campaign.
We selected four improvement categories:
- Expanding art classes and arts education
- Improvements in Artist Market displays to increase sales
- Better stage lighting and sound for a more professional experience,
- A website that could manage a membership database and help with inventory and marketing.
After deciding our categories, members of our crowdfunding team reached out to potential supporters with an emphasis on what they were most passionate about. We definitely saw contributors react to that, and, in the future, we know whom to contact for support in the areas in which they’re most interested.
We had been talking about formalizing our “story” here at the GGAC for some time and having this completed was a mini-win before even a penny was raised. Through developing our crowdfunding campaign, we felt more confident because we had a structured and professional “ask”. We used it to reach out to corporate donors – a group from which we usually had not sought donations – and were quite successful.
There are a few things we learned as part of the process. We should have spent more time emphasizing the importance of each member of our team. They needed to be more committed to reaching out to their network and each member should have had specific fundraising goals of their own. Simply sharing information via emails or social media wasn’t quite enough.
Now that our campaign is complete, the fun begins as we follow up with donors by sending thank you notes, rewards, and tax letters as needed. Some lighting for the studio/class area has been purchased and signage is on order for a major donor to have a workspace named after their family’s patriarch. We are anticipating an increase in art sales, thanks to additional funds for marketing, and the Artist Market space is being re-set. Stage lighting is on order to give our live music and other performances a more professional look. We’re looking for a website platform to manage membership and keep track of sales and inventory.
There are others in the community who are interested in crowdfunding on TLC platform with the support from Mountain Association. Our sincere thanks to The Local Crowd and the Mountain Association for considering us for the program and being with us every step of the way. Crowdfunding was a rewarding experience both financially and for our board, as we learned to grow as a team throughout the entire project. Success feels SO sweet and working together is icing on the cake!