William Zappa on developing philanthropic fundraising skills and broadening his support base
William Zappa is one of this year's 2018/19 MATCH Lab recipients and recently reached 109% of his fundraising target while on tour. Read about how was able to run such a successful fundraising campaign in just a few weeks.
What was your strategy going into your campaign?
I had self-funded the development of my project, The Iliad – Out Loud, up to the point of receiving an invitation to present it at the Sydney Festival. I accepted the invitation and commission, knowing I would have to raise funds to produce and present the work.
Whilst I knew I could raise some support from family and friends, I used this opportunity to develop my philanthropic fundraising skills and broaden my support base.
I used the Sydney Festival invitation to focus and ignite support for my campaign; a launch event to harness donations; the MATCH Lab funding to motivate donors; and the Australian Cultural Fund to build a community and record progress, and also to provide a portal for tax deductibility.
Why did you choose to use the ACF for your MATCH Lab campaign?
The ACF as a perfect partner and website to present my campaign. As an artist, I do not have a company to present my project.
The ACF fundraising site gave credibility to my project as a not-for-profit endeavour and provided the important tax deductibility that is normally only available to not-for-profit registered charities with deductible gift recipient status.
You raised 109% of your target. What are some of the things you did that lead to such a successful result?
My ACF fundraising site was launched at an event. The event was a catalyst for donations, and therefore I never considered the ACF site as a broad crowdfunding campaign.
I also worked hard to find individual donors to commit support before the event.
They were then invited as a way to thank them, and also harness their commitment and excitement to inspire other donors. I kept all of my donors personally updated and informed about the progress of The Iliad – Out Loud production, as well as the fundraising campaign.
So – in a way – I would say the AFC fundraising campaign gave a public face to targeted individual fundraising approaches.
I was fortunate to secure one large catalyst donation of $20K before the launch which triggered more large donations on the night.
Of the donations on the site, only two came from people who had found us by visiting the ACF site and browsing.
One thing I learnt was that you need to build networks to create introductions, and then there is no substitute for approaching people in person to tell your story.
Also, it is so important to open your campaign as an invitation to join a journey. Philanthropic donations enable your project but also build a passionate group to share your journey.
What was your marketing strategy — what worked and what didn’t?
My marketing strategy was developed to target large individual donations. I used research and introductions to find and secure donations and never relied on an open social platform. ‘Marketing’ was conducted in person with a portfolio presentation. Once I had a catalyst donor, I built a launch event to launch the fundraising campaign online.
However, I did use social media (Facebook, Instagram) and EDMS to promote the progress of the campaign.
The public profile of the campaign made my group of donors proud of their contribution. It was very important to produce a great story around my project with photography, design and filmed content.
How did you thank your donors and how will you continue to stay in touch with them?
My donors were thanked individually in writing and in person. They were sent updates of the project progress, and also reviews and photos after the Festival season. My producer hosted them throughout the Festival performances, including small receptions with the cast after the show. Some donors came to watch rehearsals.
I continue to stay in touch with them personally to give them updates of the progress of the Iliad – Out Loud post-festival.
Your launch for The Iliad kicked off at the beginning of your campaign. How did you leverage this to help with donations?
The campaign launch event worked to announce and celebrate our catalyst donor, launch the ACF site and present to a broader group of potential donors I did not know.
The leverage effect of the event was to land unknown donations, promises and networking support. The event’s single achievement was to create a sense of excitement and imminence.
What advice would you give to other independent artists who are keen to start their fundraising journey?
Be clear about your fundraising campaign goals and timeline.
The MATCH Lab workshop taught me that writing a plan helps you understand whether your goals are achievable and whether you have enough time to get there.
Also – even though crowdfunding has created a new platform for fundraising, sometimes setting high individual donation targets is more efficient.
Building the story of your project and talking to as many people as possible is the best place to start.
You are asking people to give donations, but what you give back is a shared experience.
They become an enabler and advocate for your project. Fundraising has many unexpected benefits – but the greatest one is sharing your passion for your project with enthusiastic supporters.