Commentary: Amanda Palmer and 'the art of asking' for money and other help

Maria Popova,, 3/4/13

"It would be a terrible calamity for the world if we eliminated the beggar," Henry Miller wrote, "The beggar is just as important in the scheme of things as the giver. If begging were ever eliminated God help us if there should no longer be a need to appeal to some other human being, to make him give of his riches." And yet, we live in a culture that perpetuates the false perception of a certain power dynamic between giver and receiver, and -- worse yet -- stigmatizes the very act of asking as undignified. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending some time with the wonderful Amanda Palmer who, besides being an extraordinarily talented musician, is also a fellow champion of open culture and believer in making good work freely available, trusting that those who find value in it will support it accordingly. Disillusioned with the questionable success standards of the music industry, she recently left her record label and set out to self-release her next album in what became the most heartily funded music project in the history of Kickstarter -- but not without some harsh criticism by those too attached to the crumbling comforts of the Olden Ways. In [her recent] TED talk [watch the video here], Amanda invites us to reclaim the art of asking from the insecure grip of shame and celebrate it instead as the sublime surge of mutuality that it is. I chatted with her about what seems to be the greatest challenge to this cultural shift toward destigmatizing asking.

MP: As someone who's been called an "internet pan-handler" for asking my community for support, I'm astounded by some people's cynicism in failing to see the dignified mutuality in these exchanges. What can we do to shift the culture around them from pan-handling to daisy-handing?

AP: Well...this is the problem with doing a 12-minute TED talk instead of writing a 220-page book. There's a lot of simplification involved. The concept is more or less that when you trust people to help you, they often do, and artists have done this from the dawn of time. I'm sure the early-days minstrels were epically talented couchsurfers. Maybe there were cave-surfers way back in the day, who knows....The idea is to let adults make their own rules, their own exchanges, their own decisions. We all value different things and experiences in different ways -- and we can get very creative about it, and about the ways we help each other.


Commentary: Some ideas to make it easier for artists to ask for funding

Stephanie Bleyer, Creative Capital blog, 2/27/13

Last December I shared my tips for finding foundations and philanthropists to support your socially-engaged art projects, and in November I shared tips for writing and submitting the proposal. Today's post will cover other ways to source funding for your project.

  • Individual Giving. I've yet to meet an artist who is comfortable asking for money. Here's an easy alternative: When you meet a potential donor, ask them to invite some friends over and host a gathering for you at their house or office. At the event, you do not have to ask their friends for money. Be prepared to stand up and present your project and, more importantly, the issue you hope to affect. This is called a "friendraiser." Collect cards and follow up with these new "friends" after the event is over.
  • Grantmaker Affinity Groups. The Council on Foundations has 38 affinity groups under its wings. As an artist, you have something that they want -- a way to bolster the work of their grantees and a way to make their retreats more interesting. Take advantage of this and don't underestimate your potential worth.
  • Corporate Sponsorship. I have found it's 10 times harder to get corporate funding than foundation support. If you think you're a home-run project for corporations, start your search with the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy's website. Some of the most innovative work being done now with social issue film and corporate sponsorship is by 1010. They've conceived of a lot of creative ways to engage corporations aside from asking for a donation. Check out this [NY Times story] about some of their activities. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, national sponsors are not giving their money to small independent artists.
  • Pitching Forums. [These] are well known in the film world. I've had moderate success gaining anything fruitful from them. The general idea is you pitch [your project to] a group of people (funders, distributors, partners) while an audience of spectators watches. Most of the time somebody commits to doing something for the project. And even if they don't, it's pretty good exposure -- in many cases there will be funders in the audience who wouldn't otherwise know about your project.
  • Donor Advised Funds & Donor Collaboratives manage charitable giving on behalf of a philanthropist, a family or an organization. They're gatekeepers, connectors and advisors. Often cities establish local donor advised funds (usually called community foundations). Google your city to find yours. Also try googling "donor advised fund" + "your issue/art discipline" [or] "donor collaborative" + "your issue" or "your city" or "your art discipline."
  • Crowdfunding. In my experience, running a crowdfunding campaign can take over your life. There are easier ways to get money. Don't like it, not gonna talk about it.
  • Leveraging Your Assets. If someone has put resources behind your project, they want to see it succeed, which includes helping you find additional funding. Do not hesitate to ask your funders for introductions to other funders. Be specific -- come to them with a short list of prime targets and make sure they write the email introduction. [And use] LinkedIn. Because when you want to get funds from a foundation or corporation or individual, you plug that funder into LinkedIn and you find out that you are two [or three] people removed from [someone who works for the funder]. And before you know it, you have found a personal entry point and you are ten steps ahead of your competition.

Commentary: If you have board members who don't like to ask for money...

Nell Edgington, Social Velocity, 1/27/12

A majority of people don't like to (or simply won't) ask for money. The good news is that there are lots of other things board members can do to bring money in the door. Here are 9 things you could ask your fundraising-shy board members to do:

  1. Help create or evaluate a business plan for an earned income venture.
  2. Advocate for government money.
  3. Provide intelligence on prospects.
  4. Set up a meeting with a prospective customer.
  5. Email, call or visit a donor just to say thanks.
  6. Explain to a prospect why you serve.
  7. Host a small gathering at your home.
  8. Recruit an in-kind service.
  9. Negotiate a lower price from a vendor.

April 7: Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on asking individuals for donations

Steven Dawson, EALS website, 2/28/13

As much as we dislike connecting our important work to the dollar, the simple fact is that without it, we cannot pay our staffs, purchase materials, and pay the electric bills...and thus provide our services. Foundations are changing the focus of how and what they fund. And corporate philanthropy, while rebounding, will not cover the balance. So, we must have individual contributed funds to fulfill our missions. This can be a problem, though, because this all-important aspect of nonprofit management is most likely the most uncomfortable aspect of nonprofit management. It is just human nature to avoid asking for money, even from people you know. But proper cultivation, care for the mission, and honest inclusion in the organization (letters, tours, meetings, asking for advice, etc.) makes the potential donor WANT to give to the organization. This is all a team effort, though. It should include multiple levels of staff and board members. On April 7, you have an opportunity to discuss this topic with leaders in the field. The Fundraising and Development panel at the 6th Annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium will provide the chance to ask your questions and pick their minds.

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