Successful Crowdfunding for Photography

This interview is the fourth in our series about how to fundraise for your nonprofit using crowdfunding.

Today I am pleased to welcome Tricia Hoffman, Executive Director of Newspace center for photography here in Portland Oregon.

Tricia Hoffman has worked in non-profit management for the past 10 years, most recently at Blue Sky Gallery and Photolucida. Previously, she was the Development Director at Mid-America Arts Alliance and Curatorial Assistant at ExhibitsUSA. She holds a BS in Psychology from Baldwin Wallace University and an MFA in Photography from the University of Hartford, Hartford Art School. In addition, she received a Certificate in Fund Raising from the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, Henry W. Bloch School of Management.

Mazarine Treyz: What was your Kickstarter campaign about and why did you start it?

Tricia Hoffman: The Newspace Kickstarter campaign was run to support hiring a curator to manage our exhibitions and public programs. We started it to get our community involved in the fundraising process. Many times it’s important It let us ask people to reach out at any level.

MT: How did you get started fundraising for your nonprofit online?

TH: This was the first time we’ve been involved in a crowdfunding campaign project. We had been interested in doing something for awhile but waited until we found the right project and it felt like this was it.

MT: This was your first time running a crowdfunding campaign, right?

TH: Yes, it was my first time runing a crowdfunding campagin as well.

MT: And you succeeded in the campaign.

TH: We raised a little over $25,000!

MT: Wow! That’s incredible. Well done you! What do you wish you had known when you started your campaign? Any mistakes you’d like to share from when you were first starting out?

TH: I did a fair amount of research and talked with Kickstarter staff and talked with people who had successful and unsuccessful kickstarter campaigns. I learned a lot about the process before even getting started.

I learned subtle details through the process. I was fortunate to feel prtty well prepared thanks to the generosity of people beforehand with their time.
There’s always things people can do better. i probaby would have given myself more time. we had started talking about it in June, and planning for it in June, and we had initially wanted to launch it a little earlier, and then pushed it back to the smmer months to allow me more time to prepare

I still wish i had allowed more time, organize my time to reach out to people before the campaign. We planned a lot of it in advance, and I still wish i had had more time. And I wanted more time on the end as well. i knew I was ambitious about how fast i could get the awards out on time-Making sure I could geteverything out in the right person, with the right letter and the right packaging. I wish I had had more time. One wants to be really detail oriented with these things and that takes a lot of time.

I was warned, people said, give yourself more time, have a clear plan about how you’re going to appeal to people throughout the campaign.

MT: I hear that, sending out the packages, the fulfillment is quite difficult. But after you filled the awards, the question is, did you feel like then you could start to help people become larger and alrger donors?

TH: Well, (laughs) I will say that I’m not done. because we did prints, I need to get additional packaging, i should be able to get the remaining prints out next week. there are people who wanted to pick up their awards. I have a handful of people who haven’t told me how they want to receive their stuff, if they want it mailed, and to where, and there’s people who still need to come pick it up. It’s still an ongoing process.

You feel like you can’t solicit them again til you get all the rewards out, right?

TH: Yes!

MT: Maybe that’s a learning for next year, right, have everything mailed?

At the same time I’m happy to welcome people to Newspace, and they have’t been here in awhile, so I want to give them the opportunity to give them a tour. We expanded the facilities in 2011 and i want to show them around the space. I would love that opportunity to bring people into newspace and share what we’re up to in person.

MT: How did you decide what prizes to offer? Any tips on prizes that people seem to like?

TH: You know, I think it varies, we looked at other campaigns that were sucessful and what they had to offer, and we saw that it was really importnat to have small items for entry-level donations. And to have mid-range and high end rewards for people who are able to make a more significant contribution, and make sure that those are meaningful. So we wanted to have a few that were mre experiential, a few more about products a thing they would come away with, the thing I thought was important was to have a reasonable selection. People who are local people could come and have an experience of newspace, but also have some rewards that didn’t reuire you to be local. We moved in both directions.


MT: Do you have an email list that you send updates to? If so, how do you grow your list?

TH: i sent specific updates out to everyone who backed the campaign-Kickstarter has a nice interface on the back end.

I send people communications at least once a month about rewards and programs. I try to communicate on at least a monthly basis, and we also connect to our wider community through our monthly newsletter.

Here’s how we grow our list. With our general newsletter email list, we add people to that through a variety of channels, we collect emails from people who come to look at the gallery, and class participants, people who become members and donors.

MT: Do you use Twitter or Facebook as a fundraising tool? If so, what have you found works on those platforms?

TH: I don’t know that we use it as a fundraising tool specifically, but have been using social media for the last couple years, to make people aware of our fundraising efforts and our programatic offerings. Facebook had a donate button, and we haven gone that route and we don’t necessarily run campaigns. Our social media campaigns are mostly focused on raising awareness or marketing including our active fundraising campaigns that we have going on. We use those to drive people to our website or the kickstarter page to keep people in the loop on what we’re up to.

Photo by Aline Smithson

MT: That’s the way to do it! Are there any other techniques have worked well for you when you’re doing a crowdfunding campaign?

TH: You know I’ve found that personally connecting with people really helps. I sent a ton of personal emails to people that I thought might be interested – whether someone that I knew or someone that was affiliated with newspace through our exhibition program, and give them the opportunity to participate. It was also important to have our board members involved and our volunteers, letting their friends and communities know.

MT: How did you get your board members to help you fundraise for this campaign?

TH: I did a couple of things. I sent them boilerplate explantion of what we were doing, and I sent them my version of my email so they could either take the general information and make it into their own, or they could edit my email and make it their own, that was really helpful. a couple board members reached out to past board members at newspace and invited them to get involved, and I think that was much more effective to help them get involved than me alone. It was great to let them know this was happening and give them a chance to be involved in this effort.

MT: Thank you. that’s what I’ve been hearing, people really respond to personal emails. Anything else you’d like to add?

TH: The one truth that I was told and that really held true for me was that crowdfunding campaigns are meant to reach the crowd. I know that’s kind of in the title but it’s really important if you’re considering doing a kickstarter or a similar campaign to have a sense of how large your network of supporters is before you start. Newspace has an active list of several thousand people, plus our social meida account, plus we’ve worked with hundreds of artists and thousands of people have taken our classes, that means we had a pretty sizable network of people who were interested in Newspace before we started. Not everyone is going to be interested in supporting every project that you do, but its a numbers game and the more people you know are interested, you’ll end up with enough people giving enough to be successful in a campaign like this.

I think we also benefitted from supporters letting their network know, for example we have a couple of businesses in town that we work with regularly and they definitely put the word out to their community, and that really helped.

MT: I love that. If people would like to learn more about you, where can they go?

TH: Our webiste is We’re located in southeast portland 1632 SE 10th, just south of hawthorne between clay and market st. We have an instagram we’re on twitter and a facebook page as well.

If you’d like to learn more about Crowdfunding, check out our newest course, The Ultimate 2015 Guide to Online Giving and Crowdfunding.

Nonprofit online giving, nonprofit crowdfunding

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