A Burner Guide to Crowdfunding

By Ria Greiff

If you beg for it, they will come.

Burners seeking to bring art to the Playa have turned to the Internet to raise funds, opting in droves for crowdsourcing sites that offer several approaches to appealing to the masses who have extra cash to spare. The differing rules matter because they attract varying classes of donors and have different requirements for those looking for dough.

You might think that the Burning Man organization would offer guidance on which to pick. It does — sort of. The official statement is, “Create a fundraising project on whichever crowdfunding service best meets your needs.”

As your resident Burner from the trenches, I parsed them a bit for you.

Kickstarter is more of an innovation platform. Artists, designers, inventors, or any variation of that trifecta, can be found here. They also have been vetted, which saves time sifting through MOOP, because Kickstarter only accepts 60% of its submissions, and if the project fails to achieve its funding goal, you are given your money back instead of a coaster depicting a defunct BM project. I’d rather get Playa Dust in my metal cup than have that depressing thing next to my futon in my tent as I slightly shiver in the desert night.

Kickstarter remains one of the most-well-known platforms, however, because it was one of the first players on the block, along with its indie-headed step-sister, Indiegogo.

Indiegogo is like the Deep Playa. Anything goes. Do what you want, take whatever it will give you; additionally, like the Deep Playa, there is so much out there that you are bound to miss something (bet you didn’t see the stationary bikes in 2017). If not fully funded, an artist can take the money and run on Indiegogo. Artists are free to use the cash they receive to put a tutu on a giant flamingo on Tuesday. To assuage any trepidation a patron may have in donating to a project, an artist can keep their integrity over their greenbacks, by setting up the campaign to be an all-or-none type of scenario, as is the rule at Kickstarter. Not fully funded, no gargantuan avian tutu.

The newest darling with a super catchy name is GoFundMe. Like, “Go Fuck Yourself.” Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t said that aloud when looking at some of those campaigns! Go Fund Me is exactly that, a platform for financing personal causes. You will find individuals or a group try to raise some funds to bring their art car to BM, or construction of some camp structure. I wouldn’t look for tantalizing projects on GoFundMe unless you desire to help a Sparkle Pony lose his Burginity. If he doesn’t get fully funded however, he is not required to go the full monty while pocketing the small change he collected.

There is one other crowdsourcing crowdfunder that just hatched, and it brings more crowds to the yard than these other (vegan) bacon milkshakes. Mainly because this platform is powered by a charitable organization. Hatchfund got started as a micro philanthropy platform and then nestled into AIM (Legal Name: Applied Information Management Institute), a not-for-profit that grows, connects and inspires the tech talent ecosystem to “improve thousands of lives in the Silicon Prairie.” The prairie dogs themselves are outstanding artists who already have more than a Playa Name; they are grant, award, fellowship, or residency recipients.

HatchFund also has a MatchFund, because matching funds encourage and maximize contributions … natch. Big donors make their grants contingent on smaller pledges that they match up to a specified limit.

The projects that make their way to Hatchfund seem to be the largest among the sites. Well-played Hatchfund, you dirty ol’ silicon dog, well-played.

Most projects on all of the sites offer rewards for different levels of contributions. These can range from a heart-felt thanks to giving a big donor the entire project at the end of Burning Man.

That is almost all the theoretical that matters. Now, let’s see this in practice.

As of the end of April, Art Project fundraisers on the BMorg page broke down like this:

GoFundMe – Had five fund requests in the mid thousands of dollars
Indiegogo – One in the hundreds, two in the thousands
Kickstarter – Three in the hundreds
Hatchfund – Had two in the $100,000 range, three in the $10,000 range

So how to decide? Go with Hatchfund if you are already a rockstar and people rush to do your bidding. Kickstarter is good if you are either sure that your project is so awesome-yet-reasonably priced that you will be able to garner all or most of the funds you need from an adoring public (and, you know, make the last $500 an anonymous donation from yourself). Use IndieGoGo if you just want to raise some money and care a little about the projects listed on either side of yours, and GoFundMe if you don’t.

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