You have a very worthy artistic project. You are passionate about it. You believe in it. And, you can vividly imagine sharing it with others, perhaps even the whole world! Unfortunately, your vision requires cash flow and without it, your project along with your zeal, are easily shelved and forgotten. It's time to dust off those old projects and create the means to make them happen!
A prerequisite for asking for money from others is learning to be comfortable doing so. If you are simply not comfortable selling yourself, your craft, or your vision, you must find someone who not only shares your vision as passionately as you do, but who also knows how to get others interested enough to open their checkbooks and put your name on the line marked "payee!"
It's also easier to get people to fund art projects if you are non-profit. Non-profit status, while obtainable, comes with much documentation, the legal creation of an organization, pulling together a board, writing by-laws and so on. Since most artists just want to create, it may seem like an insurmountable task. It's far easier to link yourself with a non-profit organization already established in your area. Most organizations would be pleased to hear about your project and upon approval, simply lend their name to you in a show of support. It gives your project credibility and gives their organization more visibility as well as another feather to tuck into their hat.
Once you decide who is going to do the fundraising for your project, it's important to establish how you will present the project to whom you will be soliciting. What is the name of the project? Why is it artistically and culturally important? Who is your target audience? How much money do you need?
These are the types of questions potential investors, especially those from the business sector, will want to know. (Question: is it possible to have an investor that's not from the "business sector?") Be prepared. Prepare a budget, a time line of activities, and the direct benefits to not only the community, but to the investors as well.
While there are a few investors who will back your artistic endeavor simply because they appreciate art, most will want recognition for their contribution. It's important to have a clear layout of just how investors will be given credit. At what levels of contribution will credit be given in the publicity campaign? Who will be given recognition in the programs or from the podium at the opening? Will investors receive free admission to see the final product?
Once you have solid information about your fund raising campaign put together, the very best way to begin is to go to the people you know first. Make the time to meet with them in person Why? Simply put, personal friends have a hard time saying no while you are standing right there in front of them. Is it awful to rely on someone's inability to say no to fund your project? Absolutely not. (If you feel guilty about it, then please, please find someone else to do your fundraising for you.)
Starting with personal friends will get you going on a positive note, and will give you the confident attitude you'll need, when you approach strangers with direct requests. As you begin getting commitments for funding, keep a current list of those who are contributing with you. Make sure it is either typed or handwritten in large enough type, that even if someone were looking at it upside down, they'd be able to see who is contributing, and at what level they have invested.
Make sure at every sit down with everyone you are requesting money from, the list of contributors available for the potential investor to peruse. Personal ego is a huge factor in the game of fund raising. Most people, especially business minded people, will want to see their company and/or personal name on that list. Some will even scan it to see at what level their competitors have invested and either match, or seek to surpass it.
In case someone doesn't see the list, you may have to casually refer to it. For instance, if the investor says they'll contribute at $100, you could glance at the list and say, "Oh, great! That's the same amount so-and-so gave." The investor will either be really pleased they are in the same league as so-and-so, or it may very well encourage them to up the ante.
Keep in mind, businesses operating at a national level, or resources offering grants may require a longer lead time to acquire funds. Be prepared to fill out applications, write essays, plan ahead, and submit final reports with meticulous attention to detail. I'm not writing this to discourage you from heading in this direction to obtain funding; I'm writing it because I want you to be prepared. There is a reason many grant funding resources offer grant writing classes. If you have never written a grant before, I strongly encourage you to take one of these classes, or find someone who has experience dealing with the particular resource you would like to receive funds from.
Of course, there are more passive ways to raise money for your project. The tried and true methods of offering goods or a service for cash can make a difference. Car washes and bake sales are most common and frankly, in this writer's opinion, a lot of work for the money gained.
If you want to offer goods or services to raise money for an artistic project, be creative about it. How about an art auction, a wine tasting, or better yet, an art auction with a wine tasting. An offer for art classes also goes over great, especially in the summer, when kids are out of school and parents are looking for activities to get them out of the house. Host a show at a local club, call on your friends, (musicians, poets, dancers, singers, comedians) to perform, and bring in fellow media artists to either show or create art on the spot. With all proceeds from the cover charge going directly to your non-profit project, who would miss it?
Remember no matter what you plan, do your best to get anything you may need for fundraising donated for the cause. Not only can your get people to donate their time to the cause, it can't hurt to ask local businesses to donate any goods you may need to make these events happen. During the planning stages, before you spend any money out of pocket for anything, and I mean anything, be sure it can't be donated first.
Nothing is too small of a request. Do you need paper for flyers? Go to the local office supply store and ask. Plastic wine glasses for the tasting? Talk to a local party supply store. It never hurts to ask for anything you may need as a donation. At the very worst, you'll be told no. Maybe you'll get the items for free, maybe at a discount. Remember, you are requesting people to fund your project. Spending their money responsibly and saving money on non-project related items will show in the final production and it will be appreciated by those who invested. They will be proud to see you succeed and will be eager to attach their names to your next project.
Finally, and most importantly, when requesting money from individuals or businesses, be they personal acquaintances or not, you must be extremely grateful for any monetary amount, service or goods contributed. Sending a handwritten thank you within two days of your meeting will send a positive message, making it that much easier next time you approach them. Be sure to specifically include what they contributed and how it made a difference to your project.