How to create and manage your own fan funding campaign

You can use any of the numerous platforms available to help get your fans involved with the funding of your next project, or you can create and manage your own fan funding campaign – just like I did.

Wherever you stand on the debate of artists appealing to their fans and asking strangers for the funds they need to launch a tour or produce a CD, here's my story. I've done it more than once, and I once did it myself, without the aid of Patreon, Kickstarter, or any of the online platforms that facilitate crowdsourcing.

I raised over $25,000 in nine months to fund the production of my record One Up. I'm proof that it’s possible, but no one will give you a dime if your campaign is “We really want to make a CD and a whole bunch of merch – please send money!” You need to create an opportunity that will inspire your fans and potential fans to participate.

It begins with the levels and rewards you'll create for your patrons to get involved. I offered levels of donation that ranged from $5 to $5,000, with bigger prizes for those who donated more money. Think big! The reward for a $1,000 donation was an "experience exchange" to sing with me on a song. The woman who donated $1,000 told me the studio experience would have been worth ten times more. A couple donated $5,000, which earned them an original song for their wedding anniversary – in addition to receiving all the other benefits: a free MP3, credit in the album, a signed poster, homemade brownies, etc. They also received an experience, a memory – something unique created just for them.

My fan funding campaign went something like this:

1. Landing page. I set up a landing page with details about sponsoring my project using basic html that visitors saw when they landed on my website.

2. PayPal. I set up a PayPal account and linked it to my website so I could accept donations on my own time table.

3. Email newsletters. I sent out a monthly newsletter to my email list telling people what I was up to and how they could be involved and included a link to sponsor the project.

Once I began receiving pledges, I gave my sponsors regular updates on where things were in the recording process – including photos, sound clips, and videos – to keep the conversation going and to let them know their money was being put to good use.

By the way, before you start, I advise getting feedback from a handful of select fans before you launch your project. Ask them what they'd want as rewards for pledges. You'll probably hear things you never would have thought of that are valuable to your fans. Then you'll be able to offer them exactly what they asked for!

And you may be asking why I didn't use a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo? My concern at the time was being backed into having to make a certain amount of money by a certain deadline, knowing that if I don’t meet the goal, I wouldn't get any of the money. I liked being in control, and thought it was a fair payoff for having to do more work.

So sure, you may choose to go the route of setting up a campaign on a fan-funding platform, or you can set up a fan funding system in less than a week using my 9-Step Fan-Funding Campaign Checklist.

1. Send an email to a group of fans asking what they’d like to see as a reward for donating to your next project. Give them some idea of what the project is, and ask for a response within a week.

2. Take their feedback, add some of your own creative ingenuity, and develop rewards that range from $5 to $5,000.

3. Create a micro-site or turn your homepage into a platform to deliver all the information for your project. If you don’t have the web design skills, ask a friend or fan help you make a simple site for this project. Or turn to social media and ask, someone will be able to help! Offer them one of the tiered prizes as a trade.

4. Set up a PayPal account with a Sponsor button. Be sure to have the button read “Sponsor” and not “Donate.” “Donate” implies the money is going to a non-profit, so unless you are a 501c, don't take the chance of misleading people. Include this button on your website.

5. Schedule a timeline for the recording and production of your record (or project), even if you are still in the songwriting stages.

6. Announce to the world that you're launching a fan-funded project via social media, email, and any means possible. Always be sure to include a direct link to the PayPal page. Make a snappy video announcement as well, steering clear of the starving artist routine and being the inspiring opportunity creator that you are!

7. Determine the time length of the project and determine how many updates you'll be sending. Time the frequency of your updates in relation to the length of the project – you don’t want people drowning in it, but you want to communicate enough so they don’t wonder what happened to the money they used to sponsor you.

8. Send updates about how the project is going. I typically sent an email with a two-minute video of me talking about how the project was going and included footage of me songwriting, recording, working in the studio, etc. Again, if you need help with video editing or basic production, ask your fan base for assistance and offer up one of your rewards in payment.

9. Stay on schedule. Be up front about when you'll be sending your patrons their rewards, and make sure to send everyone their rewards when the project is completed. If you run into delays or get knocked off schedule, then at least communicate it.

That's it. Now you have the main tools to create and manage your own fan-funding campaign and make the most of your fans’ enthusiasm for you. Good luck!


Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a composer, singer-songwriter and music business and branding consultant who prefers kicking butt over not kicking butt. Get going with her free music biz PDF download and learn more at www.cbemusic.com.