Social Bootstrapping: Microfunding Major Projects in the Arts and Nonprofit Organizations

Social Bootstrapping: Microfunding Major Projects in the Arts and Nonprofit Organizations

John P. Sahlin (The George Washington University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8556-7.ch001
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Abstract

Just as the three most important aspects of real estate are: Location, Location, Location, it can be said that the three most important aspects of seeking funds for major projects are Access, Access, Access. The advent of social media has opened a new avenue for artists and non-profits to fund their programs: social bootstrapping. This chapter will address the use of social media platforms to raise funds for major arts and nonprofit projects. This chapter will also consider the implications of social media to fund niche programs that may be considered “too risky” to fund under the traditional rules or those that simply don't have the access to major contributors. Pioneers in the arts and nonprofit industries have successfully adopted the best practices of the technology industry and used social media platforms to secure funding that would not traditionally be available.
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Background

Traditional methods for funding major arts and non-profit projects generally require major capital investments from corporations, or at the least a major benefactor. Because the super-rich establish endowments like The Bill and Marilyn Gates Foundation, major projects can be executed with a single stroke of the pen. Even the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts has the ability to fund major projects, though resources are scarce in today’s tight budgets and pressure by Congress to limit investment in the arts in favor of defense and health care programs; despite a slight increase from 2013, the 2014 U.S. Budget reduced funding for the arts by 28% from its peak 2009 funding (National Endowment for the Arts, 2014).

The main problem with seeking funding for major projects from a single source is that artists with a vision or people trying to start a new public service program may not have access to major benefactors; competition is high for finite resources and getting to the door is difficult. Nonprofit service organizations face this same problem. As the competition for public funds increases dramatically, so too does the need to serve the community. Well-known nonprofits can get the attention of major benefactors or government agencies, and even cooperate with large organizations to access funds via major corporate or government fundraising efforts. One example of this approach is the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). The CFC program is managed by the United Way, and allows U.S. Federal Employees (and contractors) to provide payroll deduction contributions to a variety of non-profit organizations that have been selected by the United Way to participate (Office of Personnel and Management, 2014). In this model, the United Way uses its well-established brand name to act as an intermediary between smaller non-profits and the U.S. Government. However, even getting access to the United Way program can be all but impossible for new or very small non-profits. Because of a lack of access to major resources, artists with a strong, unique voice or nonprofits that service a niche need may fail to complete their vision.

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