Knowing your community and your key strengths: A crowdfunding success.
ESC zine was an Irish-based writing and visual art zine founded in 2011, published both online and off. Although the project was finished in 2019, it’s story serves as an inspiration and successful crowdfunding example of how to handle the unexpected.
ESC issue #5 of the zine was intended primarily for literary works, featured short stories and poetry by established and emerging writers from Ireland and beyond. The 3-person ESC team was, at the time of the crowdfunding campaign, based in Ireland, the UK and Belgium. To produce the issue, funding was needed and crowdfunding offered the opportunity to both raise money and the publication’s profile. The ESC postal zine crowdfunding campaign successfully raised £1,000 for issue #5 via Kickstarter.
There were many reasons the campaign was a success. One of the creators, Steven Maybury, told us during our interview, that it was due to timing. ESC was a publishing project created at a time when “Dublin was a particularly hard and tough place to become an artist”, the team’s DIY attitude of wanting to create a space to showcase the work of young artists led to the creation of ESC zine.
Initially, ESC was self-funded and distributed for free. By issue #3, the ESC team received over 300 submissions to a closed submission and decided to add some of those submissions to the following issues, due to demand. Soon after, it was decided to make a book that was based purely on literature. This book would be a postal issue, with postcard edition of works, they sent a blank book around the world, with each sender contributing to the work and then posting it on to the next contributor. With the book finally making its way back to Dublin and then being made into an edition.
Sadly, the postal ESC was lost in transit. Using their creative resources, the ESC team changed plans and asked their creative community for their help. Participants were sent new works on postcards which then turned the whole thing into a whole different project than they had imagined. While this was happening, the ESC team remained open and transparent with their backers. This was a key to a successful campaign, even when things are not going according to plan. The end result was a collection of postcards and a handmade book of purely literary works. When it came to rewarding their supporters, they were mindful “to set out a very clear line of intention so people are very clear on what the return of that is”, “the reward is like a token that you are investing into a project, the reward shouldn’t always be so massive and commitment led.”
The team included things like badges and mugs as rewards, to remind people of the project they had been involved in. They kept bigger rewards to a minimum, using their skills and time on writing, curatorial assistance and photography. The intention was to focus attention on the project and make sure they wouldn't still be working on rewards down the line, well after the project was finished.
ESC backers were comprised of a surprising 50% of people they knew and 50% new names of people who genuinely believed in what they were trying to create, which speaks volumes to the transparent, earnest campaign they built. “If you are offering people a chance to be a part of a campaign such as a creative one, you are attracting a particular type of person and not someone who is just there for the rewards.”
I think the success of this project is so much more than timing. Three people created a strong team with the exact mix of talents and knowledge, creative arts, publishing media marketing, idea focus and writers. Also, it was a group of people who truly cared about producing a product that focused on promoting the work of young artists.
*Interview and blogpost by Amy Keeley of Mullingar Employment Action Group.