11 May, 2017
Isabelle de Voldere: “Crowdfunding adds a new dimension to the financing debate”
Crowdfunding as a financing tool has become a sort of status-quo in the cultural and creative sector. But what role does the EU play in the realm of Crowdfunding? What barriers are hindering the development of Crowdfunding? And what kinds of support methods for cultural and creative actors are conceivable? Isabelle de Voldere leads a project that is trying to answer these and other questions.
Interview: Laura Casadevall
Foto: © Isabelle de Voldere
Hello and nice to meet you, Isabelle. You lead a project called Crowdfunding4culture. Can you please describe what you do?
Crowdfunding4Culture is an EU funded research project thatanalyses the uptake of Crowdfunding in cultural and creative sectors (CCS) across Europe. IDEA Consult leads the project, and coordinates a consortium of partners including the European Crowdfunding Network, Ecorys, Values of Culture and Inforelais. The project started in the beginning of 2016 and will end in June 2017 with a European conference in Brussels, where the study results will be presented and many speakers will share inspiring insights about the use of Crowdfunding in the CCS, do’s & don’ts, good practices, etc.
What’s your personal access to Crowdfunding? What is your interest in it? What’s your personal aim to work in this field?
For years now I have been working on the topic of access to finance in the cultural and creative sectors, looking into what the ideal mix of financing tools is that could cover the highly diverse financing needs of cultural and creative actors.
Until now, the “access to finance”-debate has focused primarily on government finance (grants) versus market finance (bank loans, equity finance, etc.). But Crowdfunding adds a new dimension to the financing debate. With Crowdfunding you don’t get funding based on contractual business terms or grant applications. Rather, finance is provided based on a personal belief in the ‘good cause’ of a project and an individual commitment. The story that you tell to your potential financiers, is critical; they have to feel connected and be convinced that their support contributes to creating impact. Hence Crowdfunding has the power to rewrite the relationship that project initiators have with their audiences and funders. In a society where the importance of investments in culture and creativity is often questioned, I believe that it is very important to renew this relationship.
You are looking into Crowdfunding for the cultural and creative sectors in the study you conducted. What are you trying to find out?
The aim of the project is to get a unique understanding about the use of Crowdfunding in the cultural and creative sectors. We analyze different data for example: amounts raised, number of projects funded, success rates, geographical coverage, etc. But we also take a look at the barriers that prevent the uptake of this innovative way of finance. Based on the analysis we will present a plan of action for the European Commission to further support the uptake of Crowdfunding in the Cultural and Creative Sectors.
During the project we also started the website www.crowdfunding4culture.eu, a European information hub that gathers and shares relevant information on Crowdfunding for culture. On the website, you can find a map with all platforms in Europe with a specific focus on cultural and creative activities, case study reports, links to useful tools and reports, etc.
"The aim of the project is to get a unique understanding about the use of Crowdfunding in the cultural and creative sectors"
Why is the European Commission looking into the impact of Crowdfunding on cultural and creative sectors?
For years, access to finance is and has been a major challenge for many cultural and creative actors. In the past, the European Commission has taken several actions to better understand the barriers and to improve access to finance in the creative and cultural sector. They have done this for example by taking direct measures such as the set-up of the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility under Creative Europe or by enabling policy exchange and learning through for example the Open Method of Coordination on Access to Finance.
With Crowdfunding growing exponentially as a new financial tool, the European Commission wants to better understand how Crowdfunding is currently being used and what its potential is in relation to the problems of access to finance that many actors face.
What is your opinion on how Crowdfunding can have impact in the cultural and creative sector?
Looking at the bare figures of Crowdfunding as a tool to collect project finance, one would be inclined to think that Crowdfunding fails to play a significant role for the sustainable financing of professionals and organizations. However, the added value of Crowdfunding clearly lies beyond the funding of one project. Running a Crowdfunding campaign can support audience development and community building, communication and marketing, it can strengthen internal strategy and skills development; serve as a market research tool or as a leverage to attract other funding.
But our study shows that for the cultural and creative sectors to take advantage of the full potential of Crowdfunding, it requires a few, central things.
What would those be?
First: Project initiators need better knowledge about how to evaluate Crowdfunding on its merits and be conscious about its limits and the costs related to it. Second: specific skills especially in digital communication and financial development. Third: It also requires policy makers to be knowledgeable about the potential benefits and drawbacks of Crowdfunding in a policy context to support the further development of the cultural and creative sectors, and to think beyond traditional funding silos.
"Running a Crowdfunding campaign can support audience development and community building, communication and marketing, it can strengthen internal strategy and skills development; serve as a market research tool or as a leverage to attract other funding"
How exactly are you measuring the impact of Crowdfunding on a European level?
In the study we combine different data sources for example Crowdsurfer data and survey data with research methods such as interviews, case studies, online surveys and workshops. We gathered quantitative and qualitative information from project holders, backers, Crowdfunding platforms and policy makers. This approach allows us to have a complete perspective on the subject, the opportunities and barriers.
On the one hand, we create awareness about the use of Crowdfunding for the benefit of cultural and creative activities. Given that Crowdfunding is still quite new and that there is still a lot of misconception about the potential and limitations of using Crowdfunding. On the other hand, the planned EU action plan will provide guidance to the European Commission’s activities to further support the uptake of Crowdfunding for the benefit of cultural and creative actors.
Since you mentioned it: Is the study also looking into Co-Funding methods? Meaning methods for combining public and private funding with Crowdfunding?
Definitely! Matchfunding, combining Crowdfunding with public and/or private funding is a very interesting development, and we already find several initiatives across Europe. In the study we conducted a number of case studies on such Matchfunding practices (see also the case study reports on our website). We believe that the further development of Matchfunding practices will be critical for a sustainable adoption of Crowdfunding in the cultural and creative sectors.
"We believe that the further development of Matchfunding practices will be critical for a sustainable adoption of Crowdfunding in the cultural and creative sectors"
You are planning a conference in June. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Yes, we will organize a conference on Crowdfunding for culture called “More than funding” in Brussels, on June 20th 2017. It will bring together around 200 participants, spanning from policy makers, cultural and creative organisations, to crowdfunding platforms and investors. We invite everyone to join this first European event on Crowdfunding for culture. Participants will have the opportunity to connect with the crowdfunding4culture community, exchange and share good practices and learn about the latest insights on crowdfunding for culture.
That sounds really exciting. I will join you in Brussels in June. Thank you for the talk, Isabelle.
About Isabelle de Voldere:
Isabelle de Voldere is a researcher at IDEA Consult and project coordinator of Crowdfunding4Culture. For more than 10 years she has been researching developments in the cultural and creative sectors from a socio-economic point of view, and advising regional and European policy makers and supporting network organizations on how to establish a (policy) framework that supports sustainable growth of cultural and creative activities and organizations.
For more information visit www.crowdfunding4culture.eu.
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