Kickstarter Allows Cape Cod Artists to Fundraise in the Digital Age

Courtesy of Elizabeth Sherman - The Carousel of Light.Courtesy of Elizabeth Sherman - One of the horses in the Carousel of Light that was hand-carved by Falmouth artist Lance Shinkle.Courtesy of Michael Kristy - Sandwich High School senior Michael Kristy has taken to Kickstarter to raise funds to purchase equipment for "Evasion."Courtesy of Michael Kristy - Elliot Sicard (left) and Michael Kristy will be shooting the short film "Evasion" this fall.

Knocking on doors, car washes and bake sales? So passé.

Those serious about raising funds to support their latest project have moved beyond those old-fashioned means to the Internet, which allows for a direct connection to one’s social network and the ability to easily and creatively explain what one is planning on doing with any donations they get.

Kickstarter is a prime example where this past Monday the Falmouth nonprofit Carousel of Light, Inc. launched a campaign to raise $20,000 that will go toward the restoration and maintenance of the carousel Lance Shinkle started carving in 1988 and which was first displayed in 1993 at the Barnstable County Fair. The money will also be used to replace the red-and-white canvas top as well as cover the cost of carving 10 more horses that will go along with the 30 mares and stallions in the current set.

So far the group has raised $2,930, as of yesterday morning, and still has another 31 days to reach its fundraising goal. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing approach so that if the financial goal is not met by a certain date—the site allows up to 60 days to raise funds needed, although some choose a shorter period—those who offered a donation are not charged anything.

Whether Carousel of Light will meet its goal has yet to be seen, but this week James Bowen, who sits on the organization’s board of directors, was pleased with the progress made so far. “We are extremely happy and delighted the community has already come through,” he said.

Outside of altruistic reasons, those using Kickstarter offer an incentive to donors. The incentives are larger and more attractive the more money one donates.

With the carousel project, those who pledge $3 or more get a free ride and those who donate $10 receive two free rides as well as a photograph of a hand-carved horse suitable for framing.

The larger incentives include unlimited use of the carousel for three hours to celebrate a birthday, wedding or special occasion for $250; recognition on a sponsor board, the carousel’s website and other literature naming those donors who gave $500 or more; and the ability to name one of the hand-carved horses for one year as well as a three-hour party, a T-shirt and a letter of appreciation from Mr. Shinkle for those who donate $1,000 or more.

Easy to Follow Approach

Though he was unfamiliar with crowdfunding prior to launching this campaign, Mr. Bowen said, “the Kickstarter people really lay it out for you. If you follow the advice they give you, you can create incentives and rewards that are really fun and interesting like the ones we did.”

The fundraising effort is part of an overall goal of Carousel of Light to find a permanent home for the amusement ride, preferably in Falmouth or in a nearby town. Why is this so important? “Because just as a town is identified by its library, it is also identified by the cultural activities it has,” Mr. Bowen said. “This is a real feather in the town’s cap if we can bring this back to Falmouth. I think it will enhance the area where it ends up being and will be something that children and grandchildren can enjoy for generations to come.”

Michael Kristy is another Cape resident who has taken to Kickstarter, hoping to raise enough funds to purchase equipment he will use to shoot a short video he is attempting to complete during his senior year at Sandwich High School. “This is one of my biggest focuses besides looking at colleges,” he said yesterday.

The film, “Evasion,” tells the story of Wesley, an 18-year-old who has aspirations of becoming a photographer and has been drafted to serve in World War II. Assisting Michael, 17, in shooting the film is Elliott F. Sicard, a recent graduate of University of Massachusetts Amherst, with whom he has formed a production company dubbed “Better Than Nothing.”

The pair hope to utilize members of Sandwich Community Television, actors from Cotuit Center for the Arts and Michael’s peers at the high school.

Before filming begins Michael is attempting to raise $4,500 to purchase either a Pocket Cinema Camera or a Blackmagic Cinema 2.5k camera as well as a shotgun microphone, a handheld rig for the camera and a memory card.

Along with the short film, Michael and Mr. Sicard are planning on shooting a feature film in the spring. “By backing us you are not only helping us create a short and a feature film, you are essentially starting our careers,” their Kickstarter page reads.

Among the incentives they are offering for those who donate to their project are signed props from the short film; a digital download of the film along with behind-the-scenes footage; a copy of the script; production stills; the ability to name a character in the film; and a poster signed by the cast and crew.

With $851 raised and eight days to go Michael was hopeful that donations would continue to allow him to further his career goals of becoming a filmmaker.

He was confident he would be able to raise those funds, offering advice for others considering Kickstarter: “Have confidence in the project you are doing because you never know who might find out about it,” he said.

Local Success Stories

Photographer Robert Manz of Bourne (robertmanz.net) is one who has already experienced success with Kickstarter, raising $1,015 in 31 days—his goal was $1,000—for a 2014 calendar he created and is currently selling at retail stores throughout the region, including Eight Cousins Books on Main Street and the Woods Hole Market.

Although he has published calendars for the past four years, he said, this is the first time he ever used crowdfunding as a means to help cover his costs up front. “I think it’s a really great way to raise money,” he said. “There are so many creative things you can do and get a feel for how other people are doing rewards. One of the great things is that if it’s your first time you can look at everyone else’s projects and borrow ideas.”

This year Barbara A. Gleason of Mashpee (myhometownbooks.com) took to Kickstarter for the second time to help raise money to self-publish “animal esCAPEs,” a children’s book that highlights real animals that have visited the Cape and the “healthy activities” they are involved in.

“[Kickstarter] is a very addicting website because there are super-creative people doing some extraordinary things that you can be a part of,” she said.

In 2011 she was able to raise $3,465, more than her $3,250 goal, to self-publish the predecessor to that book titled “great esCAPEs” that followed a little boy who visited all the towns on the Cape.

The inspirations for these books, she said, was her daughter Molly, 7, a 1st grader at the West Village Elementary School in Marstons Mills, and her high school students at Barnstable High School where she is a health and physical education teacher. “Many of my high school students say Cape Cod is boring and there is nothing to do here,” she said.

“So when I was reading children’s books I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if families could read together and be motivated and inspired to go out and explore the Cape and see all the opportunities it has to offer them?’ ”

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Over a 25-day period starting in May, Ms. Gleason used Kickstarter to surpass her $1,500 goal. In total she was able to raise $1,850 that went toward the publication of “animal esCAPEs.”

“With Kickstarter the number-one thing is you either reach your goal or you don’t,” she said. “And if you don’t, there is no harm, no foul, other than the time and effort that went into creating the campaign.”

As to the steps one can take to be successful, she recommended utilizing social media to “blow up people’s news feeds on Facebook. It is kind of embarrassing, but it keeps your message out there. You really need to market yourself.”

She has become a fan of Kickstarter, not only as a means to fund her own projects, but to see the other ways people are being creative with their talents. “It is a very addicting website because there are super-creative people doing some extraordinary things that you can be a part of,” she said, referencing one about a television show called “ReSet” that features former professional athletes who have faced a downturn in their lives and are looking for redemption. “If you donate to that and the show ever gets on TV you can say, ‘I had a hand in that,’ ” she said.

The opportunities a site like Kickstarter can make to help artists such as herself make their dreams come true cannot be understated. “Where I don’t have an angel fund or other investors because I’m so small and I have three children and kids in daycare, it is tough to come up with that amount of money so quickly,” she said. “In the self-publishing world you need that money up front to get your product out.”

To learn more about the Carousel of Light Kickstarter campaign visit here. To learn more about Michael Kristy's Kickstarter campaign visit here

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