Beginning this Wed., Feb. 12, nonprofit arts organizations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties will have a new platform for raising money and awareness of their work.
Power2Give, a crowdsourcing website akin to Kickstarter but developed specifically for nonprofit arts organizations, is launching in Tampa Bay. Since its 2011 debut in Charlotte, N.C., the platform has enabled arts and cultural organizations in 21 communities around the U.S. to raise $4.5 million directly from donors online. It’s the brainchild of Laura Belcher, an executive officer of Charlotte’s Arts and Science Council and former consultant on nonprofit revenue growth. When her research through the Charlotte ASC showed that 85 percent of cultural consumers — people who purchase admission to performing arts venues, museums and other arts programs — did not engage in charitable giving to arts organizations, she set out to develop the website as a way to “break through the barrier.”
“If we can invite them and engage them in a new way, there is a lot of opportunity to turn cultural consumers into donors,” Belcher told local arts administrators at a Power2Give workshop in downtown Tampa last December.
The idea that fuels Power2Give is the same that drives Kickstarter and crowdfunding sites in general: engaging many people to support specific projects through relatively small donations. The national average gift so far on Power2Give, where projects are capped at $10,000 and expire after 90 days, has been $105. As on Kickstarter, a zippy pitch about how the project will enrich lives is a must, along with a transparent budget including a line item for Power2Give’s 12 percent administrative fee, says Belcher. But two big factors set Power2Give apart — its identity as a dedicated platform for arts nonprofits and its policy of letting users retain all money raised, minus the fee, regardless of whether a campaign’s goal is met. (By contrast, Kickstarter’s practice of releasing funds only to projects that achieve their stated goal is a notorious risk of using the site.)
In metropolitan areas including Cincinnati, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Miami, where the website has established a presence, prospective donors seem to be getting the message: by Power2Give’s count, 44 percent of people who give through the website are first-time donors to the arts.
For Wednesday’s launch, nearly 20 local organizations from both sides of Tampa Bay are slated to announce projects. (As of Tuesday, 18 were confirmed with another two expected.) Campaign goals range from $1,200 to just under $10,000 for projects that run the gamut from refurnishing the lobby of Stageworks Theatre in downtown Tampa to creating a journaling program for victims of domestic violence at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. The Arts Council of Hillsborough County is overseeing local implementation of the website, which is the first program it has extended to Pinellas organizations as well as those located in Hillsborough, says Arts Council program services director Terri Simons.
“It seemed like a really good way to help organizations get funding for projects that might not be big enough for a capital campaign,” Simons says. “And to make people aware of all the kinds of arts organizations that we have in Tampa Bay.”
Local arts administrators say Power2Give won’t replace their more traditional fundraising efforts, including courting major individual and corporate donors and applying for grants, but its potential for boosting special projects is exciting.
At Ruskin’s 2-year-old Firehouse Cultural Center, director Georgia Vahue is seeking $5,341 to commission a mosaic mural for the front of the converted fire station where the arts center is housed. (The odd number is the result of adding the Power2Give administrative fee to the organization’s request.)
With the money, she’ll bring in two artists from Puerto Rico to complete the mural and teach a community workshop in mosaic-making. The artists, Celso Gonzalez and Roberto Biaggi, have worked together as CERO Design on similar projects for Taiwan’s mass transit system and numerous public spaces in Puerto Rico. A corporate sponsor, Little Harbor Resort, will provide accommodations, Vahue says, but she still needs to cover costs including materials, airfare and the artists’ fee. In addition to the Power2Give campaign, she plans to raise another $2,000 from donors or sponsors for landscaping, with the overall goal of giving the fire station a facelift that communicates its new function in the community.
“We’re starting to look more like a cultural center,” Vahue says.
Wendy Finklea, program director at VSA Florida, cited Power2Give’s policy of not penalizing campaigns that don’t reach their goal as a major part of the platform’s appeal. Her group, which promotes arts education for and by people with disabilities, is seeking $4,883 to organize a digital animation camp for students with autism spectrum disorder. The camp will be taught by 19-year-old animator Dani Bowman, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and open to students 22 years old or younger regardless of whether they have autism. Donors who give more than $50 will receive a picture of an animated character drawn by a student during the camp workshops, which Finklea says complement the abilities of young adults with autism as a focused and detail-oriented activity.
“Kids on the spectrum are very creative, as all kids are, and this camp will allow them the opportunity to express that creativity through animation,” she says.
To find out more, visit power2give.org/tampabay.