Funding Unsuccessful: Failure or reality check?

Last summer after a year of thinking about it, I began photographing the Twenty Bridges Project. Choosing film over digital for the slower pace it forced. The preciousness in that it’s not cheap so you must think about each frame. The trips to the lab. The waiting and anticipation. The hope that the images I created reflected what I saw in my mind. Film also offered the versatility of making really large prints compared with a typical 16 – 20 MB digital camera.

At the end of November I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to create a gallery exhibition, book and short film on the twenty key bridges connecting the communities on the Oregon coast. The goal was to raise $5,000 to cover the costs of film, processing, scanning and printing of the show, as these costs were not insignificant and tough to justify in a digital world. Finding a publisher for the book would come later.

19 people backed the project, with $1,005 and I owe each of them a huge thanks for their support. It really meant a lot to me. Particularly CASUDI who not only backed it but wrote an incredible post about it. And Jackie, Jill and Mila. And then there were the backers I didn’t know who discovered the project during the 40 day campaign. Like Michael from The Lighthouse Gallery in Astoria expressed interest in hosting the exhibition.

A Kickstarter campaign is not just an opportunity to crowd source funding for a project, but to test proof of concept. Raise the funds and you know you’re on the right track. Fail to do so and you know your concept either needs to change or killed. Or do you?

43% of Kickstarter projects are successful. There are some incredible success stories like this project for an aluminum iPhone dock. But I don’t think that all of the 57% who don’t make it are completely flawed. This one has about a week left and likely may not make it either.

CASUDI once wrote about a successful fail which is about one of her projects – much more ambitious than mine. Everyone who commented to me about Twenty Bridges had positive things to say. Made me think I was on the right track. So why did it fail?

I think in part that I didn’t have a broad enough community to reach out to, particularly in Oregon. It was centered in Oregon versus something with broader human interest appeal. Or maybe it wasn’t packaged as well as it could have been. There are any number of reasons one cannot know for certain.

Everyone is also faced with many competing priorities. Demands for our attention, time, hearts and money. Each of us must choose carefully what we support and accept that there are many things that we must pass on.

While I certainly hoped for a positive outcome, it’s been an interesting experience. Forced me to put something out there. To take a risk. To ask my community for support. Not something I found easy as I prefer helping to asking. I always tried to be careful about how often and to whom I shared the project to avoid coming across as a spammer. Just as I dislike being spammed or coerced into action. I believed and continue to believe that on a project such as this, it either elicits an emotional response and support. Or not. And one shouldn’t try too hard nor force it. Just accept the outcome.

Same goes for brands. It’s about respect and relevance. Shouting louder only pushes people farther away.

So what’s next for the Twenty Bridges project? Kill it? Proceed as is but on a much slower, self-funded pace? Change it moving from film to digital, saving significant costs? I’ve found the work so far a wonderful break from my daily focus on B2B technology. Diverse projects add color and perspective to others. Everything is interconnected and you don’t always know where.

So we’ll see where Twenty Bridges will go from here. Whether it continues or morphs into something entirely different. Certainly there are new bridges to build. New bridges to cross. Stay tuned!

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