Finucane and Smith on starting with the audience
We spoke with Moira Finucane on Finucane and Smith's stand-out MATCH campaign to take Glory Box to Cuba.
Finucane and Smith’s MATCH campaign was a stand-out from our 2014-15 MATCH funding round. After smashing their initial target of $10,000 in less than 24 hours they doubled their goal to $20,000. Impressive!
We spoke with one half of the dynamic duo – artist, writer and burlesque rock-star, Moira Finucane – about their strategy to raise funds to take their team of 13 to Cuba’s Havana International Theatre Festival.
Tell us about your general fundraising strategy.
For Finucane and Smith, the art and the sell are inextricably intertwined. The connection between art, authenticity, transgression, feminism, respect, treasuring, marketing and income, is for Finucane and Smith, a powerful one.
It drives ticket sales, loyalty, curiosity, audience and supporter engagement, and engagement by major festivals and institutions around the world.
It begins with art and active generosity, it turns into empowerment, agency and exchange/engagement and ends with bums on seats, great brand recognition, deeper engagement with audiences, artists and supporters.
So for this campaign, what strategy did you use?
We realised that we start with our audience, with an ethos of generosity and engagement; that is what they walk into – into work that places their experience centrally, that offers them a beautiful salon world within which to immerse; that is experiential, immersive, generous, kind, and challenging. We have always called our work ‘cherishing and challenging’ ‘charming and alarming’.
We never set out to shock our audience, we maintain that such a position arises from arrogance and ignorance, and yet our work is not dumbed down in any way, we offer audiences respect and provocation, we invite them in, we are not agit-prop we are not didactic or prescriptive, there is no ‘right way’ to receive our work, we are seductive and subversive and we trust their curiosity as humans to take what they will from it.
This same approach, using the MATCH project as an extreme accelerator, is now affecting and infecting the core of our fundraising. And opening up brand new pathways to viability. Generosity. Engagement. Response. Further opportunity to engage.
What was the most effective approach and why do you think it was successful?
Coming out of the MATCH campaign we have a manifesto of live, bespoke, hand-hewn, generous donor engagement, that does not put a price on their support, that recognises support and capacity to support will grow and change, rise and fall over time, that holds dear and close long term supporters whilst engaging new major supporters, and values each donation/in-kind contribution highly.
It is something all the artists have become involved in and dovetails with Finucane and Smith’s political and artistic aims of agency, humanity and human rights.
The art infects the sell the sell infects the art. Integrity, authenticity, humour and delivery.
And we did that across Pozible, Facebook, by email, through a live and tangible event (Glory Box La Revolucion in Melbourne) and through a constant six month engagement with audiences, artists, and supporters around Glory Box and its next revolution and evolution.
We continued raising funds for an extension of the project (an artist’s residency in Norway, the creation of two new works for a major Festival in Slovenia, a residency for Day of the Dead in Mexico) after MATCH was finished. Our live event, which contributed further funds for this extended program occurred in August 2015.
Did your strategy change during the course of the campaign?
It did not so much change as develop. The MATCH funding was a jumbo match to a tinder pile (with those fantastic kerosene fire starters thrown in for extra burn!).
We quickly realised as we developed the campaign and talked to our supporters, that we needed a virtual and a live element to create engagement, investment and partnership, so we developed a multifaceted approach where people could read, watch and experience the campaign both online and through social media, and live hand-made up close and personal.
And that the virtual and the tangible needed to dovetail and feel the same. Personal, direct and authentic.
It was the first time we had ever asked some of our most cherished supporters for actual cash donations, and the response and the growth of engagement and partnership around the vision and the outcome and the growth of our endeavour was nothing short of astonishing.
The reviews from our live event Glory Box La Revolucion clearly reflected the plan.
What advice would you give to other artists looking to use crowdfunding?
Glory Box to Cuba ignited the imagination of both the public, media and our supporters. The choice of project for MATCH and crowdfunding was absolutely critical.
Connecting it to a live season in Melbourne meant the achievement and excitement around being the very first Australian theatre company to be invited to the Havana International Theatre Festival received widespread attention, both from our supporters and new audience members.
Taking that news to Cuba, that we were there because of the generosity and support of ‘the people’ in Australia, added much to their appreciation of the work and of our endeavour.
The crowdfunding platform proved to be exciting and engaging for supporters. Pozible is by and large engaging and very easy to drive. It seems very important that crowdfunding achieves more than an artist to artist ask, in lieu of other forms of funding or support.
Artist to artist support is both vital and vibrant and forms part of an arts community and exchange, but small donations with a large servicing element must only form a small part of a campaign, otherwise the work associated with the rewards is huge and disproportionate.
So in my view of at least this first campaign, crowdfunding needs to form part of a larger multifaceted campaign that includes live engagement, direct contact, possible sponsorship avenues and DGR status access (ideally). I also think one can’t go back to this well too often, or the reward for effort will be low. Managing and delivery of rewards, is also another challenge.
Did this experience improve your understanding of your supporters and how you communicate to them?
Our supporters are our major partners in adventure. They are our major patrons.
The pathway for the student who comes and sees the work and dreams of becoming part of the Finucane and Smith experience, and ends up four years later, sharing that generosity and joy with Indigenous artists in Tennant Creek, is fundamentally the same pathway of the hotelier or major developer that falls in love with the world and the agency the work makes them feel, and becomes a treasured part of the realisation of that works through tens of thousands of dollars of support.
One of the aims of MATCH is to support artists to find new donors. Were you able to extend your support network?
New donors, new audience members, new supporters, new engagers. Glory Box to Cuba opened all of those doors.
And the flow on into 2016 and into the end of year fundraiser where extraordinary artists like Kate Ceberano were entranced by Glory Box La Revolucion, and extraordinary people like the country hallkeeper who sent us a $50 cheque after the Paris attacks because “you do what you can, and you do it for those who can’t, don’t you ever forget it” are now supporting our fundraising efforts.
What words would you use to describe your MATCH experience?
Breathtaking. Inspiring. Fuelling. The Fire. Or better still, let the Cubans have the last word:
“The vitality of the show exceeded the limits of theatricality and spectacle… Glory Box changed all that before were fears, taboos and restrictions on the personal or artistic into “total art, total love and total freedom.” – Cuba Tribune