October 23rd, 2008

Steven Brust

21st Century Business Models for Artists (8) - Dividing Donations

There were a few questions we left unanswered yesterday that we’ll look at again today in more depth, though we don’t promise not to leave you with different questions at the end. Donations received by a single artist working on a single project are easy to allocate. The potential for complication rises swiftly when you have a group of collaborators with whom to divide donation income.

One method we’re contemplating for our project we fondly refer to as “the ticky box method”. For this to work, the order of operations is crucial; a fan presented with even a simple list before donating is more likely to be discouraged from completing the process. Instead, you accept the donation as a general, unallocated donation, but after the transaction is complete the donator is presented with the option to specify to which part (or person) of the project they want their money to go. The initial menu options should be simple, as broad categories as possible; a drop-down menu with more options could be incorporated to list specific authors under the “Writers” category, for example.

What about the funds that stay general and don’t get allocated? Well, if you have a small group of collaborators in a fairly closed-circle creative environment, it might be that a simple percentage allocation per time period is the option to choose. Through vote, consensus, parley, or whatever other method you prefer to use in making group decisions, decide which group members get how much percentage of, say, monthly donations. Then divide up the donation income each month based on those calculations. Shadow Unit has not only done this, they’ve publicized their monthly donation income.

But, you say, I have an unwieldy large group of individualistic artistic collaborators from different genres working together, how do I divide the general donation income among those?

A series of semi-arbitrary decisions, we say. Depending on how much your project blurs the lines between artist and audience, the first question to answer is what defines a contributor to your project? Which contributions “count” for the purpose of earning income?

On one extreme end, the central creative team keeps all non-specified donations for project maintenance, growth, and personal income. Any sharing of this money is done at their discretion and whim. At the other end, anything made above and beyond site maintenance is equally shared among everyone defined as a contributor. Most people are going to pick an option that falls somewhere in-between these two extremes. It helps to remember that finding your middle road will involve yet more subjective judgments on how contributions are measured and weighed for worth. The more subjective judgments govern, the higher the risk for hurt feelings among the collaborators. Tune in tomorrow where we’ll explore some of the options for measuring contributions to a project and how to manage the artistic temperaments involved.

Other posts:

The Artist Business Models series is based on a paper written by Reesa Brown and Kit O’Connell, with assistance from Steven Brust, Ken Brown, Deborah Ibarra, and many others. At the close of the series, the entire business model paper will be posted to Continuous Labs. The business model paper and blog posts are released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 license.

Originally published at Words Words Words. Please leave any comments there.

Steven Brust

21st Century Business Models for Artists (8) – Dividing Donations

There were a few questions we left unanswered yesterday that we’ll look at again today in more depth, though we don’t promise not to leave you with different questions at the end. Donations received by a single artist working on a single project are easy to allocate. The potential for complication rises swiftly when you have a group of collaborators with whom to divide donation income.

One method we’re contemplating for our project we fondly refer to as “the ticky box method”. For this to work, the order of operations is crucial; a fan presented with even a simple list before donating is more likely to be discouraged from completing the process. Instead, you accept the donation as a general, unallocated donation, but after the transaction is complete the donator is presented with the option to specify to which part (or person) of the project they want their money to go. The initial menu options should be simple, as broad categories as possible; a drop-down menu with more options could be incorporated to list specific authors under the “Writers” category, for example.

What about the funds that stay general and don’t get allocated? Well, if you have a small group of collaborators in a fairly closed-circle creative environment, it might be that a simple percentage allocation per time period is the option to choose. Through vote, consensus, parley, or whatever other method you prefer to use in making group decisions, decide which group members get how much percentage of, say, monthly donations. Then divide up the donation income each month based on those calculations. Shadow Unit has not only done this, they’ve publicized their monthly donation income.

But, you say, I have an unwieldy large group of individualistic artistic collaborators from different genres working together, how do I divide the general donation income among those?

A series of semi-arbitrary decisions, we say. Depending on how much your project blurs the lines between artist and audience, the first question to answer is what defines a contributor to your project? Which contributions “count” for the purpose of earning income?

On one extreme end, the central creative team keeps all non-specified donations for project maintenance, growth, and personal income. Any sharing of this money is done at their discretion and whim. At the other end, anything made above and beyond site maintenance is equally shared among everyone defined as a contributor. Most people are going to pick an option that falls somewhere in-between these two extremes. It helps to remember that finding your middle road will involve yet more subjective judgments on how contributions are measured and weighed for worth. The more subjective judgments govern, the higher the risk for hurt feelings among the collaborators. Tune in tomorrow where we’ll explore some of the options for measuring contributions to a project and how to manage the artistic temperaments involved.

Other posts:

The Artist Business Models series is based on a paper written by Reesa Brown and Kit O’Connell, with assistance from Steven Brust, Ken Brown, Deborah Ibarra, and many others. At the close of the series, the entire business model paper will be posted to Continuous Labs. The business model paper and blog posts are released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 license.

Originally published at Words Words Words. Please leave any comments there.