Building a More Diverse Creative Ecosystem Through Forward Funds

What we've learned so far from our Forward Funds program, which connects charitable orgs with Kickstarter campaigns that align with their missions.

Building a More Diverse Creative Ecosystem Through Forward Funds

Just over a year ago we launched a pilot of our Forward Funds program at Kickstarter. Today I want to update you with some of the successes we’ve seen so far and share more with you, our creators and backers, about this impactful program.

As many of you know, crowdfunding can be a daunting endeavor and, while our platform is open to 15 creative categories, each one funds entirely differently. Where we might see Brandon Sanderson achieve $41 million to publish four new novels, a group of artists may achieve the same feeling of success by surpassing $100,000 to create artist-designed billboards in communities across the United States. These are reflective of the dynamics of varying creative industries.

At Kickstarter we can see these differences, not just between categories but also between the demographics of our creators. In 2020 we began work to consider the many ways we could provide impact for each of our creative communities and from that investigation, Forward Funds was born as a pilot program. Forward Funders are foundations, non-profits, and organizations that seek to support, at-scale, creative communities that align with their own visions and missions. Each funder makes a public financial commitment and then backs projects that align in the same way you and I do—one pledge at a time.

As we mark our first year of this program, we wanted to share with you both the thinking and the impact of one such fund, our Creative Capital x Skoll Creator Fund. When a creator launches a project, the very first folks they call upon for support are those closest to them—family and friends. But what does that look like for varying demographic communities?

. . .if their campaign reaches 20% of funding in the first 24 hours it is live, they have a 80% chance of success

If a creator comes from a systemically underfunded and under-cared for community, they are less likely to have that initial support and, perhaps, less likely to consider crowdfunding as a means to fund their idea. Pair that with the datapoint that if their campaign reaches 20% of funding in the first 24 hours that it's live, they have a 80% chance of success. We worked with Skoll and Creative Capital to devise a program that pledges 5-10% of a project’s goal weekly into campaigns run by Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx creators across all categories to help offset the challenges in a campaign's first day. Skoll generously provided $500,000 to the first year of this fund and Creative Capital offers educational and business resources tailored to creatives to any recipient.

Our goals were lofty! We hoped to:

  • Support at least 100 creators in year one
  • Have a success rate of 75%
  • Unlock 10x raised above the fund’s pledge total

While year one isn’t finished yet, we can report out to you on our six-month check-in and are thrilled to share:

  • The fund has supported 256 creators
  • The success rate of supported projects is at 82%
  • The fund has unlocked 18.9x the amount of money raised above the fund’s pledge total

The fund has supported billboards designed by Indigenous artists, placed on Indigenous lands to raise awareness for the Landback Movement, digitized and preserved the legacy of Lester Sloan, a Black photojournalist, helped create an animated film about an intolerance-fighting American Sikh, and funded 60 comics projects by diverse creators, to name a few. Each pledge helps to create more diverse creative ecosystems and we hope to carry this forward into a second year.

If you’re a creator and this is the first you’re hearing about this program, we encourage you to go to our Forward Funds page and take a closer look at the opportunities that are available. There will be more arriving over the next year— some category specific, some regionally specific, and others relative to specific demographics. While we continue to look for funding thought-partners in this work, we also welcome any organizations, foundations, or non-profits that would like to have a conversation about the program.

Our mission is to help bring creative projects to life and we see Forward Funds as a tool that both facilitates that long-term work and one that helps build a creative ecosystem that is reflective of how our global society looks.