Show Me the Money: National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) "Kickstarting" Crowdsourced Project Funding
Ithaca, NY In the hallways and watering holes around any meeting, conference or informal gathering of friends and colleagues groups of like-minded individuals can be found with their heads together, dreaming up pie-in-the-sky ideas. Passionate participants in ad hoc conversations where these great ideas are hatched go back to their day jobs with every intention of making time to work on "the next big thing." More often than not numerous obligations keep them from following through. We’ve all been there.
Time and resources are required to make anything happen as the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Outreach Working Group [link: http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/ndsa/] has learned. Enter Kickstarter [link: http://www.kickstarter.com/], a self-styled cultural institution started by a waiter and a rock critic who believed that great ideas could be bootstrapped into reality with a lightweight process that highlighted concepts and offered anyone the opportunity to buy in. Every Kickstarter project is a story of how a creative idea came into being, usually with a homemade, “anti-commercial” starring real people. Kickstarter project participants, funders and cheerleaders get to be part of each successful venture. To date Kickstarter has matched 1.45 million project backers with 18,000 successfully funded projects totaling more than $150 million in funding.
Preservation and access, kicked up a notch
It’s a natural fit to put more than 100 NDSA member organizations and individuals together with Kickstarter to help “fund and follow creativity” with an emphasis on boosting projects that focus on advancing the capacity to preserve our nation's digital resources.
The folks at Kickstarter agree and recently set up an NDSA Curator page with the Outreach Working Group [link: http://www.kickstarter.com/NDSA] on their web site. Kickstarter curated pages allow institutions and, organizations to highlight projects of their own or those that align with their mission.
A group of NDSA volunteers now scour Kickstarter each week, select, and then feature projects that support the NDSA mission to establish, maintain, and advance the capacity to preserve our nation's digital resources for the benefit of present and future generations. NDSA Outreach Group curators broadcast information about these innovative and pertinent projects through their communications channels. You can help by circulating information about NDSA-curated Kickstarter projects through your own social media channels.
Kickstarter is not the first entity to propose an artist-centered, user-supported funding model (see the comments in this [link: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/using-kickstarter-to-fund-a-small-business/?scp=1&sq=kickstarter&st=nyt] NY Timesblog post), but they have managed to capture a zeitgeist where the challenges of funding creative projects have coalesced with a latent consumer desire to support [link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/17/fashion/17etsy.html] unique products and experiences.
While Kickstarter has steadfastly maintained its focus on the worlds of music, film, art, technology and other creative fields, its crowdsourced and microfinanced funding model can easily be adapted to the library, archive and museum sectors to support projects that are in the public interest in an era of shrinking budgets.
By the way, one of the NDSA-curated projects, “Rockland County Journal Digital: The Edward Hopper Years” [link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nyacklibrary/rockland-county-journal-digital-the-edward-hopper?ref=card] is a local library effort to preserve and highlight village of Nyack historic newspapers from the years when artist Edward Hopper lived there. These resources will become part of a Hudson Valley digital archive hosted by the Southeast New York Library Resources Council. This project is 39% funded with 45 days left to gather 100% funding. Check it out and help promote this and other worthy Kickstarter efforts that are in sync with NDSA goals.
NDSA volunteer curators have already noticed a scarcity of:
• projects specifically related to preservation, archiving or access issues;
• projects that focus on discrete pieces of technical development related to preservation, archiving or access issues
This is an ideal time to leverage Kickstarter to support exploratory NDSA preservation, archiving or access projects. Look around your organization or working group and see if there are ideas that could be matched with funding to kick start them into reality. Whether you offer a new project, financial support or encouragement, it’s easy to register at Kickstarter and get busy on “the next big thing.”
And please let NDSA Outreach know if you notice NDSA-friendly Kickstarter projects that could use “cheerleading.”