Crowdfunding Theatre

Joe Shellard
May 17, 2015 · 4 min read

Fundraising, Kickstarter, and Data-Crunching

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Is it possible to raise investment for a theatre production through online donations? Over 500 UK productions have turned to Kickstarter to do just that, including American Psycho The Musical with Matt Smith and Infidel by David Baddiel.

Kickstarter encourages individuals to make small donations to a project online, offering a selection of ‘rewards’ depending on the size of the donation. Projects must nominate a ‘target goal’ — if they don’t achieve the target then they don’t receive any of the money. In total, £1.6 million has been raised for 533 UK theatre projects through Kickstarter from online donations — an average of £3000 per project. The secret to creating a good campaign is knowing what goal to choose, and which rewards to offer. My studies have shown that the most popular donation amount is £10, followed by £25 and £50. Click here to open an interactive graph and explore how this changes between categories.

Click here to explore the interactive graph

Thomas Cott wrote last week about various studies, including one at the Harvard Business School, which have examined the effect of crowdfunding on the arts. Professor Nanda writes that,

“Kickstarter has raised more than $1.5 billion for over 80,000 art projects … in fact, Kickstarter now raises more money for artistic projects each year than the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a government-run agency.”

Whilst there is a greater culture of philanthropy in the USA, and the NEA has a much smaller role than our Arts Council, I was keen to look at the state of crowdfunding in the UK given the current instability in public spending. I sought to understand which cities had been most effective at crowdfunding theatre projects, which producers had been most successful on Kickstarter, and which genres receive most donations.

Although it may seem that having higher reward amounts would lead to a more profitable campaign, my analysis has shown that on average campaigns which have an option to donate less than £5 are £30 more profitable overall than those which don’t. Certain genres are more lucrative on Kickstarter than others with musicals raising nearly twice as much as pantomimes.

The most successful city for crowdfunding theatre is Manchester, which achieves an average of 71% over their target amount. Kingston and Cardiff also over-achieve on their goals by 50% and 47% respectively.

Clearly some cities have been using crowdfunding more than others. London has raised over half a million pounds through crowdfunding across 186 projects, and Edinburgh is a close second raising £467,629 across 148 theatre projects.

Finally, I was surprised to see that there is no high-flying producer who has funded multiple shows on Kickstarter. Indeed no producer has successfully funded three projects on the site, and only 13 producers have managed two consecutive projects. Four producers have raised over £50,000 — but none have returned to Kickstarter for future projects.


Considering your own theatre crowdfunding campaign? A touring musical to Manchester, Kingston, Cardiff and Leicester will give you the best hope of success. A target of £4000 is achievable and you should expect most of your donations to be £50 or less — an ‘under £5’ option would be wise. That said, there are more campaigns going live daily and a huge reward awaits anyone prepared to seize the opportunity of online crowdfunding their next project. Best of luck to you.


This data only includes UK theatre projects which achieved at least 100% of their target by May 15th 2015 on Genre was determined by keyword frequency in project description. Some UK campaigns choose to fundraise in US dollars, these were converted into pounds for comparison.


If you’d like to explore the data further, please drop me a message.

Further reading

How Crowdfunding Kickstarts the Arts

Wisdom or Madness? Comparing Crowds with Expert Evaluation in Funding the Arts

What Crowdfunding Taught Me About Community

Proposed Concert Venue Turns to Crowdfunding for Capital

The Crowdfunding Festival That’s Creating a Startup City

Wind in the Willows musical raises £1m via online crowdfunding

Originally published on May 17, 2015.

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Joe Shellard discusses Theatre Production, Marketing and…

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