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Crowdsourcing: In Search of Funding for the Arts and Business

04/29/2013 07:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2013

Crowdsourcing is in the news lately because a certain Hollywood type raised 1.5 million in a day for his upcoming film. But indie artists have been using different sites such as kickstarter and indiegogo for years to help raise funds for their projects. Not everyone can get a Hollywood studio behind their work and for many, this is how they get their work created and/or distributed.

Some indie filmmakers have been upset with Zach Braff as they feel he is taking part of "their" pie. But that is not really how it works. Mr. Braff is not taking anything away from other artists by raising money in such a way. There is not a global fundraising bucket that runs out because people are dipping into it. And actually, he should be thought of as inspiring others in a "pay-it-forward" type of way by giving great advice to other indies in how he set up his project. One must remember that Braff is not a regular "Hollywood" type. He started as an indie. His first film Garden State was an indie film and he wants to maintain control of his new film which means even he can't get the correct funding for it without giving up control.

But is this all that new? Reaching out to the masses to accomplish something? Didn't Jerry Lewis do it for years on television for MDA? Don't television ministers do it to gain money for their churches? Now every walk, run, bike ride has online ways to give money.

No, crowdsourcing isn't new. I think it's only new in how people are utilizing it. A good friend of mine has had an amazing cupcake business for years and has finally decided to open a storefront and grow her business. She took to indiegogo herself to raise funds to get her doors open.

Broadway producer Ken Davenport produced a revival of the musical Godspell in 2011 and decided to let anyone and everyone be an investor. People jumped at the chance. And why? Because many people wanted that opportunity to see their name associated with something bigger and different than their day-to-day life.

A few years ago I actually invested in a Broadway show. Not because I was dying to be a producer, but because I had an affinity for that particular show and because the title had come into my world three different times so I felt the universe was attempting to tell me something. But being in the background... assisting in seeing something take off -- no greater feeling.

Crowdsourcing is about getting your particular project to the right people... at the right time. Yes, many times it is a way to get those that know you personally involved by asking for ten bucks from each of them -- but it can go beyond that as well. I love when people use creative ways to attack an adverse situation: and if you scroll through and look at some of the perks listed on many on the sites... you will see creativity at its finest. There are those out there (myself included) that actually donate to complete strangers because something in the project speaks to them. I may not be able to give a fortune, but every bit helps when it comes to seeing a project to fruition. Back to Braff: he is smart. He has a following and a platform and has used it to its fullest to fund his film. Who can argue with that?

I love the indie community and admire people who take chances and go for their dream. I interview many of them and join in on forums in certain arts websites about people's attempt to grab a piece of that amazing dream. But I don't believe in being upset with someone else who succeeds in accomplishing their goal. I stick to my "pay-it-forward" mindset and look for those projects that speak to me, that may be having difficulty meeting their goals and try in my own way to help them get one step closer.

Build your own crowd. Give them incentives to want to be a source of funding. And let your personality shine through when posting it online. Mr. Braff has definitely done just that.