Crowdfunding Your Workshop | Interview with Vanessa Burciaga
1. What motivated you to take a workshop and why did you pick Momenta?
I had never attended a photography workshop and had been out of the classroom since 2011. When searching for a workshop, I wanted to pick something that was, first off, affordable, and also geared toward something that would benefit me professionally. I work for a non-profit, and frequently work jobs for NPOs where I am not paid.
Using photography to grow an NPO is vital, and I would love for that to be my job. The business-focused Sunday was a big motivator for choosing Momenta. Aside from price and theme, I was impressed with the achievements of the instructors and was really motivated to learn more from them, about them, and hopefully meet a lot of like-minded individuals that I could continue to network with.
2. How did you decide to use crowdfunding to pay for this workshop?
Originally, I wanted to attend Project Los Angeles. Most importantly, attending Project Los Angeles would have been less costly due to my having family in the area. I would have gone into the workshop knowing people in the area, and I would have been able to cut the lodging cost. Since getting the money together in time for Los Angeles was not an option for me, I chose to attend Project New Orleans instead.
I was nervous and did not immediately consider crowdfunding. My first thought was, can I reach out to major organizations that I have worked with in the past for funding? One of them did not respond, and the other one was not giving me feedback. One day I got a call from my friend Gloria, letting me know that the NP Newspaper that I collaborate with would be helping me in some way. This was a significant motivator to try and figure out how to attend this event, and not go flat broke for a month after.
I consulted with my peers, and I got a few people to encourage me to start a crowdfunding page. I have experience with crowdfunding, but never thought I would use it to ask for money for myself. I shared my campaign every two or three days so as not to become annoying. I kept my photos fresh on the page, so I was not constantly sharing the same looking post.
3. What surprised you most the experience of setting up and running the campaign?
I was really surprised at how many people were willing to assist me on this trip. In addition to setting up the page, I reached out to former clients and certain friends via email, explaining my mission, showing some work samples and asking for assistance. I was surprised at how nicely that ended up working out!
On my crowdfunding page, I made options available for people to pre-purchase services for this year at a discounted rate. I was happy that people took advantage of that incentive, and I was surprised for how many people donated enough for a service and noted that they did not want me to work for it, but just to take the donation.
4. What was the best lesson you took away from crowdfunding?
You won’t achieve your goal if you don’t try, and don’t give it your all. Having a campaign is one thing, anyone can make a page, but marketing yourself, telling your story, and believing in yourself will offer you a lot of opportunities in life.
5. What mistake would you avoid repeating if you were to run such a campaign again?
I waited until the last minute. I started crowdfunding two months before my departure. Additionally, Momenta provides discount opportunities that I did not take advantage of. With proper planning, maybe I could have applied for one of those opportunities.
6. What piece of advice would you give a potential student who would like to crowdfund for a workshop with Momenta?
Start early. Be transparent–tell your story. Don’t forget to budget for food, lodging, car, airfare, etc. Have a backup plan. You don’t want to get part of the way toward your goal and not be able to complete the difference on your own. I am an Uber driver- if it came down to it, I may have had to break some rules and Uber 100 hours the week before I left.
Vanessa Burciaga’s Biography:
Vanessa Burciaga (Bly), is a photojournalist and teaching artist based in Chicago, IL. Vanessa works with students in the Back of the Yards community, empowering them to use their cameras to tell their stories.
She is a freelance contributor to The Gate News, where she works to enhance the visual voice of an underserved Chicago neighborhood. In all her work, she strives to showcase the beauty in places that are continually being overshadowed by stereotypical misconceptions.
See Vanessa’s work: