Reading FundSpace is the University’s bespoke crowdfunding platform which has been developed for our students and staff to support them in the creation and delivery of their unique and engaging fundraising projects. Discover how alumni and supporters are helping students raise project funds and gain crucial career skills.
Crowdfunding is when a project or a cause is funded by a large number of people each contributing a small amount of money.
Nicola Botha, Year 3 Film and Theatre undergraduate student, shares how instrumental Reading FundSpace has been during her studies. She said: “It’s incredible. There’s no way we could have done so much without it. I wish we could continue using it after university.”
FundSpace was launched in 2018 to help student sports clubs and societies secure crowdfunding for equipment and events. Since then it has gained traction in various other areas. Academics use it to raise research funding, and it is also used for innovative projects such as the University of Reading Globe Trail Project, an art-education project aiming to transform our understanding of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and its impact.
FundSpace is the only crowdfunding platform which enables University of Reading students’ campaigns to benefit from match funding – which is only possible due to the support of donations from our University alumni and supporters.
Breaking new ground
In 2022 FundSpace extended its reach again to support curriculum-related student activity. Dr Dominic Lees, Associate Professor of Filmmaking, spearheaded a move to use it to allow students to raise funds for their film, theatre and television projects.
Dr Lees saw that, as well as allowing students to raise much needed funds for their projects, the platform would also provide practical experience of fundraising in the creative world. The result has been the platform’s busiest year yet with 19 projects across the University’s film, theatre and television programmes.
As part of their programme modules, students receive guidance on the benefits of engaging external supporters in their work. They are helped with preparing their crowdfunding pitches and are given fundraising support throughout their projects.
FundSpace in action
Nicola had worked on a number of filmmaking projects before using the platform so she had a clear understanding of just how challenging creating a film on a very low budget can be. She decided to use FundSpace to raise funds for her Year 2 Creative Screen Practice coursework. She said:
“I’m really happy with FundSpace – we raised £1000 in January 2023. It made a huge difference to our production, as well as being a great practical learning experience.”
FundSpace made that difference in several ways. Nicola’s film, Picking Flowers in the Meadow – about a bereaved woman trapped in a cult – required specific locations and costumes that had to be paid for. Further costs arose from the need to get cast and crew to those locations and to provide a good working environment for them while on-set or location.
More – and better
In all these areas, without FundSpace, Nicola would have had to curtail her ambitions for the film. The crowdfunding finance allowed for more and better locations, matching costumes for principal characters (these were a key feature of the drama) and the reimbursement of cast and crew travel costs.
She was also able to provide a welcoming on-set environment with food and drink, and space to socialise and discuss the project between shots. This was something that was important with actors and crew working 11-hour days.
Looking beyond the funds it brought into her project, Nicola has warm words for the platform itself. She said: “It’s been great to get this practical experience. I’d never run a crowdfunder before, but now, as well as getting additional funding for my film, I have hands-on experience with crowdfunding.
“I now understand how crowdfunding works and how to budget around it. These are essential career skills in the creative world.”
The benefit of Reading FundSpace is that it enables match funding. This is available entirely due to the generosity of donors – many of whom are Reading alumni – who match the first £200 raised, to kickstart the fundraising. It makes FundSpace unique, allows students to plan and execute more challenging projects, and can make a huge difference to their education and future prospects.
Nicola commented: “This can be make or break for some projects.”
Dr Lees summed up, “The University’s crowdfunding facility has proved a hugely important learning opportunity for students in the department of Film, Theatre and Television, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Student film producers have experienced the process of sourcing finance for their module project work, managing their film budgets and maintaining responsible relationships with their investors. The quality of students’ creative work has visibly improved as a result of crowdfunding.”