Running a Successful Giveaway

After one of the recent Hangtimes with Jack & Taryn, the lovely Mindy from the community pages here got in touch to ask me more about a regular competition/giveaway that I run on my Patreon.
So here it is! Any questions please do just ask.

Why did you decide to run a community giveaway?
I am an artist who teaches others how to draw & paint using both videos of my process & also in-depth written tutorials. I wanted a way to give my students & members an incentive to either tackle or to finish some of those projects that I had provided them with & so I set up an art challenge or exhibition/competition.

What were the details? How did you pick these details?
I’ve run 4 of these now & am about to start my 5th one next week. The first was in November 2017. Please see below for more info on how I run it.

How to promote the contest? What worked best? What would you do differently next time?
I let people know via newsletter that a contest is going to begin once I have a judge lined up & also a prize. The prizes average up to about £150 in value & are a mix of products that I have won or bought myself or have some from suppliers for me to use with my students. Each time we get a bit slicker but the key is to write clear concise rules & stick to them. A lot of people tried to enter any piece of artwork based on random images but said they had followed my methods. If I had strayed from my original ruling it would have defeated the object of me trying to prompt people to both utilise the content that I was providing plus ensuring that all work was being created specifically for the competition.

What was the reaction from your community?
People were excited! it was something different, something that they could belong to on a smaller scale to the other bigger competitions online that were often scary. In the private entry group everyone was encouraging each other too. It was great to see. The most difficult thing was me was to remain impartial. I am careful to keep a distance even when the entries are coming in and acknowledge receipt but hold off commenting until after the judging.

How did the entry process work?
I have run 4 of these now & am about to start my 5th one next week. The first was in November 2017 followed by 2 last year & another earlier this year. Here are the links to the entries:

Basically I provide each month reference photos (that I have taken), line drawings, video tutorials & written tutorials. The only stipulation that I make is that a piece has to be created by using one of the photos that I have provided exclusively on Patreon. They can use whatever medium or technique that they like but of course, it is always great for me to see them follow the methods that I am trying to teach them. I usually allow about 2 months for the entries to come in. They are submitted either via email but mainly to a private FB group set up just for the comps. Then I upload them all to a Dropbox folder, take off their names to keep the entries anonymous to the judge & give each one a number. I remind patrons & followers a few times along the way to prompt them to get their pieces finished.

How did you pick a winner?
After the closing date I give access to the folder to the Invited judge who is usually a master artist themselves & they go through, pick an overall winner & some highly commendeds. I encourage them to try to give feedback on all of the pieces as it is amazing how much a few kind words of encouragement from a respected, and often idolised fellow artist that they look up to can be. Then the winner is announced with a certificate both on Patreon, via newsletter & on social media & everyone is invited to view the galley of entries. And of course I mail off the prize. One went to New Zealand & twice to the US. Patreon did pick me up on the last one that I ran but I ensured them that I used to work in a place where I had to learn the rules of gambling & winning by chance in no way did this breach those conditions. I distanced myself from the judging & kept things as anonymous as possible.

How did this contest impact your Patreon page?
Oh it was fantastic! There were a few niggles on the first one but I ironed those out quickly. I use the same rules for each one & ensure they are posted clearly for everyone. The feedback from people was fantastic though. It was like waving a golden carrot or me actually being in the room with them giving them a reason to get creative. It is always great to enter an art contest as quite often it isn’t simply about the most technically proficient. Sometimes it is simply about what the judge chooses on that day so everyone is in with a chance. For most people it was a launchpad, their way of building up enough confidence to enter an art competition, no matter how low key the first one was. Some of these people have gone on to set up their own art pages online & enter bigger, more official contests. The reward is not just for those entering but also for me. I create galleries of their work in my online tutorials which will soon be going to print so they will also be published artists. Something which may seem so small to one person is a huge thing for others. It also gives me a reason for all of the hard work, and believe me, my patrons come first in my life. Some of them got in touch to say thank you for inspiring them, no matter if they won or not. The personal challenges that they each overcame was reward enough.

Would you do a contest again? What advice would you give someone wanting to do a similar contest? What would you change?
Yes, as mentioned my next one starts next week. This one is amazing as I am about to have my own set of products released by a leading art supplies company called Panpastel. So the prize this time will be one of the first sets to have rolled off the production line this week & again is worth over £100. This one has my name & my picture on it & is very special & without the support of my patrons I would not even have had a reason or incentive to create this product for them. It is the personal touch that they love. In a world where everything is online & everyone fights to be noticed I would like to think I have formed a quiet, safe but inspirational corner of creativity for my members where even the quietest ones gets recognition. My advice for anyone wanting to to something similar is be very careful with your rules. It cannot be a chance giveaway! If in doubt, check with Patreon. At the moment I am not changing anything part from maybe adding some smaller prizes or even just adding more certificates or badges for those that have taken part. Something that recognises continuous contribution & growth. We shall see!