10 Tips For Creating A Science Crowdfunding Campaign

By Justine Alford

Eva Rinaldi/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Eva Rinaldi/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Money’s not always easy to come by, whether that’s for a home, holiday, general life, or scientific research. But hopefully by now you’ve realised that Walacea – the UK’s first science crowdfunding platform – can help you with the latter.

It would be great if you could just launch your campaign page, sit back, relax, and watch the donations pour in. Realistically, though, you need to put some thought and effort into your campaign to make it the success that it has the potential to be. We want your project to come to life as much as you, so we’ve created this handy tip page to help you on your way and make your crowdfunding experience a positive one.

1: Remember Your Audience

One of the biggest mistakes you could make is forgetting who you’re pitching to. Yes, it’s scientific research, but you’re not trying to get a grant from a research council; you’re reaching out to the wider public. You want to get them interested, so don’t put people off by using complex language in your campaign page or posts on social media. If you can’t make people understand what you want to achieve, and why it’s important, then they won’t back it.

Strip your research down to its bare bones, cut out the jargon, and be engaging and enthusiastic. If you don’t come across as excited about your work, then your audience will struggle to be excited with you.

2: Think About Your Network

The public are a huge part of crowdfunding, but don’t forget about the people you already have at your fingertips: your academic network. Fellow academics and researchers will understand the woes of trying to secure research grants, and those working in the field will want to see progression, so you will likely find that this is a good place to gain support. Start putting the word out and see whether the communications department would consider featuring your project in a newsletter or perhaps on the institution’s website.

If you get some negative feedback from academics – don’t worry. Crowdfunding is a relatively new thing, so those who are more set in traditional ways may not like the idea. At the end of the day, you’re doing what you can to bring research that you think is important to fruition, and that’s a good thing.

3: Become Active On Social Media

Don’t shy away from social media: it’s billions of people connected around the world, so make the most of this opportunity. We’ve already discussed the importance of social media in an earlier post, and created handy guides to help you get started, so make sure you read those. But at a glance: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit are great ways for you to reach people and spread the word.

These platforms help things go viral, so start setting up accounts, following interesting and relevant people (journalists, fellow scientists, entrepreneurs etc), and thinking about how best to address your new audience. And keep up with it! If you don’t already have a big following on social media, you need some determination – followers won’t just flock in after a couple of posts; you need to be regularly interacting with people.

4: Create Shareable Content

Engagement is essential when it comes to science, and crowdfunding is no exception. One way you can do this is by creating content that people will want to share with their friends and followers. And now you have hopefully got on board with (at least the idea of) social media, the most basic thing you could do is post on a regular basis on these networks. Keep up with the news and link your research to that, and keep people updated on progress and challenges.

Something we also actively encourage you to do is to make at least one video, starting with one for your campaign page. Digital media is becoming increasingly popular, so you need to keep up with the trend and give people what they want. Maybe you can make fun videos about your work, showing people cool machines or specimens, or detailing some of your experimental disasters! That’s a great way to get people liking both you, and your project.

5: Reach Out To People

Social media is a great way to start engaging with people, but don’t be afraid to send out a few personal emails, too. For instance, it’s worth getting in touch with your institution’s communications officers because they might write a press release for you and send that out to their mailing lists, which would reach a large number of media professionals.

You may also want to look up some science bloggers who have large followings, and pitch your project to them. Flattery will get you far, of course, so tell them how great and interesting their blog is, and explain why you think your research would be appealing to their audience.

6: Encourage Discussion

Discussions and debates not only get people thinking, but they also help promote understanding, both of which are good outcomes for science. A great way to start an online discussion is to use Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. This is where a user will offer up their brains and expertise on a particular subject, in this case you and your research project, and other users can come along and ask questions.

It’s all public, so don’t put people down for asking “silly” questions, or get defensive towards people who may be less enthusiastic. Thank them for their interest and be as honest and open as you can; transparency breeds trust.

7: Aim For A Realistic Funding Goal

When thinking about your campaign, it’s tempting to just ask for the maximum amount needed to carry out your project and hope for the best. But we have actually found that smaller projects tend to be more successful, with the exception of those that have the potential to go viral because of their interest to the public.

If you ask for an unrealistic sum of money, people might be discouraged from donating because they think that the project won’t reach its target. Conversely, if it looks achievable, people will be more likely to dip into their pockets. So think about the minimum you need, because a project that successfully raises a goal of £2,000 looks a lot better than a project that raised only £2,000 of a £10,000 goal, even though the money is the same!

8: Think About Stretch Goals

A great way to keep the money flowing in after you’ve reached your goal is to propose stretch targets, or projects that you could do if you hit another funding milestone. This is also a brilliant way to promote engagement, because if you have a few different options, you could put these out to the public and find out which ones they’re most interested in. This helps donors feel like they’re really part of the research, rather than just a piggy bank.

9: Carefully Consider Your Rewards

Some people are happy to donate to a cause they believe in without getting anything in return, while others might want some bang for their buck. Think about what might appeal to you or your friends if you were donating to a campaign. For instance, for smaller donations, can you send out cool pictures that people could frame? At the other end of the spectrum, can you think of something really enticing and unique? Get personal here and make people feel special. Maybe a field trip to your research camp, or dinner with you and your colleagues.

10: One Last Simple Thing…

If we’ve left you feeling a bit overwhelmed with ideas, here’s an easy one that will take you all of 30 seconds: include your campaign page in your email signature! You probably send a huge number of emails each day, so this is a really simple way to alert people to your project.

Good luck!

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