Crowdfunding is an exciting way to raise funding for projects. We started Crowd.Science to help scientists use this method to fund their work and since starting, we have learnt a few best practices.
Our biggest and most important piece of advice is: think about who your audience is and what their motivations will be for supporting your research. This will help you decide how to write your campaign page. We can help you promote your campaign through our channels; however, it is important to note that most of your backers will come from your network, not ours. It is really important that you can find a way to motivate your own community to get behind you. It is easier to get someone who knows you to support your project, than someone who doesn’t. Therefore, we focus our activities on helping you engage your network and offering guidance around this.
This page explains the key areas you need to prepare in order to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. To get the ball rolling we suggest you start by drafting the campaign page main text and sending it over to us. Once we have your content, we set up a draft campaign and work with you to get everything finalised before we make your campaign live. Check out the “Crowdfunding Tips” section of our blog for more helpful advice, too.
Step 1 – Writing the Campaign Page
The bullet points below are suggestions of what to include in your campaign page. Each section should only be a few short paragraphs. Please try to keep language simple and avoid jargon.
- Introduce the area that you are conducting your project in, explaining a bit about what we know and what we don’t yet know
- Explain how your work will help add to what we know
- Explain why you believe this project is important
- Talk about what the outcomes of the project may be
- Please outline the budget you need to do the project and how this money will be spent. We recommend you start with outlining the budget for phase 1 of the project and initially try to raise sums for this phase (this is for internal use).
- Provide a brief bio about yourself and any other team members including qualifications and publications.
- Provide us with some images related to your research, this might be you in the lab/field, a nice picture from a microscope or an image of something you study.
Step 2 – The Thank you Gifts
One of our goals as a company is to help engage the public in science. We have found that people are interested in attending talks about the results of studies they have backed. We encourage scientists who crowdfund with us to offer seminars as an incentive, both live and online. Our vision is to give Crowd.Science backers lots of interesting experiences that they can tell their friends about and invite their friends to. That said, the incentives you feel comfortable offering are very much up to you. We also are aware of the logistics involved in sending out perks, so if you would like us to help process these we can; however, the costs of processing the perks would need to be covered by the money you raise. We strongly advise you use incentives as they do encourage people to pledge more, and the seminar perks are great for engaging people in science. Below are some suggested incentives and price ranges:
Just because we like your project £3 We believe a low-level perk is really important as it gives people the opportunity to give your project a bit of a thumbs up without having to spend too much money.
Online Seminar – £15 So far on Crowd.Science people have pledged from over 50 different countries. We have also discovered that people are very interested in learning about research, so the online seminar helps leverage funding from people across the globe who are interested in what you do.
Image related to the study that can be sent as thank you postcard and online seminar – £20 This is a simple way of thanking your backers and generating funds for your research.
Live Seminar – £25 This is an event people can attend and make an evening of. We had a seminar for the people who backed a groundbreaking LSD research project. 300 people attended, a young intelligent crowd who asked lots of really good questions; some clearly had a scientific background. We recommend that all researchers offer this perk. It could just be a talk in the pub if you only have a small crowd but it is a useful exercise in public speaking. It’s exciting to attend a talk on research you have backed!
Seminar and drinks – £50 This gives people the opportunity to spend a bit more on your study, and you can give them a drinks token at the venue you use.
Image related to the study that is a more official print for framing and hanging on the wall- £60 plus postage
Framed image related to the study – £70 plus postage
Artwork signed by researchers £100 We have found that backers will sometimes pledge double the amount for a piece of artwork that is signed by the scientists.
Dinner party with the scientist £200 – £2000 This option is a nice opportunity for people who are passionate about science to support research as well as have the opportunity to socialise with the researcher. Some celebrity scientists can price this perk quite high, however if you are not a celebrity scientist we would suggest that you price this quite moderately.
Tour of the lab for two people – £250 – £1,000 This is a nice opportunity for people to see places that they usually do not have access to and to learn a bit more about your research in general. Also, remember if people do go for this option it will be your opportunity to meet them and to encourage them to become fans of your work, which may mean they will back you again in future.
Ecology field trip £1,000 – £5,000 (best not to price these too high as young people who are interested in an adventure should not be priced out) We know there are ecologists in all kinds of amazing places doing really cool research, yet for most of us a safari trip or whale watching trip will often be lead by people who have little scientific knowledge. Providing backers the opportunity to come and learn directly from you in the field is hugely exciting for many and is an excellent way of raising money for research.
Business Sponsorship – £1,000-£100,000 This will very much depend on the project and attracting a sponsor will probably take quite a bit of work from your end. It is very unlikely that business will just pledge several thousand to support you without you contacted them first and warming them up. When approaching businesses think about what the potential benefits are for them. It is a good idea to warm up some leads prior to launching if you think your project may be appealing to some businesses.
Once you have decided on your incentives please send them over to us in a Word doc.
Step 3 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing is something many scientists have little experience with but fear not, it’s fairly logical as long as you do some planning. The people who are most likely to back you first are your friends and family and it is important to get them on board, first asking them as nicely as possible to make a pledge on day 1. Having pledges on your first day will give you confidence to keep posting about your research and, if the people who support you share the project through social network channels, this will help spread the word and give your project momentum. Friends and family can only get you so far though and in order to get enough people to your page, you need to reach out to communities who are likely to find your research interesting and want it to happen.
We have found that other scientists have backed research on Crowd.Science, in addition to people who care about a particular issue, and both are likely to share the project with their peers.
Remember to think about who your target audience is and where they hang out online. Do they read a certain blog/magazine/paper, and if so, who are the writers? If you provide us with a list of people you wish to contact we will help you with a press release and we may be able to get their contact details or contact them on your behalf as our press list is continually growing.
Definitely don’t underestimate the marketing side; we have seen really great projects fail to raise sufficient funds not because they’re not worthy projects that people care about, but because communities who are interested in their research simply have not been reached through the team’s communications strategy. So make sure that you think about who you need to reach and the avenues you can use to reach them. Facebook and Twitter are important, but also getting featured in newsletters and blog posts will give your campaign a boost.
There are all kinds of reasons why businesses might support your research, from CSR, exposure or perhaps R&D. Generally, to get support from a business you need to find a way to get a meeting with them and work out why they may be interested. There are all kinds of avenues you can explore, do they have a CSR budget, can you talk to a member of the team to see if they support research and the type of projects they support. Can you get an introduction to a decision maker at the business?
Interestingly, we’ve found that most of the projects who attract one business sponsor, tend to then attract 3-4 more. The first one is certainly the hardest, but really can open up doors for getting more funding from businesses. The pledges we have seen from businesses so far range from £1,000 to £50,000.
Businesses also may offer the equipment you need, so this is another great way to engage their support.
There are individuals and trusts who support scientific research as you are probably aware! If you know the names of philanthropists who fund research in your area, we can approach them on your behalf or with you to see if they would consider matched funding your project.
Step 4- The Video
This should be a short clip, no more than 3 minutes. The most important thing is to show people how passionate you are about your research and explain why it is important. It’s an opportunity for you to inspire potential backers about the incredible research you are doing and encourage them to be a part of it by supporting your project. It is your opportunity to be creative, however if you want to keep it simple below is a format to get you started.
- Introduce yourself and team in a friendly way
- Explain what you are trying to solve and why this is important
- Comment on why this research is important to you showing your passion (the more passion and enthusiasm you show, the more engaging this will be to new audiences)
- Explain what you hope to find out and include images and music if possible
- If you can it’s effective to get other people who are passionate about your research to say a line or two in the video to endorse what you are doing.
- Don’t be afraid to add a bit of blue sky thinking to the video highlighting what you hope this research could lead to with a few excellent, powerful sentences. People want to understand the vision.
Step 5- How much can you raise?
This will largely depend on how efficiently you can communicate your idea, who you engage and how well you plan the campaign and how effective your promotional activities are. There are two key elements to crowdfunding success, in our opinion:
Resonance – when people/businesses/philanthropists reach your page, they are inspired and intrigued by your research questions and your incentives appeal, so they make a pledge.
Volume of traffic – this is through you reaching out to people to help you promote your project and through a knock-on effect of other people/media sharing your project. We see a correlation between traffic and pledges on all our projects. The main ways to get traffic to your page are you promoting to your network, other people from your network promoting your project your behalf, the media covering your project and attracting super backers (people/organisations with big networks who decide to regularly share your project because they want it to raise the funds it needs). Finding superbackers is a combination of luck and effectively promoting to lots of people that leads to the project getting on a superbackers radar!
So how much can be raised…
Our prediction is that most scientists can raise at least £3k if they push their campaign to their own networks. This can be raised through their immediate network and communities that they are affiliated with. To raise more than £3k, takes more planning. You are likely to require a few high profile people or organisations with relatively large networks on board and must be prepared to regularly tweet/post about the project. Anything above £10k we recommend that you only embark on if you have an established network behind you, some large contributions lined up or you have a media strategy and lots of confirmed PR for when you launch.
A final word…
At Crowd.Science we do our very best to help you promote your projects and think about the best people to target. We pitch top projects to the journalists we have built a relationship with over the years. We are also always open to ideas of ways we can help you with your campaigns. We are an early stage business and your success is very much our success, so each project we launch we do take very seriously.
Our mission is to create a large network of people, businesses and philanthropists poised to back interesting research that they care about. To make this dream a reality we need to work with inspirational scientists just like you who will promote their research and help build a community of science funders!