How does crowdfunding work?

Jai Ranganathan

Bank vault
The riches in this bank vault can be yours, if you know the principles of crowdfunding.

So, planning for your crowdfunding campaign in the #SciFund Challenge starts next week! Have you signed up yet? Wait, how does this whole crowdfunding thing work again? How exactly do you go about running a campaign over the internet to fund your research? Let’s review!

First off, if you haven’t seen a crowdfunding campaign yet, check out the successfully-funded Quail Diaries.

Crowdfunding campaigns have seven elements.

1. A platform. #SciFund Challenge campaigns will be running on RocketHub, which will be hosting the campaigns, helping to promote them, and processing credit card payments. A #SciFund Challenge section on RocketHub will be added in the weeks to come and projects will be submitted to RocketHub at the end of October.

2. A dollar target for the campaign. You should note that the lower the overall target, the easier it will be to hit it, as RocketHub makes clear. Of course, you also need enough money to actually do your research. We are suggesting that #SciFund campaigns shoot for a number in the hundreds to low thousands of dollars, a target that is achievable for first-time campaigns. Note: if you raise more than your target, you get to keep the extra! There are two additional things you’ll have to factor in when coming up with a target. First, RocketHub will take eight percent of the total for campaigns that hit their target (if you don’t make your target, then it’s twelve percent). Second, a critical component of crowdfunding campaigns is rewards going to contributors (more on that below) and the cost of those rewards needs to be incorporated into the target.

3. A campaign length. #SciFund Challenge campaigns will be running from November 1-December 15. You will have to hit your dollar target within this period.

4. A compelling story. The most essential part of a crowdfunding campaign is a compelling story. You need to convince people, who aren’t in your discipline, that your research matters – maybe that it will even change the world (in a small way). The Quail Diaries project, mentioned above, provides a great example of a very compelling story. Now, coming up with a jargon-free and compelling narrative about your research isn’t easy for many scientists. But fear not! Science-outreach experts will be shortly jumping in on this blog to advise you how to craft such a story.

5. A video. A central element of a successful crowdfunding campaign is a two to three minute video that describes the project and persuades viewers to contribute. What if you have never put a video together before? Well, now is the time to learn!  Later on this week, we’ll be providing some instruction on the elements of video production and how you should think about crafting your video.

6. Rewards. An essential piece to a crowdfunding campaign is rewards to contributors at various suggested donation levels. Think of this as the public radio model to fundraising (if you contribute 50 dollars you get a tote bag, but one hundred dollars gets you tickets to a fabulous show). The rewards should have high emotional value, but they don’t necessarily have to be expensive. For example, if you are a biologist who works on intertidal organisms, perhaps one reward could be a nice shell from the beach  where you work (assuming that shell collecting is allowed on this hypothetical beach). The key thing is: get creative!

7. A plan to get people to your campaign. Although RocketHub will help to promote the campaigns in the #SciFund Challenge, the majority of the work of getting the word out will fall to #SciFund participants. So, how exactly do you promote your project? Well, RocketHub has some advice (and more advice here and here) and we’ll have some posts on this very topic coming up.

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