First week of planning for your #SciFund Challenge project

Jai Ranganathan

We sent e-mails yesterday to all #SciFund Challenge participants with instructions on how the #SciFund Challenge is going to work. Unfortunately, some fraction of those e-mails were tagged as spam and never arrived. Since we are working out the bugs with e-mail, we are also posting the text of that e-mail here.

To recap the basics of the SciFund Challenge, all Challenge projects will run from Nov. 1 – Dec. 15th on the crowdfunding platform RocketHub (http://www.rockethub.com/). October is when we all will be planning our crowdfunding projects. To make it simpler, we have broken down the month by week with specific tasks assigned to each week. Detailed task lists will be e-mailed to you at the beginning of each week.

  • Week 1 (Oct. 2 – Oct. 8): Learn about crowdfunding and develop first draft of your project on your own
  • Weeks 2 and 3 (Oct.9 -Oct.22) : Get and provide feedback on projects. Develop promotion strategy.
  • Week 4 (Oct. 23-Oct.30). Make final revisions to project and upload to RocketHub.

Detailed Task List for Week One
1. Familiarize yourself with how crowdfunding works.
Read the two posts up on the SciFund Challenge blog on the basics of crowdfunding: here and here.  Additionally, take a look at a few successfully funded projects on RocketHub. One particular project to view is the Quail Diaries, which is a science project funded on another crowdfunding website.

2. Think of components of your research that you could use as the basis of a crowdfunding campaign.
Since we are all beginners here, think of something small: something that you could fund for hundreds to low thousands of dollars. To give some examples of potential projects, some SciFund Challenge participants will be raising money for new pieces of equipment, while others are raising money to pay for research-related travel.

3. Learn the basics of video production.
An essential component of a successful crowdfunding campaign is a compelling two to three minute video. On the SciFund Challenge, take a look at a detailed video production tutorial that we have posted. The most time consuming part of putting your crowdfunding campaign will be putting your video together,  particularly for beginners. So, please get rolling with your video this week. You don’t need to buy any fancy video gear. Most digital cameras have the capacity to shoot video and the webcams present on almost all laptops are another video option.

4. Plan rewards for your project.
An important part of a crowdfunding campaign is the rewards that contributors will receive. RocketHub has three very-short blog posts on how to plan your rewards, which you can find here, here , and here. The key idea is to come up with creative rewards that have high emotional value, but that are inexpensive. For example, if you are an inter-tidal biologist, you could provide nice shells from one of your research beaches (assuming that shell collecing is permitted on the hypothetical beach).

4. Put together a first draft version of your crowdfunding campaign.
This first draft will include the following elements: title, video, rewards, images, and description of your project. Your project description should include the following: a welcome, a call to action, a detailed description of your plans, and a thank you. Please note that the project description should not go on for too long. The emphasis in the description should be on clear, jargon-free, and compelling language. Some posts will be going up this week on the SciFund Challenge blog to help you with crafting a compelling message.

5. Get set up with Twitter.
Register for a Twitter account. Once you have set up your account, send a tweet to me (Jai) at @jranganathan and Jarrett Byrnes at @jebyrnes, so that we can note your new Twitter account. If you provided your Twitter account during registration for the SciFund Challenge, you can skip this last step. Download Tweetdeck, which is a free Twitter management program that will make your Twitter experience much easier. Start sending a few tweets to get familiar with it.

If you are new to Twitter, here is a great guide. There are two reasons for having your own Twitter account. First, Twitter can be an invaluable way to get the word out about your crowdfunding campaign.Second, Twitter will be a critical part of the communications strategy between SciFund participants, when we are giving each other feedback (more on this in the details for the second week of October).

When you set up your Twitter account, there are three simple things you can include to crank up your credibility within the Twitter community: your actual name in your description, a picture of yourself, and a link back to your main website.

Second and third weeks of October
1. We will be coming together to help each other with our projects. We are setting up a wiki (an easily editable website which allows for collaboration), where participants will be posting their draft projects. This wiki will only be accessible by other SciFund Challenge participants. You will get an invitation to join this website later on this week, plus more detailed instructions on precisely to use the wiki. On this website, we will also provide feedback on each other’s projects. We ask that every participant comment on at least two other projects. Not only will it help other participants, providing feedback may spur ideas for your own project. This website will also contain the contact information of all SciFund Challenge participants

2. Develop a strategy to promote your crowdfunding campaign. We will be providing a lot of guidance on this subject in the next few weeks. RocketHub will be promoting SciFund Challenge projects and we will also be pitching the SciFund Challenge to media outlets as a story worth writing about. Nonetheless, the majority of the promotion for a specific project will fall to the creator of that project. Not to worry though. We’ll guide you through it.

Fourth week of October
1. Make final revisions to your project and submit to RocketHub. There will be a special SciFund Challenge section of RocketHub, that Jarrett Byrnes and I will be administering. You will get instructions on how precisely to submit crowdfunding projects to RocketHub in the third week of October.

So, that is the plan! There is still a few things to be worked out, particularly on how crowdfunding will work with taxes and university funding structures. We have an initial blog post on the subject, with more information coming later on this week.

In addition to all of this, as this is the first time most of us are engaging in a crowdfunding effort, we’d like to approach this as a community. We want you all to engage in a conversation – both through your reviewing of each others proposals, but also on the #SciFund blog itself. So, please get a wordpress.com account and email Jarrett (byrnes@nceas.ucsb.edu) so that he can make you a contributor on this blog.

How will the blog work? Every week, we’re providing a different question as a prompt for a blog post. Participants can answer the prompt, or write about anything else they’d like relevant to crowdfunding their science. We’d like, ideally, 5 people (or more), to sign up per week. Please contact Jarrett (byrnes@nceas.ucsb.edu and signup for a week. We already have a first entry for Tuesday from Zen Faulkes (thanks!) so, feel free to take a look at that tomorrow.

We are excited to see what you come up with for your projects! Let’s get to work.

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  1. I think that there should be instructions that the small reward should at least contain a link to a download paper under science commons license that will provide results of the research (either positive OR negative).

    Crowdfunding should definitely depart from bad aspects of traditional public funding, where some researches receive multi thousand dollar grants and never make anything available to other researchers (especially when results are negative…).