How do you get people to contribute to your crowdfunding project?

Jai Ranganathan

safe cracking
Does this woman know how to break into the crowdfunding safe of cash?

As we count down the days to the May First launch of the second round of the #SciFund Challenge, let’s talk about what it takes to get people to actually contribute to your crowdfunding campaign. The first round of #SciFund makes clear that there are two parts to the answer: a compelling crowdfunding page and a strategy to get people to take a look at that page.

A compelling crowdfunding page
1. Above all else, the video, text, and pictures that make up your page must answer the following question: “so what?”. If your research gets funded and you carry it out, why is that meaningful to a potential contributor? There isn’t just one right answer to the question, of course, but please be sure that an answer is in there.

2. Provide desirable rewards across a range of price points. In the first round of #SciFund, contributions to projects ranged from one dollar to well over a thousand dollars. You want to capture as much of that range as possible, by providing rewards across a wide range of dollar values. The median contribution to first round projects was twenty-five dollars, so a reward at something around that level for your own project is recommended. You can check out the full analysis of the contributions to the first round of #SciFund on an earlier blog post. On a related note, definitely do be creative in your rewards, but stay away from raffles (if you give X dollars, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win Y prize), as they are illegal in this context.

A strategy to get people to take a look at your crowdfunding page
1. The majority of the people taking at look at a particular #SciFund scientist’s project on RocketHub will get there due to the efforts of that scientist. There were several fantastic projects in the first round of #SciFund that got very little traction, because the creators of those projects made little to no effort to get the word out. On the flip side, essentially every first round #SciFund scientist who made efforts to get the word out about their project was rewarded for doing so.

2. How do you get people to take a look at your project page? RocketHub has some great advice. There is more great promotion advice on the SciFund Challenge blog from Zach and Kelly Weinersmith, who raised $75,000 in their crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

3. In the first round of #SciFund, there were multiple strategies that worked for getting the word out. Here are three different and successful strategies used by round one #SciFund scientists: Kristina KillgroveLindsey Peavey, and Kelly Weinersmith.

4. Let’s be honest: asking people you know for cash is hard. However, what would be even more useful (and easier) is to ask your contacts to spread the word of your project to their own circles. In fact, having circles of people talking up your project with ever increasing numbers of circles is a really powerful communication strategy.

5. On that note, one important part of your promotion strategy should be to persuade influencers that you know to help you to spread the word. Who are influencers? People strongly connected to networks of other people. Obvious examples of influencers would be people with high-traffic blogs and lots of Twitter followers. As an example of the impact these kind of influencers can have, site traffic to the #SciFund Challenge blog quadrupled when Zach Weinersmith wrote two sentences about it on his website Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (which gets ten million page views a week).

There are plenty of influencers offline too! For example, people involved in charitable, social, or professional organizations can certainly spread the word about your project to their organizations.

You may think that you don’t know any influencers. That is certainly what I thought when we all starting planning the #SciFund Challenge. But it turned out that many of the people I know had unexpected connections to networks of other people. All of these hidden influencers played a big role in spreading the word about the #SciFund Challenge.

6. As a last note of advice on promotion, it is very important that there is an initial burst of donations on your project page in the first few days that it goes live. Potential donors really want to see that others have already bought into your vision, before they open their wallets. How do you get this initial donation burst? Over the next few days, before your project goes live, talk to the circle of people to whom you have the closest connection. Ask them to contribute to your project as soon as it goes live on May 1. They don’t have to contribute a lot. The key thing is to demonstrate that people have bought into your project.

7. Getting media coverage is a really powerful way to spread the word about your project. I’ll be sending word out about this subject tomorrow.

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