The LilBubome project successfully raised $8,225 from 233 backers in a fantastic display of science communication on an international stage. The project is a case study in what's required to be successful, so we interviewed the researchers to combine anecdotal advice and analytics data to show the story behind this successful experiment.
Daniel Ibrahim, Dario Lupianez, and Uschi Symmons first got the idea for their experiment when they were exchanging internet videos of cute cats. The three postdoctoral researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Genetics were fascinated - was there more going behind this cute cat, Lil Bub, and its unique looks that genome science could reveal?
The idea was floated to sequence the genome of Lil Bub to understand the interesting physiology. An email was fired off to Lil Bub's owner, and after some friendly exchanges and a few weeks later, the project had legs. The team knew that they could do much of this work in their free time, their daily expertise revolves around rare genetic mutations.
The only thing missing was $6,000 in funding for using an Illumina genome sequencer and some reagents to gather the genome data. And so they committed to raising the funding for the LilBubome.
Early on while developing the idea, the team gathered lots of feedback from their peers and colleagues. It took them constantly talking to new people to understand what made the Lil Bubome so interesting.
One of the biggest challenges was turning the idea into a compelling story. This took effort, but paid off hugely as the video has now been watched over 150,000 times across websites like Gizmodo, Reddit, Buzzfeed, and more. It's evidence that taking the time to think about story behind the science will help connect to a larger audience.
The outreach campaign was a whirlwind of excitement, which steadily grew in momentum and energy until the final pledge that pushed the project over. In total, 248 backers pledged $8,225 to allow the project to move forward. Blog posts, press releases, Reddit AMAs, social media, and international press coverage all contributed to success, but it started by building momentum with their immediate networks.
Project Launch on facebook and twitter (link)
Lilbubome.wordpress blog post (link)
Article in The Node (link)
Project Featured in Experiment Newsletter
LilBub Official Facebook and Twitter Posts (link)
Reddit AMA (link)
Article in Der Spiegel (link)
Article in Gizmodo (link)
Campaign ends, articles in Buzzfeed and Washington Post (link) (link)
The project unfolded with many small events driven by their outreach to relevant audiences, culminating in widespread press coverage across many science related websites and mass media newspapers like Der Spiegel and Washington Post.
In order to meet the funding goal, the project would have to average $150 in pledges every day of the campaign. They found that backers who came from targeted and specific outlets (related to cats or science) pledged more, meaning their targeted outreach ended up driving a lot of pledges.
Table 1: A sample of 80 of the 283 backers and the traffic referrals
|Source||Backers||Total||Average||% Total||% Backers|
One of the biggest goals of this campaign was to also effectively communicate science, and to teach others about genetics, mutations, and Lil Bub. Instead of thinking of fundraising and communication as being at odds, they realized that successful fundraising is an outcome of effective communication.