We’ve collected tips and advice from successful researchers, here’s what they say is important to consider in your Experiment campaign.
1. Find your audience
Remember, at its core, crowdfunding is as much about raising funds as it is about science communication and public engagement. Building your community doesn’t happen overnight, but rather step by step. Follow this checklist to create a presence through sharing interesting content pertaining to your research! Don’t be discouraged if it’s slow the first time around, there’s a reason that this is new!
Creating a storyboard is an important tool for preparation. It helps you to identify what your message is and how you'll convey it.
3. Plan ahead of time
Crowdfunding campaigns are never fully funded by chance. You will need to have a plan in place, especially for great content that you can use as ammunition to get eyeballs on your page. The more prepared you are, the more fun the experience will be. And of course, prepare to be adaptable as your campaign can always take a life of it’s own.
4. Make sure people get to know you
Crowdfunding relies on a relationship of trust. In your video and/or researcher bio, don’t be afraid to add a personal touch to it. They want to know as much about the idea as they do the people behind them. Show that you’re a qualified expert, and then share something cool about yourself.
5. Share a story
At the end of the day, crowdfunding requires you to be a good story teller. What makes a good story? Fans and followers enjoy seeing progress. Even if you aren’t sure what your message is or where the story is going, keeping people in the loop with regular and short updates is a great way to let a story develop. It’s a good way to stay on peoples’ radars, especially bloggers and journalists.
6. Personally curate an initial community
Your initial community will be the foundation of your campaign. Don’t be shy in reaching out to friends, family and research colleagues, to explain the importance of your research. What you’re doing is important, and moves the needle in science! This can be done on a personal level with direct messages, tweets, or emails.
7. The 80/20 rule
A good rule of thumb is that 80% of campaigns succeed if they can hit 20% of their target. Try securing commitments for the 20% before the campaign begins to give yourself the best chance!
8. Change up the ask
The first time you ask your networks to fund the campaign will work, but it probably won’t work the second, third, or forth time, especially if nothing new has happened! Instead of asking people to directly pitch in, try asking or inviting folks to help with the outreach. Ask your friends who they think would like the project. Try sparking a conversation for questions about the project or a discussion about the larger implications.
9. Engage frequently with your backers
Remember, backers are people who have supported your project to learn more about your important research. Engage them through lab notes (tips here on creating them). Make them feel like they are part of the research experience and making a difference. It’s never just about the money.
10. Have fun!
It really shows if you’re passionate and enjoying the work, so let it show. This is a chance for you to communicate your research with real people who in some way, share your passion.
After you create an Experiment, we require you to seek out endorsers for your project. Each endorser should either be an expert in your field of study, or they should be able to speak to your qualifications as a researcher. Here are a few excellent examples:
An endorsement from a respected researcher in your field lends additional credibility to your work.
On your Project Dashboard, you will find a button to send endorsement requests under "Settings".
There's no strict formula for an endorsement. Typically they're 2-3 sentences long, and they address one or more of the following questions:
In the example above, Dr. Allen explains why the project that Brian (the researcher) is proposing is critical, timely, and novel. He also explains his relationship with Brian. For more examples, see our Requesting endorsements section.
You can learn more about how endorsements fit into our scientific review process here. If you've been invited to write an endorsement and you have general questions about Experiment, don't hesitate to contact us.
A press release is a valuable tool for getting your story heard. It’s a short one-page summary, sometimes with photos included, detailing in very plain terms the relevant event or story.
If you have contacts or certain news outlets you want to reach, then it’s very common to also send along an attached press release.
Social media can be really great tool for communicating with your existing network, and also to grow your community. Effective social media strategies start with having unique content (i.e. labnotes, images, and videos), which, when delivered to a targeted audience, brings eyeballs to your project page.
Twitter is an open communication platform. This makes it a great place for scientists to start conversations and share their content with people outside of their initial network. Twitter also provides native analytics that allow you to see what works, and to inform changes.
Facebook is a great tool for engaging and activating your existing social network. A researcher’s social network is almost always the first group to seed a researcher’s Experiment community.Tips for Facebook:
Posting to Reddit has been immensely helpful for a handful of Experiment projects. Reddit can be a very particular audience, but if you think the Reddit community might like what you’re working on, then it's worth sharing your science there.
E-mail is another great tool, like Facebook, for engaging and activating your existing network. Also, for certain audiences (like large donors, organizations etc.), e-mail might be the best way to reach out. There is an art to writing concise, compelling e-mails with a clear call to action.Tips for E-mails:
If your project reaches the first funding goal and you still have days remaining in the campaign, you will have the ability to add stretch goals through your Budget section.
The budget items that you add should allow you to complete another portion of the research project. We don’t allow stretch goals for generic funds, so be as specific as possible.
You do not need to reach your stretch goal to receive the funds beyond your first funding goal.
You must reach the first funding goal to receive the project funds. Anything you raise beyond the first funding goal is yours to keep, after taking into account platform fees.
Here's how your page will look when you have a stretch goal:
If your project reaches its fundraising goal, you are going to get paid! When the campaign ends, we'll charge your backers' credit cards. This process takes a few days, and you'll be able to view the status of each pledge in your project dashboard.
We can send the funds to you or to an instutution (e.g. university or research organization) via the method you specify in your payout info form.
If your project is successfully funded, Experiment charges a 8% platform fee and our payment processor charges an additional fee of roughly 3-5%.
The payment processor charges 2.9% + $0.30 on each successful charge. See the payment processing fees here. Fees will be deducted from your total payout.
At the payout stage there is no additional fee for ACH transfers to our supported countries (United States, UK, Australia).
For check payouts there is an additional $20 fee.
For payouts in unsupported countries, we only support payout through Paypal. There is an additional $30 fee for Paypal payouts.
If your project is not successfully funded, there will be no fees.
Sometimes payments will be declined, usually due to a credit card error. When a pledge fails, the backers are repeatedly notified to update their payment information. However, we cannot guarantee that all pledges will be collected, which may affect your payout amount.
Right now, we only accept pledges from backers in USD. If your bank account is in Canada, Australia or the UK, our payment processor will do a currency conversion into your local currency. We plan to support pledges in other currencies soon.
The most common payout method is for funds to be sent directly to a project's affiliated institution. These funds are distributed as a single restricted gift directly from Experiment.
The payout is sent as an award, and is one-time in nature and does not carry any additional reporting requirements to Experiment. Experiment's payout policy does not allow for any institutional overhead to be taken on awards.
If the affiliated institution is a registered 501(c)(3) in the United States, projects can apply for tax-deductible status. A statement of tax-deductibility will be displayed on the campaign, and the project will be listed on our tax-deductible page. You must set this up before your project launches. Please contact our partnerships team for questions or more information.
We can also send funds directly to an individual.
In general, funds raised on Experiment are not subject to taxes – as contributions to projects usually qualify as IRS-defined gifts. For further information, we highly recommend talking to a tax advisor, and further exploring the IRS guidance on gifts.