As the first iGEM team from the TU Kaiserslautern we decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to fund
our project besides sponsoring. Since we were successful, we wanted to share our experience and
recommendations with other iGEM teams in this part of our wiki.
On June 24th we started our campaign on the German funding platform “Startnext”. Three days after starting our campaign we reached our first funding goal of 3000 €. At the end of our campaign at July 31th we reached a sum of 12.298 €, outpacing our second funding goal which was 10.000 €.
You can find our campaign “Chlamy-Yummy” here
On this wiki-page you will get some general information, recommendations and examples from our own campaign.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article should be seen as a recommendation based on our own experience and not as a general guide to successful crowdfunding. The explanations to the campaign are in relation to the German platform “Startnext”. Note that there might be differences to other platforms. If you start planning a campaign you should familiarize yourself with the guidelines of the provider.
What is Crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is all about convincing people of your idea, product or project. You want people to be as excited as you are about your campaign. The crowd is made of your supporters able to give you enough money to fund your project.
There are different types of crowdfunding. In our case we had the “reward-based” crowdfunding
as it is offered by “KICKSTARTER” or the German version “Startnext”. “Reward-based” means that your
supporters get something in return for their money. There is also the option for your crowd to
support you without getting a reward. Depending on what your idea is there are different options for
rewards. For example: As an iGEM Team, it is better to give your supporters an insight on your
project than offering a product. Recommendations for your rewards will be discussed later.
In general, crowdfunding is a great way to bring your project to life by getting supported from people who believe in your idea.
How does it Work?
You as the creator of this campaign give information about your project. You need to catch people’s
attention by finding an engaging way to present your project to them.
The most important thing is the so called “pitch-video”. Besides this video you should have pictures and texts about your project. The presentation of your campaign will be discussed later in this (article)
Crowdfunding is based on funding goals. Every sum below your funding goal will result in an unsuccessful campaign. For example, having your first funding goal at 3000 € and reaching only 2999 € by the day your campaign ends will lead to getting no money at all. So setting a realistic funding goal is an important step. If successful, the money will be paid to your bank account after the end of the campaign. It is really important for you to know that all the sums are collected during the campaign since the money is unable to be utilized until the campaign closes.
As a German team it is useful to know that Startnext offers you to choose two funding goals. Reaching your first funding goal will give you the status “funding 100%”. After reaching your first funding goal your achievement is safe. Anything over the first funding goal will be paid to you at the end of the campaign. Keep in mind that the money will be paid to your team at the end of the campaign and not in the meantime of your campaign.
As already mentioned, this article is about rewarded crowdfunding. You offer people special rewards for the sum they want to give you. After your successful campaign, you have to mail/ship the rewards to your supporters.
Is it Worthwhile for our Team?
The team should thoroughly consider the idea of doing a crowdfunding campaign before beginning.
Besides the time you are investing, you need a lot of motivation, commitment and creativity.
Not only the funding goal is “all or nothing” - your attitude needs to be the same. Starting a campaign only for the sake of money with minimum effort won’t make you successful. Remember that not only the funding is an important aspect but also the PR work, the passion for your project and the practice you get.
- We recommend you form a subteam in your iGEM team which is responsible for the campaign. In our case we had five out of eleven people working on it.
- Creative people are important!
- You should plan a proper amount of time for the preparation. The planning of our project commenced three months before the campaign’s launch. This will give you enough time to improve your presentation.
- You need to communicate! Draw attention to your project by talking to people!
In a nutshell: Only do crowdfunding if you have the necessary time, commitment and motivated
What do you Need for Crowdfunding?
- About 5 motivated team members
- Time (at least 2 months)
- Active social media channels (Instagram, twitter, facebook)
- An easily remarkable project title
- A personal and professional video
- Video equipment OR better someone who is familiar with producing videos
- Speaker with a pleasant voice
- A good digital camera
- Contact to your personal project consulter
- Five motivated team members
Doing crowdfunding is a long, and sometimes frustrating, process, so you need to set up a team with about five motivated team members who will meet twice a week.
- Time: at least 2 months
Start as early as possible. You will need all the time you can get! You do not only need to set up a campaign with images, texts, and a video, building up your crowd is a key for a good campaign. (Read chapter “Communication is key!” for more information). Also keep in mind that the transfer of the money will take about one month (depending on the crowdfunding website).
- Active social media channels
As reaching out for your audience is very important, you should frequently post content on your social media channels. This is also a good way to stay in touch with your supporters. Important milestones like the start of your campaign, the achievement of funding goals and the dispatch of the rewards should be mentioned there.
- An easily remarkable project title
People will remember your project when its title is catchy. Consider which title is easily memorable suitable for your project at once!
- Personal and professional video
Your pitch video is very important. As texts often remain unread, your video will be the main source of information! Please read the chapter “Pitch video” to learn more about the perfect pitch video. In general, it can be said that good equipment is needed. It’s good to borrow the correct devices for recording and editing videos. It would be even more fortunate if you know someone familiar with video recording and editing.
Remember that your video should be informative and appealing at the same time. Therefore, someone with a pleasant voice is required to record the audio. Furthermore, animations can visualize what is said. We recommend After Effects for such animations.
- A good digital camera.
You never get a second chance to make a first impressionThat’s why you need good and trustworthy pictures convey your idea.
- Contact to your personal project consulter
Normally when planning a crowdfunding campaign on a website, a personal project consulter is assigned to you. Make sure to contact this person not later than one week before you want to start your campaign. Your project consulter can also be a helpful advisor and is a reliable partner in case of need.
Imagine you have one minute time to explain your project idea. What would you say?
In our opinion the pitch video is the most important part of your campaign. A pitch video depends on your project. You need to ask yourself who you want to address. Do you offer a solution for a problem in today’s society or do you have a more specific method in biology which you want to establish? In the first case you could probably draw attention to the problem and then start with your project as the solution to it. The latter would be better off addressing biologists who are aware of the problems with former methods.
In our case we started with the problem first. Plastic waste is a present topic in today’s society. We then offered a solution to the situation, explained the pathway. The last seconds of our video were about the iGEM competition itself and our team.
You can find our video (with english subtitles) here
For the general structure of your video, we recommended you as follows:
The first 20 – 40 seconds should catch the viewers’ attention. Start with the problem you try to solve or with the idea in general. Go further into explaining. If your first seconds are catching people’s attention they will continue watching. When going into detail remember that not everyone understands biological terms. Try to explain it as simple as possible. It is helpful to design your own diagrams, flowcharts etc. for the video. After this you should introduce your team. Try to answer simple questions supporters might have. Who are you, why do you need money, what is iGEM, what are you going to do with the money?
We decided to write down a short script with texts and special scenes to make it easier at the shoot. For the shoot you should have the accurate equipment. A good audio and camera quality make your video much more appealing. Most important about the shoot: Stay authentic! Having the best pitch video on earth won’t help you if viewers don’t think you are likeable.
Finding a perfect reward is hard. Rewards should match both your target group and your iGEM-project.
Furthermore, it is good to offer something for everyone.
For example, a postcard from Boston, pictures, and videos from your team’s journey as a personal memento, or a cuddly toy like our “Kuschel-Chlamy” which is also usable as a heat cushion. As our project is about degrading plastic, we chose, among other things, a plastic-prevention-kit containing a coffee cup to go and stainless steel drinking straws for example.
Your rewards should meet various demands: Useful, cute, non-material, project-specific and personal rewards are very popular.
All things considered, you should choose about 6-10 rewards in different price ranges. Check and compare offers for your designated rewards and keep in mind to prepare alternatives.
Use the feedback of your crowd during the initial phase of your campaign to improve your rewards. Also, feel free to get inspired by our rewards!
Communication is Key!
During the preparation and the funding phase of your whole campaign you always need to stay in touch with people.
Before launching your campaign, you should carefully plan on your communication. We highly recommend you to let other people have a look on your campaign before launching it. Ask your relatives, friends, partners etc. for suggestions. Startnext offers you a special phase before launching in which people are able to give feedback on your campaign. Make sure to integrate as many people as you can. Use your social media accounts and a variety of other ways other ways to tell people about your campaign and the day of launch. Early supporters are the most important. Not only because of their feedback but mostly because they are the first ones to buy your rewards. Other people looking at your campaign get more interested if there are already enough supporters. As an iGEM team you have the advantage that all your team members can contact early supporters. A small calculation: Having ten team members each recruiting ten early supporters of which every supporter gives 10 € results in having 1000 €. Having 1000 € at the first day will lead into other people being interested in your project and visiting your campaign. One strategy that worked well for us was to set up a communication plan. Write down the people you want to contact after the beginning of your campaign. This plan should also include data like e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, social media accounts. Don’t hesitate to contact everyone that comes to mind. TV stations, radio stations, your local newspaper, professors from your university – think about all options.
In the last days of your campaign you can set up a countdown on social media. Remind people
about the fact that it is the last chance to become a supporter.
Remember: There is no such thing as “too much” communication!