Crowdfunding Part I

Earlier this year, I decided to try out crowdfunding through the scifund challenge on to raise some money for my Master’s research. During the process, I decided to write about some of the challenges I faced along the way (and after the process, I reacted to some of these challenges… Crowdfunding Part II to be posted soon).

Challenge #1: “Sorry, no idea on this one” (Having no one in your immediate circle with crowdfunding experience) Isn’t receiving a 6-word response to a well-formulated, relatively long email just the best? Indeed, this response from my father was “very Doug of him” (i.e. not surprising), but it is telling of my initial experience with crowdfunding. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not claiming that I had no help, advice or resources along the way, that is far from true—all I mean is that I’d be lying if I pretended signing up to do this wasn’t an intimidating undertaking with endless unknowns. Perhaps I rename this first challenge: Actually Committing.

Doug’s delightful 6-words arrived in response to many questions, the first of which was advice on challenge #2. Challenge #2: Deciding how much money is reasonable to ask for. No one can answer this question for you. Without the added pressure of an “all or nothing” model, choosing a monetary goal would be easy: choose a big number and get as much as you can. Unfortunately Scifund and do follow an “all or nothing” model. So, the obvious question becomes whether it is better to ask for less and be confident about reaching the goal or to ask for more and risk not reaching the goal (with the unsatisfying, but respectable, “well-the-experience-was-worth-it” afterthought).

Challenge #3: Twitter (Tool to prevent crowdfunding from becoming a glorified stunt to ask your friends for money) Signing up for the Scifund group meant signing up for twitter (or resetting the password for the account I made 3 years ago) and committing to extensive use of social media (a difficult commitment to make, for some).  After all, the point is not only to raise money, but also to create a space for society and science to mingle.

Challenge #4: Making a video with video-making experience at absolute zero. I have some simple advice here. First, watch past videos, decide what is bad, and don’t do that. Second, keep it short and keep it simple. Third, find roommates who attend film school, kindly ask them to bring your primitive animations to life, and thank them later with pounds of chocolate (Trader-Joes-Pound-Plus-Chocolate). Lastly, be confident in front of the camera, as I am (disclaimer: I have no idea who is impersonating me in my video, how she got into my apartment, why she is so awkward in front of the camera or why my plant stand is crooked- attempt to unravel the mystery here). I should note that Scifund is amazing and provides tons of tutorials and tips on this topic in case you are unable to procure qualified roommates in the allotted time.

Challenge #5: Choosing a Title. Titles are of obvious importance. But choosing the right one turned out to be the most difficult challenge for me. Of course I had to ditch the title straight from the grant proposal- way too “sciency”, but then I had to ditch the title that was not concise enough, then the one that was not descriptive enough, then the one that was not catchy enough, then it was so catchy it was a lie, then it was just right (or just right enough to use by the deadline?).

And sometimes, that’s the best we can do.

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