As a researcher, you are increasingly dependent on research funding from third parties. One of the possibilities to obtain financial support for your research is crowdfunding. Many small donations to an online platform can add up to a considerable sum. What determines the success of crowdfunding? And how do you go about it? PhD student Claire van Teunenbroek from the Centre for Philanthropic Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam gave a lecture last week at X on precisely this topic.
With crowdfunding, you pitch your project on an online platform, state how much money you would like to collect and the deadline by which this sum must be achieved. The most popular deadline is 30 days. If you do not achieve your sum by the deadline, everything grinds to a halt. If you succeed, you give your donors a reward in return for their donation.
TU Delft has its own platform
The most familiar platform for crowdfunding is Kickstarter. It is a general platform and in Van Teunenbroek’s opinion not even the most successful one. There are some that focus on science specifically: Crowdscience, Experiment, Medstartr, Petridish, Sciflies and Sciencestarter. In January, TU Delft launched its own platform from the University Fund: supporttudelft.nl. The benefit of this is that TU pays out what is collected, minus 5% for providing advice.
What motivates potential donors?
How can you succeed in attracting money? According to Van Teunenbroek, you need to know what motivates your donors. Research has shown that donors like to give for a purpose, but also appreciate receiving a reward. They often donate to junior researchers, and they donate because their neighbour or acquaintance does, too.
A platform should therefore enable you to see what someone else has given. As an extension of this, networking is very important to create a snowball effect. A friend of a friend of a friend is more likely to give if he knows someone who has already given. Therefore, use social media and personal contacts. You must approach the donor, not vice versa.
Other tips from Van Teunenbroek:
- Keep the description of your project simple: no jargon.
- Do not focus so much on the science, but rather on the environment or traffic or the difference you are going to make for people in developing countries.
- A good video along with your pitch – preferably with humour – is essential: donors are inspired by your enthusiasm.
- Give people many set options to choose from for donations: for example, 10, 25, 50 and 100 euros, plus higher sums. Two years ago, the average donation for education and research was 93 euros.
- It is better not to give donors material rewards, instead promise them recognition in future publications or invite them on a tour of your lab, give a talk. Van Teunenbroek gave as an example a 3D-print of someone’s nose.
- Be transparent about what you intend to do with the money and send donors updates of your project.
- Make time for contact with your donors, they may give you valuable feedback.
In short: crowdfunding is more than just collecting money. A lot of time needs to be invested, warned Van Teunenbroek. She stressed that crowdfunding can primarily be a valuable addition to other sources of financing.