How To Back Your Next Research Project with Crowdfunding

Crowdrunding Research

Solid research makes my role as a content marketer easy. I can use a well-crafted sample of data in countless ways, repurposing it for blog posts, white papers, infographics and social media updates. The problem is, acquiring high quality and unique data (before the tech press masses get to it) is expensive…really, really expensive.

Back in the day at lonelybrand we played around with the idea of crowdfunding a research project. The plan was to build out a proposal and see what kind of support we could drum up using either Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Interested parties could help us fund the costly survey component in exchange for a first look at the research, the chance to contribute to research angle or reporting, and for higher levels, to be a research report sponsor.

So of course when I spotted Indiegogo’s Live Crowd Chat focusing on Crowdfunding for Research, I immediately blocked out time in my calendar to sit in on the discussion. The Crowd Chat was a livestreamed discussion on Google Plus moderated by Ryan Crowder, Social Media Manager at Indiegogo. Panelists included Breanna DiGiammorino, Indiegogo’s Education Vertical Lead and Alice Atkinson-Bonasio, PR and Communications Manager at Mendeley, an online network for managing and sharing research.

Ryan Crowder kicked things off talking about how various academic and scientific research communities arrived at crowdfunding as a funding option. “With a lot of academic funding being cut, a lot of foundation funding being cut…people are looking for different ways to fund the research that they’re interested in completing.” But financial backing isn’t the only opportunity that crowdfunding affords researchers.

Advantages of crowdfunding research

Indiegogo’s Breanna DiGiammorion chimed in to talk about some of the unexpected advantages of crowdfunding a research project. “It really enables a global audience to be part of your work,” she said. “There are two key values that come out of that. One is that you’re all of the sudden able to reach people who you never before had the ability to reach. It’s a little bit like reaching the long tail of interests in research. You might be doing research that to you feel is very niche; something that you care passionately about but maybe your closest friends and family don’t care that much about. But then when you take it to crowdfunding, you find there’s actually a great audience out there who does care, and it helps you define those values and that global audience.”

“Secondly,” DiGiammorino noted, “There’s a piece called citizen science. It’s the idea of bringing the world  […] into your scientific process. So it’s helping your work by engaging the crowd as part of your work itself.”

Using crowdfunding to market your research

Crowder pointed out that in addition to being a financial resource, “Crowdfunding is, in many ways, marketing. It’s helping you get the message out about what you’re doing. It gives you a space to include information and get people involved, and also get press and attention.”

DiGiammorino agreed, offering a handful of tips for researchers looking to market their projects through the use of crowdfunding. “The most important thing to do is think about who’s going to care about your work, and really figure out [the] key audiences who are going to care.”

Think about your research project’s purpose.

“Who is going to care about your work because of the purpose?” DiGiammorino asked. Think about what the outcome will be and who will care about those results. For example, if you’re researching which consumers use Retina devices to browse the web, designers are going to care. If you’re researching a specific species of tree, botanists are going to care.

Think about who will have pride in your research.

“Also think about who is going to care because they have pride in your work,” DiGiammorino said. “Maybe they find it interesting or they have an affiliation with you. Maybe it’s a geographic interest. Maybe it’s a historic ancestor.”

Think about the perks you can offer.

“Thirdly, think about the perks side; the tokens of thanks you can offer. Really be creative, and think through what you can offer based on what you already have.” For example, you could publicly thank people through your website or social media, or you could offer naming rights to the research. Overall, DiGiammorino’s advice is to be creative and let people participate.

Think about stakeholders that can help you promote your research.

“Really think through how you can get your campaign out into the world,” DiGiammorino said. “Who are the associations or other types of organizations…non-profits or government agencies that are focused on this work? How can you tap into their networks by developing those relationships, working with the people in them early on in your work and having them in your conversation over the course of your campaign so that they can help to get your word out to the community.”

Check out the a recording of Indiegogo’s Crowdfunding for Research discussion below.