Team:University College London/HumanPractice/CrowdFunding



Crowd Funding for iGEM

Update: Our experience on crowdfunding and tips for iGEM teams has now also been published by Sponsume's blog.

Our Aim

  • Raise money, principally for our Human Practice activities.
  • Use an interesting fundraising campaign to gain publicity.
  • Build a circle of "investors", people with a strong interest in the project.
  • Investigate usefulness of crowdfunding for iGEM and other science projects.

Our Method

We considered various crowdfunding websites, including RocketHub, Indiegogo and Kickstarter, but in the end settled on Sponsume. Factors for our choice included:

  • Fees and if we could keep the funds if we didn't reach our target.
  • Ease of payment, availability of payment options and "click-count" to payment form.
  • Currency. Since we're a UK based team, we wanted donations to be made in Pounds, principally because other comparable currencies like the US Dollar and Euro have a lower valuation.

Our Vision

The most important part of your campaign is communicating your idea. Nearly all crowdfundraising campaigns use videos to explain their project. We chose to make a short stop-motion video to clearly explain our project.

The Hook

We wanted to give our campaign some potential to "go viral" and decided to play fake real estate agents. Taking the idea of our "Plastic Republic" island literally we decided to "sell off" virtual acres of land. It worked as people could really visualise the potential of our project and appreciated the idea as a quirky gimmick.


  • We managed to raise our target of £1500!
  • Our innovative use of crowdfunding was picked up by Wired, DVICE, Smithsonian and Good - showing that a creative fundraising campaign can be a great marketing tool.

Guide to iGEM Crowdfunding

  • Communicate clearly and briefly. We found that viewers of our campaign video tuned out after about 1.30 min. We therefore realised that the pitch needs to come across within this time. As a result we changed our first, longer campaign video to a shorter version. It's also important to end the video on a strong follow-up call for donations.
  • Have an engaging vision. Our project was very suited for a fun funding campaign. We think that campaigns with the potential to inspire and entertain will have a much larger impact. This is your chance to show creativity!
  • Set the right target: We originally planned to raise half of our project costs via crowdfunding and set our target to £15,000 pounds. However, we came to feel that this was too high and unachievable and decided to lower the target to a more realistic £1,500.
  • Find initial investors. A project that has been backed by some initial money shows a lot more potential for success to viewers and potential donators.
  • Advertise, Advertise, Advertise! A great vision will help you greatly, but you need to be active in spreading your message.
  • Trial and error. Get your project out there but don't be afraid to change direction. If something doesn't work, change it. In the first two weeks of our campaign, we shortened our fundraising video, added a web application, reduced our target, and removed a lot of detail from the description.
  • Follow up: Your investors are probably a lot more interested in your project than Twitter followers or Facebook friends. Post updates. Give them space to ask questions. Collect feedback and evaluate.