It all started a year ago at a joint art exhibition Catherine Aubelle and I organized in Tübingen, Germany. A very nice visitor - who happened to be a renowned art historian and curator, as we later found out - popped into the gallery and fell in love with our paintings. We began to talk - in three languages - and at the end of it, the art historian said, “You need to publish a catalogue!” That was the initial seed, which took hold immediately. I asked her if she would be willing to write the foreword, and she instantly agreed. A few months later, we met to discuss the catalogue project. Compared to fund-raising, the actual publications process is a piece of cake, as we are both experienced editors, translators, and graphic artists. It was clear from the start we needed to print a catalogue in the very best quality possible, that is offset, and this quality was only to be had for a price. We needed professional photographers to shoot the artwork, a graphic artist to produce high-quality repros, and we wanted to be able to pay the art historian for a professional text. I began to research crowdfunding, which is all but unheard of in France and not very well known in Germany. But I had a hunch I could count on my American friends to be pioneer funders and I was frankly intrigued by the possibilities crowd-funding seemed to offer. Because Catherine and I have been cultivating a large network of buyers and friends through our website and our social communities over the last couple of years, we decided a crowdfunding campaign would be one of three methods to raise the funds needed to print our catalogue. The other two bases were the sales of our artworks and an old-fashioned letter campaign asking for advance orders. In general, the response to the idea of crowdfunding has been extremely positive across all cultural circles. Our motto has always been “encounters” - what happens when creative people meet - and we have seen marvelous things develop as a result. First, the video - which we considered the most important vehicle to transport our artistic mission - was shot by a professional documentary filmmaker, Pierre Bouillier, who volunteered his time out of sheer enthusiasm and the opportunity to do something fun and creative. We spent a lot of time thinking about and planning the video, which in fact would have never come to be if we hadn’t decided to crowd fund. Ultimately, we wanted the video to be an artwork in itself, with the unexpected bonus that all of us ended up having a fantastic time making it, thanks to Pierre’s intuitive grasp of our ideas. Second, we deliberately chose not to have any voice-over dialogue in the video because we wanted to avoid translations and subtitles, treating all three languages equally. (The exception is the last image, “Adopt a page!” in English.) We wanted to convey what we are doing purely through music, sounds and visuals. However, we didn’t want to incur copyright charges, so we decided on the sounds of the sea to accompany the images, keeping things simple. Along the way, a French clarinetist of Catherine’s acquaintance was so excited by the video that he offered to record Debussy’s Rhapsody with a concert pianist. This took some time to organize, but by downloading the music midway during our RocketHub campaign, we now have an unexpected highlight that we hope will make our campaign more attractive to potential funders. As we expected, there are big differences in the three cultural circles we’re targeting. Americans are very comfortable with ordering things online and paying by credit card. They’re used to it and know the lingo. I sent about 20 of my American contacts a letter explaining the crowdfunding principles and asking them to be pioneers as soon as we launched. Fortunately, about half a dozen obliged, getting us off to an excellent start. I should note that I tested the system by funding a RocketHub campaign with a small contribution, just to see how it worked. It was really easy, so I could convey this to my potential pioneers with the conviction of experience. So far, the German and French funders have been hesitant. The instructions on what to do in order to fund are only in English; RocketHub does not yet offer a way to include the instructions in other languages. The Germans don’t have any problems with English, but the French seem to. Thus Catherine has had to walk her French funders through the process over the phone. We have included translations of the project description in our campaign, but Germans and French generally appear to be unfamiliar with this type of fund-raising. Another issue is currency. My two main reasons for choosing an American-based crowd-funding platform is that I have an American bank account and I knew Americans would not be reluctant to order something online. However, because I reside in Germany, I will have to deal with international currency exchange fees later, which reduces the amount of funds available for our project. So far, we have had no German funders for our RocketHub campaign yet. What we’ve discovered is that the idea of paying for something in advance, via credit card, via Internet, seems to be foreign to the Germans and French. It needs a lot of explaining, a lot of encouraging, a lot of time. So we’re constantly nurturing the network, feeding tidbits to our social communities to keep up the buzz. For crowdfunding success: Build your network in advance. There’s no way to know if a campaign will go viral, and the factors leading to virality are still a bit of a mystery to me. I don’t think it’s possible to start a crowdfunding campaign overnight. We didn’t start in a vacuum. We know our customers. We’ve spent years selling our artwork. Our buyers trust us. So far, every single one of our funders is a personal friend or art buyer. In other words, we are building on a network that is already there. Do your homework. I spent months researching crowdfunding. I observed my own behavior: I only donate to a cause where I have a connection (either I like the idea or the person). The rewards don’t interest me. Being a fiscally conservative person of modest means, I calculated a very modest donation of $10 per head, though I’d read the average donation is $75 and that most people donate $25. I added up the number of social community contacts Catherine and I had, which was about 400, divided by 2, and multiplied that number by $10. I figured we could hardly go wrong. All the same, I was very anxious - I suffered many a sleepless night in the weeks before launching our campaign. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Our RocketHub goal is only one of three ways we’re raising funds. Of course we hope we can earn the lion’s share of the $13,000 we need through crowdfunding, but we have another base in the donations and advance orders we’ve received and will hopefully continue to receive. You could say we’ve been doing our homework for years, building our customer base. So while I fully expect we’ll reach our modest RocketHub goal of $2000, I believe the bulk of the funds will likely come from direct donations and advance orders. - Gabriele Glang, Bilingual Writer and Artist, International Crowdfunding Success
We had the pleasure to catch up with Paul Tabachneck about his new RocketHub project. Paul was a successful RocketHub pioneer and is a grow musical presence in New York, Pittsburgh, and beyond. You ran a very successful project on RocketHub in the early days of the community - what brings you back? It’s time to make a new album! I waited until I had the songs, and the producer, and the musicians, and now it’s all coming together — except for the money. I do IT work for a day job, and had pretty steady work for a few years, but the last few have been tough. For a while there, I was struggling to get the rent paid, hitting the subway tunnels every day and pushing through — one month I paid my rent on subway busking alone! Although it’s not that bad for me anymore, I haven’t really been able to save money between Here Goes Nothing and now, so crowdfunding is the only option if I want to get this album made. What have you experienced in your second crowdfunding campaign? TLDR: The climate has changed. In public, more people are crowdfunding from more diverse angles, and you can get called out on the carpet if you’re asking for the money and you don’t need it, or the cause isn’t worth supporting. People are getting very savvy about what they want to and don’t want to support — there is a kneejerk reaction to crowdfunding that didn’t exist three years ago, a built in prepared reflex to it similar to the one that kicks in when someone tries to hand you a copy of the Watchtower or a ticket to a “free” comedy show, and you have to learn to adapt and circumvent that. It’s not a matter of scope — I found Zosia Mamet’s crowdfunding attempt, $30,000 for one music video for one song, to be completely insane (and it failed), but Rob Thomas’ successful attempt at getting a Veronica Mars movie was heartening, and both serve to establish the new rule of indie entertainment: if the fans want what you’re making, you can make it. Facebook is another issue entirely. In their pursuit of micro-advertising dollars, they’ve somehow managed to make it so that news feed posts drop like bad bread if you don’t give them a few bucks to promote it. The number of views doesn’t really mean anything, though, from what I’ve seen — I didn’t see an up-tic in numbers at RocketHub or YouTube — so I’m taking a break right now from messaging 2,800 people one by one, to make sure this gets in front of all the eyes it can. Of those 2,800 people, probably 1/4 of them are personal friends, and most of them want to follow my music. The last campaign had 106 supporters and garnered over $5,000, and we’re at 140+ supporters and over $6,000 right now, so I feel optimistic. Do you have any advice for those looking to build multiple campaigns? Crowdfunding is like any other form of marketing and sales — you have to reach the people in order to get their help. Try not to become a spam machine — nobody likes getting emails addressed to multiple parties, then finding themselves in a 100-reply thread that they never wanted to be a part of — but don’t be afraid to shout your mission from the rooftops. Tell your wealthier friends that you’re doing it, but don’t tell them every day. They will understand what you’re doing after one conversation, but people who have money are used to being asked for it. Give your elevator pitch, hand them a card, and move on. Most of all, be prepared to give content to the Internet like you’ve never given before — making one video at the top and then sitting back in your chair for a month won’t cut it anymore. The Internet needs to see that you’re putting in the hours. I made YouTube covers the $100 price point this time, and I’ve sold 11 already, so instead of waiting for the end of the campaign, I’ve been turning them out now, and they get great response! So, clear some time before you start your campaign, and be prepared to do nothing social for a while. - Paul Tabachneck, Singer, Songwriter, Successful Crowdfunding Veteran
I worked in politics and in journalism, which are both in a deep crisis and really unable to live up to their ideals of being a check on powerful interests. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to fix both, and this is the answer I came up with: cocktails. Getting money out of politics is going to take a constitutional amendment. Making accountability journalism profitable is impossible with services like Craig’s List siphoning away advertising dollars. I figured, journalists and people who care about democracy are already drinking to cope with the situation. They might as well invest their drinking dollars into a place that supports their efforts to hold the powerful accountable. When I explain the concept to people, it usually takes them a second, and then when they get it, they wonder why it doesn’t already exist. And why it doesn’t exist is actually part of the problem with the world right now. Why is it so hard to open a little independent place in your own neighborhood? Banks won’t consider lending money — even a SBA loan — unless you already have substantial equity. They’re also not very comfortable with innovation and businesses that don’t fall into predictable categories. Investors are looking for high returns and quick exits. They don’t want to hear that you plan to build something rooted in your community that will be sustainable and be passed on to the next generation. They want to hear you’ve got something scalable, easily replicable, that’s agnostic about the surrounding community, and that you’ll want to dump in five years. So crowdfunding is really the only hope for projects that don’t care about getting rich quick, that want to contribute something valuable to the communities they come from. Tarbell is coming from the heart of New York’s Financial District, between City Hall and Wall Street. There’s actually a community of people with young families who live there, who send their kids to public schools, who are struggling to survive in a precarious work environment. I feel like if we can make a stand for Main Street in the literal shadow of Wall Street, then there’s hope for all the other neighborhoods across the country who are suffering from the same dynamics. So yeah, this process of asking people to build this thing with us is important — and people have responded generously, because they know it won’t happen without them. I think the advice we got from the RocketHub team has helped us so far, which is to have a core set of supporters and funders who were ready before the launch to donate on day one and tell their networks about the project. We also had a crowdfunding kickoff party, where we encouraged people to meet each other and form a community around our project. The nicest thing about the experience has been going out and meeting new people who have heard about the project, and want to know how they can join. - Kate Albright-Hanna, Award-Winning Documentary Filmmaker, Entrepreneur, Activist, Crowdfunding Innovator
Classie’s is a social enterprise started in Harlem, NYC. We sell jam and preserves made by Classie Parker, a master canning trainer. Our business was born because of Classie’s strong commitment to giving back to her community and training others about food education. We make jam with knowledge handed down from generation to generation (from Classie’s Grandma Emma!) and with pure joy. We’re hoping to resurrect the traditional craft of canning and food preservation which is now a lost art. We believe in educating and passing on this knowledge so that future generations can be nourished and satisfied in only a way that food made with love can. We also believe in giving back, so we spend time and money helping to build a healthier, more prosperous Harlem. Our goal is to create a lifestyle brand that strengthens communities by focusing on education and sustainable food. Our supporters are responding really well but it’s definitely challenging. Not everyone knows what crowdfunding is so it’s takes time to educate them too. Once they understand, they are really excited about the opportunity to help Classie achieve her dream. For crowdfunding success, ask your closest supporters to help promote the campaign. It’s tough to keep on asking for money so having others do it for you helps in many ways. Design and print out flyers that you can carry with you. You never know who you are going to meet! - Classie Parker and Team, Jam Entrepreneurs, Food Innovators, Crowdfunding Pioneers
From more than 300 reader ideas, we chose 24 winners. Help crowdfund these amazing projects at popularscience.rockethub.com through Aug. 30. When we asked Popular Science readers to submit their biggest, boldest science and technology project ideas to the #CrowdGrant Challenge, we honestly weren’t sure what to expect. Well, you all delivered. Big time. Hundreds of ideas poured in from all over the world, but two dozen submissions excited us the most. The winning projects include everything from a fusion propulsion research chamber and a handheld cancer scanner to a biological lightbulb and a better sewing needle. We even accepted a scientifically informed peace movement against mean people (because who likes mean people?). Over the next 45 days, we’ll highlight as many individual projects — and the folks behind them — as we can. But there’s no need to wait around, because all of the winners are live and ready for your contributions through our partner, RocketHub.com: popularscience.rockethub.com So what are you waiting for? Do something amazing, make history, and crowdfund the finalists that you’re excited about in exchange for cool rewards offered up by project leaders. Note: The window for contributing closes on Aug. 30 at 11:59pm EDT. Follow the conversation or spread the word about projects on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. Any questions? Email us at email@example.com Guest Post by Dave Mosher, with Permission from Popular Science
Our team spoke with James Portnow, one of the most successful RocketHub project leaders ever. He is back, working to bring the positive power of games to light. "It’s time we talk about all the things games can do for us as a scientific, cultural, artistic and educational medium instead. It’s better for society, it’s better for creators and it’s better for players." - James Portnow RocketHub: You have run a couple of very successful projects on RocketHub in the past - what brings you back? James: Honestly its talking to you guys about the philosophy of RocketHub, the idea that crowdfunding can be a force for social change, a way to allow the consumer to finally get to choose what they buy. RH: How do games make for a better world? James: In the last century we’ve spent more on learning how to engage a human being than in the rest of human history combined, to use that only as a diversion is doing us all an injustice. Games can get us engaged with topics ranging from history to our personal health, from mathematics to philosophy, they can take a banal job and make it a joy, and we can use that power to make this world a better place. There is no reason that learning should feel like a chore or that work should be joyless, and, in part through games, we can overcome that. RH: How can gamers and game creators do a better job at spreading the word about the positive impact of games? James: It’s really about just having the discussion, it all begins with dialog. Right now we spend too much time on the ropes, too much time defending games, but both players and creators can take the simple first step of talking to those around them, those who may dismiss games as a child’s pastime, and start talking about how games can help our education system, our scientific community, our society…or even just talk about how games have helped them. RH: Why are you looking to make this impact now? James: Over the last few months, because of the tragedy at Newtown, I’ve seen games once again go through the same trials they’ve gone through time and again. I’ve seen them placed with comic books, rock music, jazz, rap, even film as the thing we use to deflect from the conversation that we as a society don’t want to have. And you know what, doing so makes us miss all the demonstrable goods they can provide us. It’s time we did more. RH: How did you make the decision to fully commit yourself on this project, and not work on anything else except for Extra Credits? James: That was the hardest part. I love what I do, and I wish the world was a place where I could just keep quietly making games but there are some times where a greater good outweighs what you want and you just have to take a shot at the thing that needs doing. RH: As a very successful RocketHub project leader, what are some of the take-aways and advice you can provide for others looking to crowdfund on RocketHub? James: Clear message. Constant updates. Use all the tools RocketHub gives you. If you can provide those three things, your campaign will resonate with people who come to your site. The trick then is just getting people to see your campaign and on that front, don’t hesitate to contact everyone who might give you reach, from the largest mega-media site to the smallest hometown blog. You’ll get a lot of rejections and a lot of emails that disappear into the ether without even a response, but you’ll get some yeses, and that’s how you build your campaign. RH: What would you hope to see in order to consider your initiative a success (political change, etc…)? James: Unfortunately the metric for success for me is a half-decade down the road, it’s seeing more games in schools, in hospitals, used by scientist to motivate us to help understand more about our world; I know in the next year, no matter how many senators I talk to, no matter how many TV shows I end up on, it’s not going to happen over the course of this campaign. But sometimes the end actually does mean more than the credit for it, so you know what, I’m just happy everyone’s given me a shot at helping us get there.
This particular project was started quite innocently. I found some pens, which bore a similarity in line that was reminiscent of a style that I aspired toward when I was a teenager, which is about 40 years ago. So I began to explore that approach anew. The drawings evolved over time and seemed to tell a story, even though it is not overt. One has to spend time with the drawings to experience what they are about. So I felt a book was the perfect solution to display them. I was already aware of self-publishing, but I wanted to raise the money for it. I have always had a small following, so I felt there were enough people out there who liked my work, who would be willing to help me do this, and get access to my work in a way that was more affordable than buying the art outright. I am not new to crowdfunding. I tried a half-hearted attempt to raise money for a film project on Kickstarter. Of course it failed. My wife said it was because I did not have enough of myself invested in it. This time around, the project is much closer to me. It is a very intimate expression that I am sharing in a book. It is also something that people I know are able to respond to. I also have a long career as a graphic designer which gives me a more complete understanding of marketing. Marketing is unpredictable. But we know one thing—people who do it, fare much better than people who don’t. So I went at this with everything I had in my mental tool bag, and even picked up a few new tricks along the way. You have to work this. You cannot just put it up there and hope people will magnetize to it. Every morning for the first 30 days, I spent the first 2 hours of my morning going over lists, composing emails, updating my status on Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter. I periodically selected names from my FB friends for direct messaging. I posted to my own blog which feeds to the local neighborhood blog. I tried everything i could think of. And I gave up any notion of being shy, or that I would annoy people with my constant promotion. I reached 50% in a little over 2 weeks. I reached 100% in just over 30 days. This project is important to me and I want to see it through to its’ successful conclusion. Right up to the point where I am shipping out the books. Every stage of this is important and needs to be thought out carefully. This is about sharing my work with the world. And though these images are mysterious, many find them more accessible than some of my prior work, which helps. You never know who is going to support you. Every time I sent out a mass promo, I would get a few more donations. And I was surprised more than once as to who donated. It is good to feel appreciated, and I want to repay that appreciation. - Bruce Zeines, Artist, Innovator, Successful Crowdfunder
We are a group of passionate young Dartmouth grads that believe in socially responsible capitalism, and the power of knowledge and opportunity. Our view is simple, hard work should be required of all success, but you as the consumer should get rewarded for the help you give to businesses. Any and every one who spends time posting cool pics and videos on social media sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, can benefit from TagCa$h! Now you can make some extra cash by spending a few more seconds when you post all those trendy pics! How? It’s simple; Just SNAP, TAG, SHARE and we’ll get you paid…for doing what you already do. Much aligned with that which fuels the pioneers trailblazing for the crowdfund industry we are also fueled by the ability to democratize a space that was previously reserved to a select few. But now because of technology, everyone and anyone has the opportunity to be paid for the influence they wield. That proposition is astonishing to us! My experience has been outstanding! I was fortunate to attend the Texas crowdfund conference and learn first hand from the legislators and those who fight on the front lines for all of us to have this extraordinary opportunity. What I heard and the people I met that day ignited me to not only do my own campaign but also do what I can to evangelize the aspects that make crowdfunding great. - Adam Warren, (our founder) For anyone who is doing a non-consumer good campaign you may want to pay attention to others great reward ideas. This is something that those with consumer goods take for granted but for you it is the essence of your campaign. - Brandon Ware, TagCa$h COO, Entrepreneur, Crowdfunding Innovator Be sure to check out TagCa$h T-Shirt competition that just kicked off. It’s a great chance to get a great t-shirt and we’re using the power of the crowd to decide.
It all started from a deep desire to make sense of the chaos around me—and us. We are at such a turning point in this country (and the world) so I wanted to go to where the silence was geographically and politically: the marginalized, the misunderstood, and ignored. That’s where the unwritten history is. So that combined with wanting to uncover for myself who was reshaping our communities, our nation, in ways small and big, set me off on this quest. Many of the characters in the play are inspired from folks I met deep in Appalachia, in Mennonite country, Indiana, in Louisiana, the Inner City, Big Sky country—deeply affected people with a lot to share. And some of these people would self-identify as activists or revolutionaries but some are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Bringing them together was a unique opportunity to ask what it means to be an American right now and what battles are we as a society fighting that are shaping our lives, sometimes without us even being aware of it. And, not to be too precious about it, but I wanted to express the pure miracle of simply being alive, even when our very existence seems threatened. Crowdfunding is challenging but very rewarding. As an artist and producer, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity crowdfunding provides to articulate the vision for the play and the specific reasons this project is timely and worthwhile. It has been so gratifying and humbling to hear people connect with that and show their support. Overall, our supporters have been really excited about the potential of the play and its ambitious, and RocketHub is a great platform which makes it easy for artists like myself to communicate that to a broad audience. It’s definitely an essential tool in bringing the work to life. I’m hesitant to give advice that I feel is applicable in every situation, but I will say, as I mentioned previously, clarity of vision is paramount. Many people and organizations have core supporters who will unconditionally support them, but most people really respond to the mission of what you are doing, its unique place in your community, and your potential to pull it off. Also, crowdfunding is just one aspect of what ideally is a boarder plan to engage your audience. While the money is important, what’s vital is that people feel connected to the work. Also, always, never forget to say thank you. - Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Writer, Performer, Crowdfunding Innovator
Conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD). With these three measurements, marine scientists can unlock ocean patterns hidden beneath the waves. The ocean is not uniform, it its filled with swirling eddies, temperature boundaries, layers of high and low salinity, changing densities, and many other physical characteristics. To reveal these patterns, oceanographers use a tool called the CTD. A CTD is found on almost every major research vessel. Rare is the scientific expedition—whether it be coastal work in shallow estuaries or journeys to the deepest ocean trenches—that doesn’t begin with the humble CTD cast. This project started out as a personal challenge for me at the beginning of the year. I was interested in learning Arduino and thought developing a CTD would be a good, long-term learning project. After a few months of playing around, Kersey and I discussed the possibility of turning it into something more functional and valuable than a simple learning tool. We realized that there is a genuine need for low cost CTD’s in applications where researchers and educators didn’t have the financial resources to purchase a commercial CTD. In keeping with the spirit of open source and open access, we decided that rather than producing a product for sale, we’d produce the resources, foundational development, and technical expertise that would allow any interested parties to build their own. We found the support we’ve received from the oceanography community surpassed any of my expectations. Beyond the funding support, we’ve been in contact with numerous members of the oceanographic community who are excited about the prospect of a low-cost CTD and are willing to lend their expertise to the development. The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive and we think that having it up as a project to fund, rather than just as a side-project in one of our labs, lends credibility to our effort. One of the hidden benefits of the crowdfunding avenue, in addition to displaying to other people that we are serious about this project, is the self-galvanization effect it has on us as the developers. That is to say, the realization that other people find your idea valuable, moves the developers perceived usefulness of their project from the abstract, and into reality. This effect in a sense motivates the developers in their efforts on the project to not only just work harder, but will the project to succeed. We think we’ll probably have better advice once the project closes. One thing that we decided on early on was to have a relatively long funding period. This is due to the fact that, during the summer, many marine scientists are engaged in long field seasons (for example, when the project launched, there were two major oceanographic cruises underway. The long funding period was designed to maximize the number of interested parties that would have a chance to see the project. While this may be obvious, the initial effort in gaining exposure for a crowdfunded project can be quite difficult, and as a crowdfunder you have to be diligent in “spreading the word.” Finding listservs for people with similar interests is a great avenue to gain coverage, coupled with relentless, creative, shameless plugs of your project. - Andrew Thaler & Kersey Sturdivant, Deep-sea Ecologist and Conservation Geneticist; Benthic Ecologist at Duke University; Crowdfunding for Science Pioneers