The funding for this project comes in part from the Science Foundation Ireland and the other half comes from elsewhere. We’ve got funding from the Wellcome Trust, the European Society for Evolutionary Biology and the Royal Society for Chemistry. Traditionally we try to get a zone funded by large company employing lots of scientists and engineers. A company whose business relies on a science friendly population and education system. Traditionally we get nowhere.
This year we thought we’d try something different. We thought we’d ask lots of small companies who rely on scientists and engineers to fund us a little. We thought we’d try crowdfunding.
It didn’t work.
We created two FundIt.ie campaigns and promoted them both through our networks and through other networks. The response was almost non-existent. Why?
We could have promoted it harder. But it was clear from our initial publicity that promotion wasn’t leading to pledges. From our first burst of activity we had such a little response that it was clear that even an enormous amount of promotion would still have left us short.
Companies need time to plan. Yes, they do, but it was my expectation that the amount of money we were asking for would be discretionery spend. And the one pledge of €250 showed that to be a possibility.
Companies don’t understand science engagement. Sure, there are some companies who understand what you mean by science outreach and engagement. But perhaps not that many and perhaps not so much those who also have the flexibility to pledge €250. I found myself having to explain the event and what it was trying to do. I’m not convinced it was fully appreciated.
People don’t get crowdfunding. Sure you do. You’re reading a blog that you probably found via a link on twitter. You get crowdfunding because you’re part of the online crowd. but the people running small businesses don’t get it in the same way. It’s not the norm. A central concept of crowdfunding is that unless the campaign is successful it doesn’t cost you, the pledger, a cent. It’s brilliant. It means you only buy into SUCCESS. But that isn’t blindingly obvious. I think it is still some time before it becomes mainstream.
Will we try next year? I think so. We’ll start earlier. We’ll prime the audience a little more. And if we fail again, we’ll make sure we learn again.