How to Get the Most Bang for Your K-12 Crowdfunding Buck

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How to Get the Most Bang for Your K-12 Crowdfunding Buck

Educators and entrepreneurs alike look to Indiegogo for education-related funding

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Nov 13, 2013

How to Get the Most Bang for Your K-12 Crowdfunding Buck

I get equally tired of two things: begging parents for money, and investor jargon. So, last year, I decided to run an edtech crowdfunding campaign for an educational video project. It was modest -- only asking for about $3,000 from the community. But upon prepping for launch, I found myself struggling with the question of whether I should present myself and my campaign as that of an educator, or that of an entrepreneur. Was I a DonorsChoose type of gal, or should I swing towards the entrepreneurial edtech musings of a Kickstarter campaign?

I couldn’t choose. But that wasn’t a problem. Lucky for me, I had Indiegogo.

Indiegogo is a crowdfunding source equally popular with educators and entrepreneurs alike. And yes, that popularity extends to funders as well -- in fact, in the last year alone, donations to education-related campaigns has tripled. After being founded in 2008, Indiegogo moved into the education space with the launch of its “Education” category, and has continued to push for education campaign success over the past few years. (Most recently, they revealed a partnership with Teach for America’s Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation department).

Unlike DonorsChoose and Kickstarter, instead of swaying to either end of the entrepreneur-teacher spectrum, Indiegogo gravitates towards the middle. Only teachers can post crowdsourcing projects on DonorsChoose, and Kickstarter lacks a category for education projects entirely. But Indiegogo? The site accepts any project submitted. “We were founded for anyone, anywhere, doing anything,” says Breanna DiaGiammarino, Indiegogo’s education vertical lead.

True to its word, the site offers benefits for teachers and entrepreneurs alike -- even benefits beyond the funding itself.

“Entrepreneurs find value in using a campaign to identify a true market, a willingness to pay, and marketing strategies that work. It can be rapidly tested and iterated,” DiGiammarino explains, evidenced by projects like Alberto Piganti’s Maker book for students. Piganti’s strategies the first time around were validated so strongly, he decided to launch a second campaign for a Maker kit--which, as of November 12, has already been fully funded (with 19 days still left to go in the campaign).

But the value doesn’t just extend to the startup founders and CEOs. DiGiammarino continues, “Teachers find a lot of value in spreading the message of what they’re doing.” Case in point, high school English teacher Scott Kent’s “Revolutionary Classroom” campaign sparked a dialogue outside of the site on the impact of classroom seating design. First grade teacher Victoria Ramirez’s campaign brought Latino astronaut Jose Hernandez to her classroom--an experience that was also attended by half of the campaign’s funders.

Clearly, the benefits go beyond the funding itself. But when it does come to gathering the money, several strategies reign true for producing the most successful education-related campaigns in Indiegogo’s history. Indiegogo averages that approximately 25% of campaigns get fully-funded (though flexible-funding campaigns receive funds, no matter if they reach their goal). For teachers and entrepreneurs alike, the following strategies will make all the difference between partial and full funding.

1. Reach out to your local community for the first 30% of funders

“If you fund it, they will come.” Well, if you get your friends and family to fund the first 30%, that is.

When running an education-related campaign, going to one’s local social circles should account for the first 30% of funding. This sparks potential donors outside of your immediate community, and gives them the impression that your campaign has a high likelihood of achieving full funding success. DiGiammarino explains, “Do try to raise the first 30% from your closest community in order to build your credibility. After you’ve hit that, the secondary networks come into play.”

2. Work social media to heighten your “Gogo factor”--and your exposure

Indiegogo has an algorithm called the “Gogo factor,” essentially measuring your campaign’s internet popularity, or as DiGiammarino calls it, “engagement”.

The most heavily Tweeted and shared campaigns get featured front and center on the Indiegogo homepage. Additionally, the higher your Gogo factor, the more likely you will be featured in the weekly newsletter, pushed into Indiegogo’s social media channels, and placed in some of the press initiatives in global publications.

3. Look out for those discount fees and special funding days

Working with a nonprofit? You’re in luck--Indiegogo gives a 25% registration discount for campaigns from a 501(c)(3) organization. Indiegogo also occasionally announces specific days that can benefit your campaign if you qualify (like #GivingTuesday).

4. Get to know tricks of the trade from the experts

Not sure how to be structure your campaign’s landing page? Weighing the pros and cons of fixed funding vs. flexible funding? The people at Indiegogo have put together a field guide that walks you through every step of crafting and launching your campaign. For example, the guide provides you with ideas of “incentivizing perks” for funders, and offers suggestions for different campaign time lengths, based on outcomes from other successful campaigns.

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