Communicating by Touch, Participants from Sensory UX workshop run by Alastair Somerville

Planning my first crowdfunding campaign to run a Core Conversation at SxSW in 2015

An interview with Accessibility design expert
Alastair Somerville

Accessibility design expert Alastair Somerville has worked on commissions for organisations such as Scottish Parliament, Imperial War Museum, National Trust and Natural History Museum in London. In December 2014 he launched his first ever crowdfunding campaign to travel to South By Southwest (SxSw) to run a Core Conversation. Usually, we only get to hear about crowdfunding projects when they’ve become wildly successful or if they are about gadgets and novel innovations. In this post I ask Alastair to share his experiences of planning and running a crowdfunding campaign for an international trip. Is it any different from crowdfunding for a product or service? And how is he managing his campaign.

1. How did the idea for crowdfunding your trip come about?
Once I’d received an invitation to speak at SxSw I realised I needed funding to travel to Austin, Texas from the UK. Crowdfunding offered a way of making this possible. And since a lot of work I do inherently is social, I thought I’d give it a go. I must admit, I had a few reservations. For instance, I was worried that it might be a lot of effort with zero return.

2. How did you address this risk of failure?
Taking an objective approach, I realised that crowdfunding is dependent on many people making a series of decisions to help you. So I had to make sure that my campaign established a level of trust with the community. I also had to be very honest about my reasons for going. Finally, I had to be upfront about the level of funding I needed. So my approach to mitigating risk was to be transparent and upfront, which to be fair, most people are when they run a crowdfunding campaign.

3. Why did you chose Indiegogo as your crowdfunding platform?
I did look into the options. I’d say there are 3 or 4 big crowdfunding websites. Kickstarter doesn’t allow personal fundraising. Going back to the point about mitigating risk, Indiegogo is ideal because if you fail to achieve the financial target you have set, you can still receive any funds you raise from the campaign.

4. How did you choose content for your Indiegogo campaign page?Indiegogo has a basic structure and some useful guidelines that I followed. This includes creating a simple story or a narrative that people can understand. The way you create content for this narrative is left open to you. They do recommend that the key piece of content is a video, because their data shows that campaigns with videos have higher returns.

The video for the Make Inclusive Design Conversations at SxSw crowdfunding campaign

5. How did you create your video for the campaign?
It was relatively easy to create the video. I am used to the hardware/software and frequently use my iPhone to create and share videos on social media. The bigger challenge was to create content I was confident about.

It is important for the campaign video to give a clear reason to people why they should care about funding your project. This is where personal honesty matters.

It took me several attempts to find the right tone to introduce my project. For example, in the first few videos I sounded awkward and stiff. When I got the narrative right, the lightning was too harsh. Finally, I settled on shooting outdoors. The current video on the website is the 6th version but isn’t necessarily the final. I continue to tweak it. That’s the thing about running a social media campaign, you don’t have to keep things static. You can keep changing and improving the story as you get more feedback. The most obvious way to do is is to use the Updates section of your crowdfunding campaign page.

6. How do you promote the campaign on social media on a daily basis?
I tweet daily about the different rewards (or perks) available to the audience. There are two focal points in my campaign. The first is a new workshop for donors in London in January. This session will be hosted by the design agency ustwo, who are famous for projects such as the Monument Valley iOS game. This is highest perk you can get as an individual and requires a £50 donation. The second focal point of course, is the SxSw event itself and how my session is about creating new conversations about inclusion and technology.

A tweet to support the campaign

7. With 36 days left, how do you plan to keep the conversation going?
I’ll be honest here when I say it isn’t easy to keep the momentum going. There are days when I get quite a few contributions and there are days when there is absolutely no activity. This is when the focal points I have created come in handy. I also have to be careful not to tweet my dejection on the slow days. I continually remind people in a positive way, how they can help me and my project. The project has also given me a lot more confidence in talking about my work with a clear purpose and vision to a much wider audience.

Click here to find out more about Alastair’s campaign — Make Inclusive Design conversations happen at SxSw. You can follow him on Twitter @Acuity_Design You can also his website www.acuitydesign.eu

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