Mel’s crowd funding wheezes have jumped the shark…

This is my first (and perhaps last) post related to my third crowd funding campaign, that I have attempted in as many years.

In that time, I have been nationally and internationally feted, as a guru on the topic of crowd funding research, as an academic. Which was nice….validating as it were, in this day and age, when the catch cry of ‘excellence with impact’ in academia – is paramount.

But with some trepidation (given my current health status and the on going mental health impacts of such, documented in several posts here since the start of 2015) I decided to attempt to crowd fund a project I had been working on since 2012, that was the most promising from a ‘bench to bedside’ patient outcome and traditional peer reviewed perspective.

However, the disease in question, which could kill people with a toxic bacterial diarrhoea…had a distinct image problem, as it was decidedly non glamorous, from a marketing angle (and I say this from the perspective of a scientist that had ‘sold’ the value of medical maggots to the masses!)

I had previously discarded this disease as ‘impossible to sell’ via crowd funding, due to the general narrative of philanthropy for killer diseases and the hierarchy of ‘significance’ that exists with in this space. (If I had $10 for every time I wished I had stayed working in cancer research, I wouldn’t need to crowd fund!)

Perhaps it was the brain lesion talking, but I honestly thought that all that a disease that kills people with toxic mega colons (but mostly just gives people the shits) needed was the ‘Mel treatment’ of awareness raising and crowd funding.

And this with with the over arching aim of having an interesting and compelling narrative to tell, as an invited speaker to the Cdiff Foundation Awareness conference, in Boston in Nov 2015. I thought that I could detail the process of attempting to crowd fund and then hopefully present them with a new resource, with up to date info (such as, it’s not just a nasty hospital super bug….it can be acquired in the community and perhaps from pets and contaminated meat).

To create this resource, I would need to engage a professional animator, the fabulous James Hutson, from Bridge 8, who I had worked with before on my previous Hips for Hipsters campaign – who I knew to be exactly the person to create a witty resource that could hold mass appeal, on such a taboo topic. But I want to pay him properly for his intellectual property and his time on this occasion, which means I need to raise over $10k via my current campaign.

It was a risk, asking for funds for an awareness resource, instead of directly for my research…as my existing successful CF paradigm was to exploit the ‘Woe is me, the EMCR with no proper grants’ ….as feeling often shared by my peers and people of certain political persuasions on Social Media.

But, as I had been communicating to all and sundry, the concept of ‘engagement’ and ‘awareness’ as the best ‘outcome’ and ‘impact’ of academic CF campaigns, I thought I would just cut to the chase…and fund the actual awareness raising resource. But if the levels of bemused interactions with peers and some unsolicited advice (from those who have no track record of doing anything like this)…is anything to go by…I’ve made a huge mistake.

And my moment, when I strapped on the water skis and jumped the shark, Fonzi style? The moment when I uploaded a #undiesforcdiff selfie yesterday, in a vain attempt to garner any interest in a gimmick related to this project. It got me a couple of nice donations, but has left me pondering the last shreds of my professional reputation.

Certain events, beyond my control, involving mistakes made by the ‘powers that be’, with some of my most staunch previous supporters, leading up to the launch of the No more Poo Taboo campaign, left me wondering if I should pull the plug, less that a week out. I had 45 days, but needed 2-3 weeks of clear air time, to allow the generated toxic aerosols to settle (a habit picked up when working on liquid cultures of PC3 level clinical strains, during my PhD)

This strategy has left my woefully short on dedicated communication time, to clarify the goals of my project this time. I now often wished I had the bravery to press the ’emergency stop’ button, a few weeks back.

The only consolation I have is that when looking at the overall stats for success versus failure, on crowd funding campaigns, I’m currently ‘on trend’ heading for a 2/3 success to failure rate. And as a scientist, I need an internal negative control…(she tells herself forlornly!)

But, perhaps I can get an ‘ice bucket challenge’ viral campaign going, if I could get a celeb to represent this issue, like Carrie Bickmore did for a recent awareness campaign for brain cancer, in Australia. But I’m thinking we come back to my original issue…Poo is too Taboo for anyone to be associated with.

I would like to thank @greenepidemic (Dane) for the #undiesforcdiff hashtag idea and @ivalaine (Miranda) for the ‘nominate friends to do undies selfies, a la ice bucket challenge’ idea. And to all of the early adopters of my campaign, fingers crossed I won’t be giving your money back!

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5 Comments

Filed under Crowd Funding Research

5 responses to “Mel’s crowd funding wheezes have jumped the shark…

  1. You need a celebrity who already has a poo-connection & a sense of humour.

    Senator Ricky Muir – kangaroo poo thrower?

    Good luck!

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  2. Andrew

    CDiff might be decidedly unsexy, but research into it is still considered to be respectable and worthwhile career-wise.

    What advice would you give for crowd funding campaigns for ME/CFS research? A field where many consider it career-suicide to participate?

    Research in this field is massively underfunded by a magnitude of order in the USA and Australia vs societal disease burden. It seems that the only researchers who participate are those who have family/friends directly affected, or are well established in their career and can take the hit.

    Yet crowdfunding has had some modest success:
    An example, crowd funding for Ian Lipikin / Mady Hornig’s microbiome discovery project (yes, another study of poo!)
    http://www.microbediscovery.org/home.html (partly successful eg pilot study being conducted)

    Likewise, Maria Gjerpe’s crowdfunding campaign for a follow up phase 3 RCT of the anti-B-cell therapy Rituximab:
    http://www.meyou.no/this-is/ (partially successful – eg additional public funding was finally granted, with the full trial going ahead, since so much public support had been demonstrated by the campaign)
    Likewise, a similar UK trial was also crowdfunded:
    http://www.ukrituximabtrial.org/

    The common elements seem to be that the researchers had very good reputations amongst the patient community, were willing to communicate directly with the patient community (very important).
    Such that patients themselves, along with close friends and family seemed to make the bulk of the donations.

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    • It is a proposition often put to me, when talking about crowd funding, that the ‘big’ diseases will often win the day on such popularity contests. But I say that traditional charities are the same vehicle, just a different format. I also acknowledge that my ‘cult of personality’ can be used to garner attention, much like the ‘Hollywood scientist’ virus hunting Ian Lipkin (whom I have met professionally and found to be decidedly uninspiring….!) But his cult following due to his narrative of ‘Hollywood’ will enable him to win the day, on crowd funding, which just needs lots of small pledges, to carry the day.

      Much of my previous success rests on similar shaking foundations….rocked recently to their very bedrock, by my recent adverse health news. As a result, I have noted the passing of ‘Pollyanna Mel’ whose unbridled and naive enthusiasm, was often able to engender wide support. Sadly, I think the new cynical Mel, will not sell as well as a person who crowd funds successful campaigns. It will be a point of personal reflection over the next few months…

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  3. Don’t give up on your dreams and aspirations. If it fizzes this time doesn’t mean that you failed. It just means that next time there will be a stronger foundation that will lead you to success. Remember this you are already a huge success in your personal and professional life.

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