It’s been a year since Bath Spa University launched its crowdfunding platform, Launch Pad, and in that time it has attracted plenty of amazing student projects.
To learn more about Launch Pad’s success, we talked to Development Assistant Amethyst Biggs, who manages the platform along with the Development Manager. She told us that the experience of getting the platform off the ground has been challenging, but also extremely rewarding.
Why did Bath Spa University decide to turn to crowdfunding?
When I walk across campus it seems like there’s always some kind of project or creative endeavour going on at Bath Spa – acting students rehearsing Shakespeare in our amphitheatre, the sounds of drumming and thrumming basslines coming from the music studio, or someone sketching one of our resident swans.
We’re a small, creative and arts-focused university, and we’re always looking for ways to enhance our students’ experience and help them realise their goals, whether it’s their comedy group performing at Edinburgh or Fashion Design students pulling off a grand event like the end of the year Fashion Show. What I’m saying is we certainly don’t suffer from a lack of projects and inspiring ideas!
We also want to encourage students to use their initiative, creativity and entrepreneurial skills to make their ideas into reality, and crowdfunding seemed a perfect match for this. It’s a way for us to help students raise money for their projects, as well as to offer another option for funding in addition to (or instead of) existing scholarships and bursaries. So away we went into the world of crowdfunding…
And what did you learn about crowdfunding across the year?
The biggest misconception about crowdfunding is that it’s easy and just kind of magically happens. All you need to do is make a funny video and put the project online and it’ll go viral, the donations will roll in and a week later you’ll be swimming in a pile of money, Scrooge McDuck style.
This is basically the opposite of how it works. Students really need to make the effort to get their projects out there, approach people for donations and get their friends on board. You really do need to have a clear idea of what your project is, how you’re going to promote it and who you’re going to approach for help (and trust me, you will need help!).
We always let our students know that we’re here to give them support and point them in the right direction, but it’s ultimately their project, and they need to do the work.
What was the biggest challenge when you started exploring crowdfunding?
Once the Launch Pad site had its name and a bit of branding and the site went live (which was a large piece of work in itself!), the real challenge of getting the programme up and running truly began. It takes a lot of work and planning to get a project off the ground, and since I didn’t have much (okay, any) experience with launching a crowdfunding platform, I was basically starting from scratch.
Luckily we had a couple of ‘ready-made’ projects which we’d been helping our students with beforehand, so we had something to start with. But going beyond that, generating interest in the platform and getting more projects up took a lot of time, energy and brainpower. I went into classrooms and talked to students. I put up posters and peppered the campus with flyers. We posted on social media.
I met with students individually to chat about the platform and how it could help them with their class projects. I dedicated a lot of my brain capacity to thinking about Launch Pad and how I could get more people engaged. And it paid off: at the beginning of 2017 Launch Pad had hosted three projects; three months later we had 11, and all of the projects that had completed were successful!
Can you tell us about some of the crowdfunding projects that students ran this year?
We’ve had many wonderfully creative and interesting projects on Launch Pad over the past year, covering filmmaking, performance poetry, literary magazines and art exhibitions. One of my favourites was the SALT exhibition, where third year Art students raised just over £3,200 to take their final show to London at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf. I was lucky enough to attend the Private View and the show was absolutely amazing.
Another one I really loved was the Alphabet Soup project. A team of students raised £155 to design and create an online resource for the LGBTQ community, their friends and family to better educate themselves about different gender identities and sexualities.
What should we expect from your crowdfunding platform in the next year?
We’re aiming to keep up the momentum we’ve started with another art exhibition, STOCK and a campaign to take the 2017 Final Year Art show to the Bargehouse in London. The project has just gone live as I write this, and I look forward to seeing what the students do. If it’s anything like last year’s project I know I won’t be disappointed.
We’re also hoping to add a bit more innovation to the mix with some entrepreneurial or product/invention-type projects. We’ve had a lot of luck with our creative and arts-focused projects, but we’d like to cover and expand on the ‘enterprise’ side of things too. It’ll take a lot of hard work, but now that we have a year under our belts and a lot more experience, I’m sure we’ll be able to succeed. Definitely watch this space…
Amethyst Biggs, thank you!
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