Crowdfunded $11.5k+, 115% of goal, in 2 quarters by developing a human-centered social media strategy for FutureHAUS Dubai, the US’ award-winning entry into the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East, an international competition to build a net-zero energy home that meets Dubai’s complex space and climate needs.
Marketing Strategist • Fall '17 - Summer '18 • Blacksburg, VA
PRISM, a student-run marketing agency at Virginia Tech, had been recruited to run the crowdfunding campaign for FutureHAUS, an interdisciplinary student-driven project to compete at the Solar Decathlon in the UAE, an international competition to build a net-zero energy home that meets Dubai’s complex space and climate needs.
Virginia Tech was representing the US for the first time since winning the Solar Decathlon in Madrid, Spain in 2010. Despite its past success, budget was tight since the team lost over $1 million worth of research and progress in a fire.
Role & Process
To ensure a successful crowdfunding campaign, FutureHAUS needed someone to act as a cross-functional interface between architects/engineers building the house and the multicultural audiences in the US and the Middle East. I combined my marketing and data analytics skills with my cross-cultural experiences from growing up in India and studying in the US to lead this effort.
Brand Perception & Awareness
I spoke with dozens of donors – students on campus and local businesses – to understand their perception of FutureHAUS.
Social Media Strategy
It was critical for us to humanize FutureHAUS' digital presence in order to ensure a successful crowdfunding campaign. We adopted their social media channels and made human-centered posts. In-person events, such as team introductions, life stories of its members, quirky behind-the-scenes content (e.g., #12daysofFutureHAUS and #SDMESummerSquad), helped generate 1500+ engaged followers in 2 quarters.
I ran in-person user studies to understand the best way to position the campaign. Over a span of multiple days, I connected with dozens of architects and engineers to understand their approach to building FutureHAUS.
Reframing the Question
These empathetic conversations enabled me to identify a crucial gap between FutureHAUS’ creators and donors: the donors didn’t know who the creators were, and therefore, hesitated to support them monetarily in their success.
Instead of a one-way donation campaign, I made it transactional by enabling donors to receive something in return for their contributions (e.g., one could get their name featured on FutureHAUS for $100).
FutureHAUS was a high-priority, time-sensitive project for PRISM, requiring iterative and nimble execution from the get-go. Despite initial ambiguity around what would be required to meet the aggressive crowdfunding goal of $10k, I developed a marketing strategy with 4 other students to build a following of 1.5k+ people and raise $11.5k+, surpassing our crowdfunding goal by 15%. Innovative donation options, combined with insights from my user research, made this possible. The money raised enabled FutureHAUS to participate in the 2018 Solar Decathlon, where it won first place.