Cultivate Labs Support Article

Cultivate Labs Support Articles

Best Practices: Cultivate's Roadmap to Guide Your Funding Round

Cultivate Ignite was built in support of small, high-impact business experiments at the front end of the innovation lifecycle. It's a cultural shift away from "big idea" exercises in lieu of more frequent, lightweight experimentation—that inspires your “crowd” (i.e., employees) in the full process from “idea to implementation.”

Launching an internal crowdfunding effort for the first time is an innovative exercise in its own right that requires some upfront planning. At Cultivate, we've developed a 4-step approach we use with our enterprise clients to guide a successful funding round—whether you're a beginner or have done it before. It's a process that can easily scale and be repeated. 

We go into the detailed approach below (or see a Summary Checklist) that in 12 short weeks will align leaders on the “Call for Ideas,” launch the initiative, and engender passion and excitement among participants to submit and promote their ideas. In the end, you’ll have a prioritized set of projects funded by the crowd!

Note: Though we’ve defined a 12-week program (and as such, this is the minimum commitment for purchasing Cultivate Ignite), you can extend the timing of each step to fit your goals (and pay monthly as you go). We've also broken up the idea submission stage and crowdfunding stage, but these can happen simultaneously.

Step 1. Announce “Call for Ideas” (Week 1-4)

Week 1. Hold leadership meetings to align on scope, staffing, and overall budget.

Before launching a crowdfunding round, you’ll want to obtain buy-in from leadership to first:

  1. Define scope for ideas;
  2. How to integrate into project pipeline (e.g., staffing, approvals, etc);
  3. Establish overall budget for crowdfunding; and
  4. Define success factors for the funding round.

Defining your areas of focus is critical to getting quality ideas from employees that serve a specific need for the business or customers. For example, what strategic priorities are you focused on that require innovative solutions? (These areas of focus are referred to as “Campaigns” in theCultivate Ignite application.)

As you align leaders on the scope, you will also want to discuss what happens after crowdfunding, and where the newly funded ideas will fit into staffing and the project pipeline. (Note: While this process is outside of the Cultivate Ignite application itself, a plan for what will happen to ideas that get fully funded will be critical to the success of the initiative.) Think about: 

  • What are the project management logistics and follow-up to ensure projects get completed? 
  • What are the staffing implications? 
  • How will employees get approval to work on projects if their ideas are fully funded? 
  • Can an individual work on more than one idea if they get fully funded? 
  • How do you ensure managers are supportive of employees working on these projects?

Additionally, you’ll need to have a budget in place for the entire effort. How big is the pool of money that leadership is willing to dedicate to the crowdfunding? Divide this total by the number of eligible participants to figure out how much people will have in their accounts to “fund” ideas.

One of the earliest discussions you’ll also want to have includes defining the success factors of this sort of crowdfunding initiative, for example: increasing group engagement (total participants/log-ins), increasing collaboration (number of comments, number of ideas with 2+ employees), number of ideas submitted, etc.

Week 2. Define criteria for ideas.

Since these ideas are meant to be experiments, you’ll want to define parameters, so that you can get people thinking about completing a “minimum viable product” in this stage of experimentation. For example:

  • What’s the maximum budget allowed for any one idea?
  • What’s the maximum project timeframe?
  • How many FTE’s are allowed to work on any one idea?
  • What’s the definitive signal for deciding whether this project should be expanded or not?

Once the project criteria are defined, this will serve to guide what participant put into the background information/description of their idea within the Cultivate Ignite application when they submit their idea. 

Week 2. Define the communication plan (activities, owners, timeline).

Once you have the idea scope, staffing, budget and parameters in place, the next step is to determine core project logistics:

  • Confirm the timing for your funding round;
  • Delegate roles/responsibilities; and
  • Define the marketing/communications activities.

Confirming the timing for the initiative is fairly straightforward: 

  • When would you like to launch? 
  • Will you separate the ideation stage from the crowdfunding, or allow concurrent activity? 

By now, you probably have your core project team in place for the crowdfunding effort, but there are other roles you may want to consider. Past clients have assigned a small group of idea “mentors” or “champions” who can serve as advisors on ideas and ensure they fit the parameters before employees submit them in the Cultivate Ignite application. These “mentors” would not play a role in the approval process, simply would serve to ensure that ideas have been well thought out and are viable to enter the crowdfunding stage. Is this something needed for your funding round? If so, you’ll want to determine how to incorporate these “mentors” and keep them in the loop.

Make sure you and your team establish the marketing and communication cascade to keep employees informed and generate excitement along the way. Some things to think about:

  • How will you formally launch the initiative? Many of our clients have done in-person meetings with leadership (e.g., leadership roadshows) to explain the value and logistics of crowdfunding a few days prior to sending a formal email announcement.
  • Will there be a “live event” to kickoff the idea submissions (e.g., a poster session or live pitch session)? We’ve seen this kind of activity spur excitement and greater collaboration among peers. It’s also a great way to promote the “intrapreneurial” spirit early in the process. (See more details in Step 2, Week 5).
  • Who will distribute communications for the different stage gates and when? (i.e., ideation, crowdfunding, continued project status checks)
  • What internal channels work (in addition to email) for marketing the effort?

Week 3. Set up the Cultivate Ignite application with the total budget and other parameters.

While setting up the application takes just a few minutes, you’ll still want to set aside some time to get familiar with the full functionality, administrative settings, and help articles. Read the Quick Start for Admins with all this information:

  • Input budget for your campaign and the per-user starting balance (divide total budget equally by number of invited participants)
  • Create and edit the idea areas of focus (referred to as “campaigns” in the application)
  • Know how to invite users
  • Know how to view stats from the Admin dashboard to check progress of ideas
  • Know how to turn off (or delay) crowdfunding, like during the idea collection phase

Weeks 2-3. Draft launch communications.

As you determine your communication plan, allow time to draft the launch materials (e.g. launch memo with link to Cultivate Ignite and launch presentation to be used at in-person meetings or to provide quick tips). The launch memo should include a calendar invitation to any in-person leadership meetings during the launch week and a heads up about the future “live pitch event” (if you choose to do one) to build momentum for idea submissions. It should also include a link to your Ignite page, where you can include this Quick Start for Users.

Week 4. Announce the “call for ideas.”

Now, you’re ready to officially distribute the launch communications with your “call for ideas.” This week, you’ll also be facilitating any leadership town halls or in-person meetings with invited participants to demonstrate that this effort is being championed from the top. 

Step 2. Idea Submission & Iteration (Week 5-10)

Week 5. Conduct “live event” to kick off idea submissions.

To create excitement and momentum for idea submissions, we strongly encourage coordinating a live onsite event (such as a poster session or VC-style pitch event), where employees can come share ideas still in their infancy, and answer questions, or take suggestions from their peers. Conduct this as an “event” and not a traditional meeting to get colleagues in the right frame of mind for ideation (e.g., include food and beverages, play music at the start, fill the room with blank posters, markers, sticky notes, present a physical reward or company swag to employees who pitch ideas, volunteer for an idea, or ask questions during Q&A, etc).

Remember, that the Cultivate Ignite application is mobile responsive. Have employees enter their idea(s) into the system before the live event, and their peers can leave comments, volunteer for the idea, (or fund it - if you choose to turn on crowdfunding early) using their phones. 

Week 6. Send a recap of the “live event” to all participants.

Send an email with a quick highlight to participants, include Cultivate Ignite links to all the ideas that were presented at the event, and any stats about number of ideas and number of investments made during the first week or two of the project.

Week 7. Think ahead: determine what to do with remaining funds

Inevitably, after you finish the crowdfunding phase, there will be a pool of money remaining from unused funds (from all the ideas that don’t reach their target funding, or from participants who didn’t invest). Determine how you want to go about using those left-over funds. Some options:

  1. Calculate remaining funds, and as the core project team, fully fund the ideas from top to bottom, of those that are closest to their goal;
  2. Select a group of highly-engaged participants (based on a variety of factors, including: most ideas submitted, most comments made, etc) to be the selection team for which ideas get the remaining funds. The group along with the core project team will use their own discretion to award unused funds;
  3. Extend the crowdfunding one more week - and only have participants fund among the top 10 or top 5 most funded ideas (note: there’s likely to be money still remaining, and you may need to resort to the prior two options after the fact).

You’ll want to have this decision finalized before the crowdfunding begins, and you can be transparent with participants about how you plan to do this in an equitable way.

Week 8. Send a status update email to all participants (and “mentors”).

View the stats in the Admin Dashboard and send an email with highlights, reminding them that there are just two more weeks to go for the idea submission phase.

If you have idea mentors, ensure you are also following up with them separately to check in and answer any questions.

Week 10. Send an email to mark the end of the idea submissions.

Send a final request for participants to submit any last-minute ideas, and include the logistics for the crowdfunding round that begins next.

Step 3. Internal Crowdfunding (Week 11-12)

Week 11. Send announcement to launch crowdfunding.

Send an email to officially announce that the crowdfunding round has begun. Remind users how much time they have to crowdfund, their starting balance amount, that they can move their investments around by funding and un-funding at any time, and that they can volunteer on ideas. You may also want to encourage idea owners to feel free to promote their own ideas in various ways (be it emails or other collaterals for their peers to see).

Week 12. Send two emails: 1) last week’s funding highlights, and 2) to end crowdfunding.

Early during the last week of crowdfunding, send an email to keep participants informed of the funding highlights (e.g., which ideas have been fully funded, which ideas are closest to their funding goals, how many investments have been made across the board, etc.). At this point, explain to employees what you plan to do with any remaining funds once crowdfunding is over, so that they are aware their participation during the last few days is important in determining the final prioritization of ideas.

On the second to last day of funding, send the reminder email about the last day to fund. Encourage participants to un-fund and move investments around.

Funding on Cultivate Ignite is officially over at this point, but the next step for you will be the wrap up of crowdfunding and the project implementation process below.

Step 4. Implement Selected Ideas (Week 13+)

Week 13. Send an email with the final highlights of fully funded ideas, and next steps.

Congratulate those ideas that got fully funded and reiterate that you will confirm what other ideas will get funded with the remaining budget within a few days. At that time, you will also explain next steps to “idea owners” for developing project plans.

Week 14. Final confirmation email of all funded ideas.

Try not to take more than two weeks after the last day of crowdfunding to determine how to use the remaining budget. You should have coordinated this process and selected all final idea “winners.” Send an announcement to all participants, recognizing the winning teams, and how you will be keeping track of these projects going forward.

That’s it, you’ve completed an entire funding round in one quarter! At Cultivate Labs, we love to hear your stories. We hope you’ll share any anecdotes, things that could be improved, or if you're interested in our professional services, write us:

See the Summary Checklist or go back to the Support Site