2,412 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Editor's Note: The following comes to us from Natasha Chopp, research development and marketing manager at Michigan Technological University. MTU has recently launched a crowdfunding platform for university research called Superior Ideas, and we asked Chopp to share a few insights into the platform and what the plans are for 2013. To keep up with the latest, follow @SuperiorIdeas on Twitter.
University researchers, by design, generate ideas. Often, however, they don’t know how to generate enough money to bring those ideas to fruition. This is especially true at a time when money from traditional sources drying up.
The President’s proposed National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget for fiscal year 2013 is $4 billion lower than 10 years ago, according to the institute’s own figures. On top of that, the number of research project grants funded by NIH has declined every year since 2004 and the proposal funding success rate has dropped below 20 percent.
The government is not the only source cutting back on funding. Research and development support from the private sector to U.S. universities and colleges have been declining every year since 2001. With a decrease in the amount of funding available, researchers need an alternative way to find much-needed cash.
Superior Ideas, a new crowdfunding platform for university research, is looking to help researchers secure funding for their own superior ideas. Our mission is to increase external support for research, innovation, and creative work that promotes sustainable economic and social development.
The platform was created specifically to assist university researchers find funding for their projects using the power of the “crowd.” By harnessing this power, academics can raise money for small, high-quality university research projects that may not be suitable for traditional sponsors like the National Science Foundation or the NIH. Crowdfunding will support creative ideas that may ultimately grow into high impact projects.
With traditional funding for research decreasing, and given the benefits and opportunities that crowdfunding offers, more and more researchers are turning to this type of fundraising. Superior Ideas gives researchers a platform to raise money without incurring debt or compromising their projects.
Superior Ideas operates under a flexible funding model, meaning campaigns will receive all donations, regardless of whether they meet their funding goal or not. Every pledge, large or small, supports researchers’ work.
More importantly, Superior Ideas provides a way for people to engage directly with researchers whose work often goes unnoticed. Dr. Adrienne Minerick, who raised just over $2,500 for her “Baby Tears: Assessing Nutrition in Infants” study, benefited from the outreach.
“We were able to connect with alumni around our research applications -- their passion about our idea energized us,” Dr. Minerick said. Crowdfunding not only helps researchers find additional funding, but it is also an effective outreach tool; researchers gain recognition, support, and encouragement.
Superior Ideas benefits both researchers and backers. Donors from the United States can claim a charitable tax deduction for federal income tax purposes since donations are processed through Michigan Tech’s tax-exempt foundation.
Unlike some crowdfunding platforms, Superior Ideas validates each proposal in order to ensure that all projects are legitimate. When somebody submits an idea, a team screens it, requests approval from the home university, verifies the researcher’s identity, and ensures that the project is consistent with the Superior Ideas’ mission. As our team operates from a leading research university, we ensure that only the best projects are being showcased and that the donations are used for the stated intended purpose.
Merely creating a crowdfunding campaign does not guarantee success. Two big keys to making a campaign thrive are researchers’ outreach efforts and the audience’s connection to the project.
Even before a campaign goes live, the campaign managers need to do a significant amount of outreach so the crowd is more willing to donate. We encourage researchers to spread word to friends, family, colleagues, the press, and all other potential donors about their project. As audiences vary from project to project, it’s important to focus on those individuals and organizations whose interests are most aligned with the campaign.
Once researchers build up buzz around a campaign, they must make every attempt possible to create a bond between the backers and the project. To do this, they should keep the tone relatable, and the goals understandable. They should also engage with the community and make sure that the crowd stays active. Ultimately, the more involved a researcher is with their crowdfunding campaign, the more successful it will be.
Our website, now in beta mode, only features projects from Michigan Tech researchers. In early 2013, we plan to add projects from other universities and we are now reaching out to fellow researchers to interest them in this university-based crowdfunding initiative. Michigan Tech itself is not involved in the process, as Superior Ideas is branded separately. It is a new model and we hope it will promote collaboration between researchers at different universities.
In addition to including research projects from other universities, we are adding new features for donors and researchers, set to launch next month. Donors, for example, will be able to create user profiles where they will be able to specify areas of interest, see campaigns that they donated to in the past, communicate with researchers, and more.
Visitors will be able to discuss campaigns with research teams, make suggestions, and ask questions. Imagine the educational possibilities for middle school students to take what they’ve learned about glaciers in a textbook, to review current data on our website, and then actually talk to the researcher about what they’ve learned. Researchers will also have their own user profiles, which will include their bios, along with their skills and interests, information about their university, their personal website/blog, and more.
We hope to be the crowdfunding site for university researchers, where they go for help funding projects that don’t fit traditional models. Most importantly, our hope is to support research, innovation, and creative work that will promote sustainable economic and social development.