Universities hop on the crowdfunding bandwagon

Universities hop on the crowdfunding bandwagon
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Crowdfunding is starting to hit the big leagues. Kickstarter recently hit the $1B mark in funds raised, with more than half that amount pledged in the last 12 months. If the total amount raised by crowdfunding platforms worldwide doubles again this year (following an estimated increase from $2.7B to $5.1B in  2012-2013), the crowdfunding industry could be worth $10B/year by 2015.

It’s not surprising then, that universities – key players in the non-profit fundraising space – are testing the waters to see whether the project-based crowdfunding model offers any advantages over traditional peer-to-peer fundraising.  If it proves effective, university-backed crowdfunding could become an important source of support for researchers and scientists, particularly for early-stage research that may not be competitive for traditional grants.

Those universities that have begun to experiment with crowdfunding have used a number of different approaches, however, and it is not clear yet what the winning model will be. On the one hand, some have chosen to partner with external portals, with UCSD designating Indiegogo as its “approved crowdfunding vendor” and Tulane University Medical School partnering with Experiment.com. Deakin University pioneered crowdfunding with Research My World, a pilot partnership with Pozible, the leading Australian portal, and researchers from a number of other universities have subsequently launched campaigns on Pozible’s “Research” sub-portal.

On the other hand, a growing number of institutions are launching their own crowdfunding portals, including the following universities:

1. Arizona State University
2. Carleton University
3. Georgia Tech
4. Michigan Technological University
5. University of Alberta
7. University of Groningen
8. University of Vermont
9. University of Virginia

Finally, still other universities are experimenting with more innovative forms of research crowdfunding.  The University of Michigan’s MCubed program, for example,  combines crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, while Georgetown’s Partners in Research scheme allows donors who contribute to a overall grant fund to vote on which projects should receive the funds.

I’d be surprised if the list of universities using some form of crowdfunding doesn’t grow by leaps and bounds in 2014.

If you know of any other university crowdfunding schemes, send me an email at nick@sciencemenu.ca, or post a comment below.

UPDATE 03/17/2014This Wikipedia page (via Duncan Knox) lists a number of additional university portals, though most are focused on student projects rather than research.  I’ve added the research-focused sites (Michigan Technological University and Groningen University) to the list.  Another reader points to Champlain College’s page on Givelocity, a site that combines crowdfunding with a voting component like Georgetown’s Partners in Research platform.

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