FundaGeek for Basic Research
NEW! Follow the FundaGeek Research Blog to find useful tips on crowdfunding for scientists.
For Basic Research, FundaGeek offers an alternative to the traditional research project fundraising approach of applying to government agencies and private foundations for grants.
The process of applying for grants has become a major time sink for researchers. In 2007, a U.S. government study found that university faculty members spend about 40 percent of their research time navigating the bureaucratic labyrinth of agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
More and more, researchers seek out private sources for funding. Development departments of major universities play an instrumental role in locating donors to make contributions for basic research. This process works fine to supplement government grants; however it might take a prolonged effort to secure funds from a few large donors. Once secured, it is well reported that private funding makes a world of difference in achieving critical funding for research projects.
FundaGeek represents a dynamic paradigm shift in private funding of basic research by collecting small pledges from a large number of backers. Funding comes from social networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other viral marketing techniques using social media.
A New Funding Paradigm
Crowd funding is a new phenomenon that aggregates small online contributions from many individuals who believe in the fundamental science behind a research project and want to help support it. Crowd funding supplements or even circumvents traditional funding mechanisms for basic research such as grants or private donors. Anyone can make an online monetary pledge in return for a reward or as a donation just because they’re excited about your research project. The major benefit is that project backers do not expect to be paid back or receive any other interest in the project, nor are researchers shackled with the onerous grant application process.
Many excellent basic research projects never become a reality because of the rising competition in the grant process. A vicious cycle has developed. With more and more researchers applying for each grant, an individual’s chances of winning decrease, so scientists must submit ever more proposals just to stay even. Between 1997 and 2006 the NSF found that the average applicant had to submit 30 percent more proposals to garner the same number of awards. In comparison, any research group can post a project on FundaGeek for free and anyone, anywhere in the world, can pledge money to support it. We accept projects from all areas of basic research in the physical and life sciences.
EXAMPLE: Here is a fictitious example to illustrate how a researcher might use FundaGeek to obtain project funding. A research group at a university astronomy department wishes to start work on a new methodology using telescope data sets that would dramatically improve measurement precision across the entire field of view. The project will require five years to accomplish and will include: theoretical work, code development, and implementation/testing at the telescope. Given a climate of increased competition for traditional NSF grants in light of U.S. budget cuts for science, hope begins to dim for the project. There has to be a better way – enter FundaGeek, Crowd Funding for Technical Innovation. The group creates a new FundaGeek project and uses the department’s expansive Facebook social network to raise funds to get the project started. After 90 days, the group receives their funding and launches the same project again for continued support. Over the next several years, the group’s FundaGeek project manages to raise the desired funding to make the project a success.
FundaGeek is for individual researchers, small research groups, and large scientific collaborations seeking private funding to supplement or replace traditional funding sources. Only the best ideas will meet their funding goals through this democratic process because backers only contribute to projects they believe in. Our focus centers on reaching out to researchers in need of project funding. These are people with solid ideas, plans and specifications for research projects, but lacking the financial resources to proceed with the project.
Being based on the global connectivity of the Internet, FundaGeek solves funding problems for researchers from all over the world by bringing support from backers all over the world. In this way, FundaGeek offers international funding opportunities for basic research projects. Although based in Southern California, FundaGeek accepts projects from anywhere in the world. Further, supporters of a project can be geographically diverse as well. For example, a UK-based research project feasibly may receive a majority of its funding from supporters in Canada. The ability to be a global resource for funding of basic research is a critical objective of FundaGeek.
The FundaGeek Process for Researchers
A visitor to FundaGeek need not be a member to have access to the site. However, there is no charge to become a member and there are significant benefits in registering as a member. A member is able to view the projects that have been submitted by researchers, make pledges on projects they choose to support and/or post their own projects for potential funding.
With the help of the step-by-step FundaGeek submission process, the research group prepares a profile that describes their project and is prompted to submit any or all of the following: an informative science overview, a project budget, a PowerPoint presentation describing the project for a lay person, or a video explaining the concepts involved. The research group, now known as the “Project Owner”, defines an array of pledge amounts, the corresponding reward for each pledge amount, and the number of days the group determines it will take to meet the project’s funding goals. Registered Members of FundaGeek are able to review any posted project to determine which project/s they wish to support as a backer. When a project reaches the end of its funding period, the research group receives its funding. Under the Crowd Funding concept, these funds are not received as grants; they are simply payments for rewards with the desire to support the project.
One making a pledge in support of a project will be able to select from a group of rewards provided by the Project Owner in exchange for the pledge. They will be in varying amounts, i.e., $25, $50, $100, $500 or any amount representing the value of the specific reward being offered. The rewards could be intangibles, like the backer’s name acknowledged as a supporter on a webpage referenced in a research paper reporting the results of the project; it could be an overview DVD describing the science and researcher involved with the project; or it could be admission to a special event held in honor of backers to hear a presentation of the research results. Creativity is required to determine just the right reward to attract the most backers.