Is crowdfunding for me?

Statistics for Australian research crowdfunding 2011 - 2015. 79 campaigns raised $558,058 from 5,804 pledges. 16 campaigns raised no funds at all. Most raised around $6,500. The highest amount was $73,000. Some raised only $2. Only three universities had more than five campaigns in that time.
Crowdfunding at Australian universities, 2011 – 2015.

Is your research suitable for crowdfunding? What works and what doesn’t? This three-hour workshop is designed to help you to understand what you might get out of a crowdfunding campaign, and if it might work for you.

Crowdfunding provides a new way to raise funds for research. In essence, you are building a fan club for your research. Because it is new, it provides new opportunities, particularly for those who feel locked out of the existing system.

However, new ways of working aren’t easy. There is no road map. We are learning as we go. That is hard, but also exciting.

This three-hour workshop is designed to help you to understand if crowdfunding makes sense for you. By the end, you should know if you want to develop and run a crowdfunding campaign.

Audience: Researchers and PhD students looking to build an audience for their work.

Format: Face to face workshop. Bring your laptop – we’ve got some work to do.

Outcome: At the end of the three hours, you should understand:

  • How crowdfunding works for academics.
  • The different types of crowdfunding campaigns and services, and which might be best for you.
  • The skills and abilities required to undertake a crowdfunding campaign.
  • The work and time commitment involved in undertaking a crowdfunding campaign.
  • What you might gain from undertaking a crowdfunding campaign.
  • Roughly what your crowdfunding campaign might look like.

Notes:

Presenter

Jonathan O'Donnell

Jonathan O’Donnell has 15 years of experience helping people to find funding for their research. He is fascinated by crowdfunding because it is the first new funding mechanism that he has seen in all that time. To understand how crowdfunding works, he has reviewed all research crowdfunding campaigns run by Australian university staff to 2015, and has interviewed academics and administrators at the two most active universities in Australia. With his colleague, Tseen Khoo, he runs the Research Whisperer blog and Twitter stream (@ResearchWhisper).

This project is part of his PhD, examining crowdfunding as a research funding mechanism at Australian universities (RMIT ethics 19613 & 20729). He is examining the support required for crowdfunding, and seeking to understand the dynamics of crowdfunding within a university.

Introduction to research crowdfunding

Ever thought about crowdfunding your research? This presentation is for you – it provides an overview of crowdfunding at Australian universities.

A brass tray holding Australian coins. At the top of the tray is engraved 'Pocket change'.

It is incredibly tough to get funds for research at the moment. Some entrepreneurial academics are using crowdfunding to raise money from the public. It isn’t easy, but new ways of doing things provides for new opportunities. They are learning new skills, building an audience for their work, and raising some funds as well.

This one-hour session is designed to answer your questions about research crowdfunding.

  • How much money can I raise?
  • Will it count as research funding?
  • How much time will it take?

This session will cover these questions and any others that you may have. We will discuss the funds available, the work required and the ancillary benefits to be gained from undertaking a research crowdfunding campaign.

Audience: Researchers and PhD students looking to understand how crowdfunding works at Australian universities.

Format: One hour question and answer session.

Outcome: At the end of the hour, you should understand:

  • Different ways that researchers are raising funds through crowdfunding.
  • How much they are raising, and what the chances of success are.
  • The skills and abilities required to undertake a crowdfunding campaign.
  • The work and time commitment involved in undertaking a crowdfunding campaign.
  • What you might gain from undertaking a crowdfunding campaign.

Notes: Research crowdfunding in Australia (393 Kb PDF), Jonathan O’Donnell on the Research Whisperer, 11 February 2016.

Presenter

Jonathan O'Donnell

Jonathan O’Donnell has 15 years of experience helping people to find funding for their research. He is fascinated by crowdfunding because it is the first new funding mechanism that he has seen in all that time. To understand how crowdfunding works, he has reviewed all research crowdfunding campaigns run by Australian university staff to 2015, and has interviewed academics and administrators at the two most active universities in Australia. With his colleague, Tseen Khoo, he runs the Research Whisperer blog and Twitter stream (@ResearchWhisper).

This project is part of his PhD, examining crowdfunding as a research funding mechanism at Australian universities (RMIT ethics 19613 & 20729). He is examining the support required for crowdfunding, and seeking to understand the dynamics of crowdfunding within a university.

Patronage as a research crowdfunding model

Martin Pfeiffer with a box of National Nuclear Security Administration FOIA documents.

Martin Pfeiffer with a box of National Nuclear Security Administration FOIA documents. Used with permission.

Meet Martin Pfeiffer. Martin uses anthropology to investigate nuclear weapons. That’s amazing, in and of itself. Even more interestingly, Martin is crowdfunding his research and I’m all in favour of research crowdfunding.

What really got me excited, though, was how Martin is crowdfunding his research. Martin is crowdfunding on Patreon.

Patreon works differently to most other crowdfunding services. On Patreon, you donate a small amount regularly. For example (and in the spirit of full disclosure), I support Martin for US$2 per month.

As I write this, people like me are donating $551 per month to Martin’s research, and that funding base is growing. On 27 June 2017, when I subscribed, Martin was receiving $442 in donations. Now it is $551. By the time you read this, it may have crept a bit higher.

$550 per month doesn’t seem like much, but $6,000 a year (you lose a bit on fees) can be handy when you need to pay for copying, or freedom of information requests, or local travel, or any of the myriad of costs that may or may not be covered by your research grant.

Read more of this post

Crowdfunding

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We are keen supporters of crowdfunding. Jonathan is so keen that he is doing a PhD on it. Here are our crowdfunding posts, and some resources that you might find useful.

Our articles about research crowdfunding

Crowdfunding at Australian universities, 2011 – 2015.

#CrowdfundResearch in Australia

Planning

Budgeting

Outreach & communication

Social media

Asking for funds

  • The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer, February 2013.
    Singer Amanda Palmer on the power of generosity. She has a book, too.

#MustCite articles

My Zotero research crowdfunding group has all the references. Here are the ones I really love:

Pomerantz, Jeffrey, and Robin Peek. “Fifty Shades of Open.” First Monday 21, no. 5 (April 12, 2016). doi:10.5210/fm.v21i5.6360.

  • A beautiful clear definition of ‘open’, as we understand it today.

Palmer, Stuart, and Deb Verhoeven. “Crowdfunding Academic Researchers: The Importance of Academic Social Media Profiles.” In ECSM2016-Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference on Social Media, edited by Christine Bernadas and Delphine Minchella, 291–99. Caen, France: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, 2016.

  • Using social network analysis to reveal insights into the progress of campaigns while they are underway.

Kelty, Christopher, Aaron Panofsky, Morgan Currie, Roderic Crooks, Seth Erickson, Patricia Garcia, Michael Wartenbe, and Stacy Wood. “Seven Dimensions of Contemporary Participation Disentangled.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 66, no. 3 (March 1, 2015): 474–88. doi:10.1002/asi.23202.

  • Provides a framework that allows clear distinctions and better analyses of the role of participation.

Verhoeven, Deb, and Stuart Palmer. “Because It Takes a Village to Fund the Answers: Crowdfunding University Research.” In Crowdfunding the Future – Media Industries, Ethics, and Digital Society, edited by Lucy Bennett, Bertha Chin, and Bethan Jones, 133–56. Digital Formations. Peter Lang, 2015. http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30074013.

  • Describes the ‘flipped funding model’, and crowdfunding as a first rather than the final step in the financing process.

Byrnes, Jarrett E. K., Jai Ranganathan, Barbara L. E. Walker, and Zen Faulkes. “To Crowdfund Research, Scientists Must Build an Audience for Their Work.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 12 (December 10, 2014): e110329. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110329.

  • How online engagement leads to a crowdfunded research project.

Leitch, Shirley, Judy Motion, Elizabeth Merlot, and Sally Davenport. “The Fall of Research and Rise of Innovation: Changes in New Zealand Science Policy Discourse.” Science and Public Policy 41, no. 1 (February 1, 2014): 119–30. doi:10.1093/scipol/sct042.

  • A lovely description of how the loss of research from the discourse of science policy limits the capacity for knowledge creation.

Palmer, Amanda. The Art of Asking: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. United Kingdom: Little, Brown Book Group, 2014.

  • An excellent treatise on the power of generosity.

Ferlie, Ewan, Louise Fitzgerald, Martin Wood, and Chris Hawkins. “The Nonspread of Innovations: The Mediating Role of Professionals.” Academy of Management Journal 48, no. 1 (February 1, 2005): 117–34. doi:10.5465/AMJ.2005.15993150.

  • A great description of how different parts of an organisation may work against the adoption of useful innovations.

Lessig, L. “Law Regulating Code Regulating Law.” Loyola University Chicago Law Journal 35, no. 1 (Fall 2003): 1–14.

  • Describes the way that software (such as crowdfunding services) are bound by national legislation, and in turn build their own sets of ‘laws’ that circumscribe what users can do.

Kelsey, John, and Bruce Schneier. “The Street Performer Protocol and Digital Copyrights.” First Monday 4, no. 6 (June 7, 1999). doi:10.5210/fm.v4i6.673.

  • How giving can fund production.
Kelly, Kevin. 2008a. “1,000 True Fans.” The Technium. March 4.
Kelly, Kevin. 2008b. “The Reality of Depending on True Fans.” The Technium. April 21.
Kelly, Kevin. 2008c. “The Case Against 1000 True Fans.” The Technium. April 27.
  • Looking at the numbers required to make a living from micropayments.

Crowdfunding: training that pays for itself

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Pocket change, by Jonathan O’Donnell on Flickr

Researchers who run crowdfunding campaigns are trying to raise funds for their research. That would seem to go without saying.

Except, if that’s the case, and if research funding is so hard to get, then why isn’t everybody doing it?

When I looked for crowdfunding campaigns run by academic staff at Australian universities, I found only 63% (27) of universities were represented [Data on Figshare]. As far as I could tell, 37% of universities hadn’t had any crowdfunding campaigns run by staff members. Of those that had, only three (7%) had run more than five campaigns. Why is that?

I need to do more work before I can answer that question, but some of the answers revolve around prestige (these aren’t national Research Council grants) and inertia (it is hard to get big organisations to do new things).

I can’t change the lack of prestige around crowdfunding. That will take time – in some quarters, eons may pass.

But I can tackle inertia. Read more of this post

Crowdfunding your research

Dear researcher

Thank you very much for sending through your funding proposal. You mentioned that you are trying to obtain corporate sponsorship for this project. That is excellent, and you should continue.

You might also like to think about using a crowdfunding service. Crowdfunding allows you to raise funds from the public. It isn’t for everybody and it is a lot of work but I think that it might suit your project.

To this end, I’ve done a quick analysis of your project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) that might help you to decide if you want to try to raise funds this way. I hope that you find it useful. Let me know if you want to go ahead.

Before I begin, I should make it clear that everything that follows is just my opinion. It’s early days for crowdfunding, and I don’t have any working experience with it yet. Read more of this post

Deakin’s crowdfunding success

Sophie counting out Chinese money in to piles of 100 Yuan bills

After the heist, by Jonathan O’Donnell on Flickr

Over the last two months, I’ve been watching Deakin University’s venture into crowdfunding research. It has been an exciting and very successful initiative.

Deakin University is based in Australia, so they worked with an Australian crowdfunding platform, Pozible, to make this happen. In May-June 2013, Deakin ran eight funding campaigns through Pozible.

Six of the eight exceeded their targets!

Pozible is an ‘all or nothing’ crowdfunding platform, so the projects that didn’t succeed won’t get anything at all. The others will get about 93% of the contributions after transaction fees are deducted.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers. The two projects marked ‘N/A’ did not reach their target, and so raised no funds at all.

Table 1: Deakin University fundraising on Pozible, June 2013.
Project title Raised Supporters $ / person
‘Caching’ in on game play N/A 42 N/A
Healthy gigglers $12,832 45 $285.16
Mighty maggots v flesh nom bugs $9,970 129 $77.29
Discovering Papua New Guinea’s mountain mammals $21,913 298 $73.53
Retake Melbourne $6,417 68 $94.37
How salty is your seafood? N/A 11 N/A
Would you like seaweed with that? $5,435 88 $61.76
Voyages of discovery $5,005 41 $122.07
Total raised $61,572

I love what Deakin has done! When I saw what they were trying to do, my initial reaction was “Why didn’t I think of that?”. I have been trying to convince individuals at my university to try crowdfunding, without any success. By taking an institutional approach, Deakin were able to get more traction.

READ MORE

Planning your campaign

Chinese banknotes stuck to the wet spring of a well as donations to a temple.
Well spring of funding, by Jonathan O’Donnell on Flickr.

So you’ve decided to run a crowdfunding campaign. Excellent! Now let’s sit down and plan how that is actually going to happen.

These one-hour small group meetings will provide you with a structured way to plan your campaign. By the end, you should have a realistic timeline for developing and executing a crowdfunding campaign. This is a massively useful document, as it helps you to plan your time, keep on track, and get back on track when life (and the university) throws you a curve ball.

You should also have a clear understanding of the work involved. Crowdfunding is new, so there are a lot of new skills to learn. They aren’t necessarily hard, but learning new things is always challenging.

These workshops will also provide me with a clearer understanding of the difficulties that you will face as your progress. That will help me to tailor coaching for you.

Audience: Researchers and PhD students undertaking crowdfunding campaigns. Maximum of 5 participants per meeting.

Format: One-hour small group meeting, either face-to-face or via Zoom.

Outcome: At the end of the hour, you should have a timeline for your crowdfunding campaign.

Notes: Work backwards, Jonathan O’Donnell on the Research Whisperer, 23 June 2015.

Presenter

Jonathan O'Donnell

Jonathan O’Donnell has 15 years of experience helping people to find funding for their research. He is fascinated by crowdfunding because it is the first new funding mechanism that he has seen in all that time. To understand how crowdfunding works, he has reviewed all research crowdfunding campaigns run by Australian university staff to 2015, and has interviewed academics and administrators at the two most active universities in Australia. With his colleague, Tseen Khoo, he runs the Research Whisperer blog and Twitter stream (@ResearchWhisper).

This project is part of his PhD, examining crowdfunding as a research funding mechanism at Australian universities (RMIT ethics 19613 & 20729). He is examining the support required for crowdfunding, and seeking to understand the dynamics of crowdfunding within a university.

Openness and security

For the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) 2018 conference, Ipshita Ghose asked Adam Golberg, Bo Alroe and I to help out with a workshop about how technology changes the research development role. I’d just like to thank them for the chance to reflect on how our processes may change in the future.  


This message and any attachment are intended solely for the addressee and may contain confidential information. If you have received this message in error, please contact the sender and delete the email and attachment.

Page 1 of a US Department of Defence document with heavy redactions.

Redacted document, via Wikimedia Commons

This statement is standard boilerplate at a lot of universities (and other organisations). It is designed to demonstrate due diligence in reducing risk, I think.

For me, this statement encapsulates the disjunction between where our researchers are going, and where the university administration stands. Research is becoming more and more open. Open journals, open data, open everything.

As administrators, we remain steadfastly closed. Grant applications are confidential. Research contracts are confidential. Even our emails are confidential. There are good reasons for this confidentiality, in some instances. A lot of the time, though, confidentiality in administration is business-as-usual atrophy. An all-pervasive attitude that we don’t even think about anymore.

This blog is a good example of that. For the last seven years, we’ve published an article every week (almost) about doing research in academia. All the articles are available for everybody to read. When we first proposed this idea, our manager was quite suspicious. Why would we want to give away the university’s “secret sauce”? Wouldn’t that make us less competitive? Actually, when it comes to constructing a good budget, or a Gantt chart, or most anything else about what we do, there is no secret sauce. It is all standard stuff. But thinking about our professional practice every week, and publishing it openly for others, has been enormously beneficial. Read more of this post

When grants were handwritten

For the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) 2018 conference, Ipshita Ghose asked Adam Golberg, Bo Alroe and I to help out with a workshop about how technology changes the research development role.

I couldn’t actually be in Edinburgh, so my main contributions was a personal reflection on the last 30 years of research administration, and how the technology has changed. This is an expanded version of that talk.


1987: Thirty years ago

A grant application form from 1987, for the Australian Research Grants Scheme

1987: note the ‘Office use only’ boxes, where we could hand write the file number.

Thirty years ago, I began my career in research administration working for one of Australia’s national funding agencies, the Australian Research Grants Committee. I spent a lot of time on the telephone, talking to universities because, at that time, there was no effective email between government departments and the universities. I also spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the photocopier, as everything was delivered on paper.

Here is an exercise for you: imagine all the major grant applications that you submitted this year, printed out eight times each (I think we asked for eight copies of each application). Then think about the logistics involved in getting them physically transported to the funding agency on time. Today? We just push a button.

The year that I worked there was the last year of the Australian Research Grants Committee. In the next year, Don Aitken transformed it into the funding organisation that Australian researchers know today, the Australian Research Council. It was part of wider democratisation of the Australian university systemRead more of this post