A picky donor: the democratic side of crowdfunding BLOG #4

Philanthropy is changing, and with it, the donors. These days, everyone has an opinion. This is no different in science and philanthropy. Fewer individuals are giving while there is a higher need for additional funding for scientific projects. Are we still using the right solicitation methods? Crowdfunding, an online solicitation/funding method, has the advantage that is provides donors with a choice. In other words, crowdfunding is a relatively democratic funding method; it gives donors the opportunity to decide which project to fund and to give their opinion.

Hé! Each month I will upload a new blog series. Each series will have one central subject; the subject of this month is ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’. A series consists out of several separate blogs. This is the fourth blog of the ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’ series. Click here for the first (general introduction into crowdfunding), second blog (the need for transparency and connection to open science) or the third blog (self-promotion and networking).

Beyond the ATM: asking is not always followed by giving

Philanthropy is changing, and with it, the donors. More than ever, donors want to do more than donating money, they want to be included and expect some form of a lasting relationship after the donation is made, instead of just making a donation. Asking is not automatically followed by giving, which is problematic as science projects could use some additional funding. Donors are becoming more critical: they want to have a choice. In order to do so, they need sufficient information (see blog 2) to determine which geldautomaat2project they want to support. The time of ‘a passive’ donor is coming to an end, in order to attract donors we will have to give them a voice: the philanthropic world has to become more democratic.

The Dutch still want to make a donation and can be described as generous, but they are more critical about the effect of their donation and prefer to ensure their donation has an impact (Broodman & Peerdeman, 2017). We advise crowdfunders to involve their donors in conversations and let the donors decide which projects to start: it might be time to ask the donor what they want. So what makes crowdfunding democratic?

Take your pick

Remember that a key characteristic of crowdfunding is the detailed description of the project. This detailed description provides a certain transparency which in turn provides a donor with more information than for instance asking for a donation to a specific charitable organization. The project oriented nature and detailed description contribute to the democratic side of crowdfunding: each individual can browse along different project with specific descriptions of the project’s aim and decide which one to fund. This gives a donor a say about which project should make it and which should never leave the drawer.

A great idea?trash-lightbulb-pic

Crowdfunding does not only provide funds it is also inquisitive and can be used as a form of marked research as the donor decides which project they want to succeed and what product will be developed and made available. Thus, crowdfunding provides you with an indirect feedback system: if your project is not receiving donations, the general public is not interested (or the project description is unclear).

Most crowdfunding platforms have a ‘chatroom’ where donors can leave comments and suggestions. This provides you with a direct feedback system. A downfall is that you can become overwhelmed by the number of suggestions. Which suggestion should you use and what to do with the others?

It is important to note that with philanthropic crowdfunding (that is reward- and donation based crowdfunding), a donor does not become a partial owner. While rewards are common, these are not the same as with investment crowdfunding where a donor/investor can buy a piece of the project.

Sharing the fun side of science

It truly pains me to hear that some individuals perceive science as boring (in Dutch ‘stoffig’); science does not have to be boring. Yes our papers can be dense, long and abstract, but our outcomes can be presented in a more public manner. For instance, I recently started my own YouTube channel where I monthly publish a 3 minute video about my research.

d6f2e166f7d08ab7df4e667babf168efScience has so much more to offer than journal articles and crowdfunding can facilitate this. With crowdfunding it is common to provide donors with rewards. The rewards are presented in a reward scheme (i.e. the needed donation amount per reward) on the projects page. For instance, if I would donate 20 euros, I would receive a personal thank you card from the researcher. If I would donate 500 euros, I would receive a 3D-print of my own ear! Pretty cool if you’d ask me! Thus, the rewards connected to crowdfunding make science more tangible and less abstract and therefore more attractive for the general public.

While there is an increasing need for donations, fewer individuals are giving (Geven in Nederland, 2017). Are we still using the right solicitation methods? Donors are becoming more critical, they want to determine which project they will support. The democratic side of crowdfunding makes it a really interesting funding method: what makes crowdfunding democratic? With crowdfunding, a donor can browse along several projects, read their descriptions and determine (based on actual information) if they want to support a particular project. In the blog of next week (blog #5) we focus on the final key characteristic of crowdfunding to determine if it is a useful funding method for science projects. 


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