Using Crowdfunding Platforms for Scientific Nursing Research

Saturday, 28 October 2017: 3:15 PM

Amanda F. Hopkins, PhD, MS, BSN
Wendy C. Kooken, PhD, MSN, BSN
School of Nursing, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL, USA

Funding for research is scarce. Applying for funds to support nursing research is time-intensive and difficult, particularly at non-research intensive universities. However, conducting research is an expectation of achieving tenure, and external sources of funding are highly regarded. Unfortunately, the ability to be competitive in obtaining external funding is dismal. Only about 11% of new applicants are funded at NINR and less than 20% are funded overall at NIH (Rockey, 2015). Therefore, nurse academics are seeking alternate means of funding research, such as crowdfunding. Crowdfunding, also termed crowdsourcing, is a general term for obtaining monetary donations for a variety of reasons from many people (Vachelard et al., 2016). In the case of nurse researchers, funds are requested for specific research projects.

The purpose of this presentation is to describe crowdfunding as an alternate source of revenue for nursing research.

Since the growth of social media outlets, new access to funding sources has become widely available. Common crowdfunding websites include Go Fund Me, Kickstarter, Donors Choose, and Fundable. Researchers indicate that using crowdfunding is most often successful when the funds sought are small-scale and non-profit (Yang, Wang, H., & Wang, G., 2016). Based on demonstrated efficacy, new sites have emerged to help fund scientific research, such as

In 2015, collaborated with a small, private, liberal arts institution to conduct an initial project phase to determine the viability of crowdfunding in similar academic settings. After the initial project phase, participation in a second pilot was offered to an existing, closed consortium of universities. Ten universities in the consortium were able to develop one to four faculty-sponsored projects for the second pilot.

In 2016, nursing faculty members, with the help of a student assistant, applied for funding on There was a competitive component to the process. Nursing faculty members were one of 4 teams, from across disciplines, submitting for funding. Each faculty team was required to develop a web page describing the background, purpose, and methodology of proposed research, along with a budget specifying expenses for each step of the research process. While the application process itself was not inherently time-intensive, as compared to an NIH grant, the requirements to participate were quite involved. A large amount of time and social media presence was required to make initial and follow up contact with potential funders, which required detailed familiarity with technology and multiple social media platforms. Applicants also had to be comfortable soliciting social media contacts, friends, and family for contributions.

The barriers encountered in this process were primarily unexpected, as crowdfunding is a relatively new funding mechanism for nursing research. Barriers included extensive amounts of time required for presence on multiple social media platforms for the duration of the project funding campaign. Further, most potential funders were not familiar with mechanisms, such as crowdfunding for scientific research; therefore, more time was required for explanation and positive rapport building which led to trust, increasing the potential of donations. Additionally, since the public has access to the nature of the research, responses to negative comments regarding the sensitive nature of the research topic was time consuming. The nature of competing with colleagues in a public venue also lent itself to potential uncomfortable situations, particularly when one party may have reached successful funding and others were not successful.

Benefits in obtaining crowdfunding were also unique. Benefits included publicity associated with the research, a feeling of success at attracting funds, and being overfunded. The notoriety of having participated in such an innovative fundraising strategy gained much attention and resulted in being contacted by several other researchers, internal and external, interested in pursuing this avenue of funding. Additionally, crowdfunding is a useful alternative that should be considered by students and postdoctoral scholars who seek financial support for academic research projects as relatively small amounts of money are often difficult for individuals to raise for research purposes.

Crowdfunding platforms are innovative, alternate sources of revenue for nursing research. Researchers have great potential for becoming successfully funded through public awareness of and contributions to research topics. Awareness of the benefits and barriers of crowdfunding better prepares nurse researchers who may consider engaging in crowdfunding to sponsor studies.