Omnibus prik

Crowd funding is best for small projects

The method is particularly suitable for applied research which the general public can understand, says the Research Support Unit at AU.

Crowd funding is a relatively new phenomenon within the research community. So the Research Support Unit at AU does not know much about it yet, and cannot say whether it will be useful or not. But team manager Jakob B. Sørensen and fund raiser Marianne Jensby Nielsen have studied crowd funding and feel that it offers both opportunities and limitations.

“I think we feel that the method is not particularly suitable for typical basic research projects, where the perspectives regarding its use are a bit hard to identify clearly. Because successful crowd funding depends on laymen being able to understand and relate to the research project in question immediately. So crowd funding will only work for a specific type of research and a specific type of researcher,” says Jakob. D. Sørensen – thereby pointing out one of the possible ethical dilemmas in crowd funding.


The method is probably best suited to small-scale research projects, says Sørensen.

“Until now it’s been hard to raise major funds by using crowd funding. At the moment it seems to be useful for projects requiring about DKK 15,000 – which is peanuts as far as funding for research is concerned. Just to put this into perspective, AU administers research funding amounting to about DKK 1.4 billion each year. And the EU’s next framework programme for research, Horizon 2020, will be distributing DKK 70-80 billion during the period 2014-20.”

“Crowd funding might be a good idea for some research areas which have found it hard to attract new funding through traditional channels in the past, but only if they can sell their ideas to the general public,” says Sørensen.

Communication is the key

Communication is vital in crowd funding, and it is up to researchers to make sure that their networks spread their ideas.

“Crowd funding requires far more communication than the research support programmes we’re used to. You have to give communication top priority, and you have to be ready to update the information you provide on a regular basis. Your donors need to know how your project is getting on,” explains Sørensen. 

Grey areas

This is a new trend, so there are also a few grey areas that researchers and donors need to consider.

“Other people might be tempted to steal your idea when you present it on a website, but of course you decide how many details you want to provide about your project and method,” says Sørensen.

Your donors might also find it hard to assess the quality of your research.

“Even though these projects – like all other research – are always assessed using the university’s usual procedures, the assessment of a project’s quality and documentation of the competence of the researchers involved are not necessarily apparent to or easily understood by donors. And this might be a problem.”

Good advice if you are considering crowd funding

  • For small projects, it is a good idea to involve your own network using blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
  • For big projects it might be a good idea to join forces with a special interest organisation – a group of patients, for instance.
  • Never under-estimate the importance of communication: it is absolutely vital for success with crowd funding.
  • Projects that will appeal to the emotions and have a clear application potential may find it easier to mobilise donors than more complex projects.

Source: Research Support Unit at AU