Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo win hands down as the crowdfunding platforms that get the most attention and mind share of entrepreneurs and creative types. But they're not the only options out there--a slew of new, niche crowdfunding sites let the masses invest in everything from high-level academic research to neighborhood garden projects.
Sites like Microryza, Petridish, and Iamscientist now offer crowdfunding platforms exclusively for scientific research. Academics post their proposed research with a budget goal, and ask the public to fund projects that most appeal to them, side stepping the often lengthy process of applying for grant money through academic channels.
Critics of the scientific research crowdfunding model argue that the denominations earned from crowdfunding on sites like Microryza and Petridish add up to only small change--and they might be right. Government research grants range anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000; crowdfunded projects range from closer to $500 to $5,000.
But the sheer number of projects hosted by the new research sites hint that perhaps a little seed money is all some scientists need. Projects like paleontologist David Hone's research exploring whether giant Tyrannosauruses were cannibalistic, and archeologist Adrianne Daggett's investigation of pre-historic Kalahari desert settlements have already recieved funding through the sites--each for less than $4,000. In return for donating, these sites offer perks like early access to findings and souvenirs from the field, among other things.
Want to raise money for a cause, not a company? Sites like GoFundMe, Razoo, and Crowdrise are making that possible. On Razoo, individuals can raise money for the organization of their choice, while sites like GoFundMe and Crowdrise allow people to set up fundraising accounts for any number of projects.
Popular choices appear to be wedding gift registries for charity, memorial funds, birthday gifts for charity, and creative fundraisers put on by individuals for the organization of their choice.
For example, David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, recently raised over $1 million--and shaved off his mustache--for a Crowdrise fundraiser benefiting Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy.
Ioby provides a venue for environmentally focused local projects, like community gardens or neighborhood clean-ups, and has helped to fund 178 projects to date. It also allows project organizers to crowdsource another valuable resource: volunteers.
Cause to Fund, on the other hand, offers a wider range of location-specific endeavors--like the Tampa, Florida-based nonprofit Hannah's Homeless, which raised over $2,000 in November.