When Will Story, assistant professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, was seeking money for a campaign to improve health access for Congolese refugees in Iowa, he turned to the university’s own crowdfunding program.
Through GOLDrush, a partnership of the UI Foundation and the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, the campaign raised $10,313. Donors included Story’s College of Public Health colleagues, local physicians and concerned citizens.
“The GOLDrush campaign exceeded my expectations by helping me to establish connections with like-minded individuals across campus,” Story said.
“I’m a new faculty member, so that’s really important for me right now. People now know that I’m working with refugees in Iowa City, which has opened doors to new partnerships with people who have years of experience working with refugees as well as additional funding opportunities.”
UI faculty traditionally rely on grants from governmental agencies or private organizations to fund research and other projects. Crowdfunding enables them to quickly raise smaller amounts than are generally generated through successful grant proposals while also raising awareness and community support.
Stephen Pradarelli, senior communications director for the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, said three pilot projects were accepted in fall 2016. Two of the three projects exceeded their $10,000 crowdfunding goal.
Groups can collect whatever amount is raised, even if they don’t meet their goal.
Ann Marie McCarthy, a professor at the UI College of Nursing, is one of the leaders of the Distraction in Action GOLDrush campaign, which raised $10,005. McCarthy, who has received many National Institutes of Health Grants over the years, focuses her research on helping children cope with painful medical treatments from shots to more invasive procedures.
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McCarthy and her team have developed a web-based app to teach parents and providers how to be effective distraction coaches. The money raised through GOLDrush will allow the team to maintain the app and push it out to children’s hospitals and other pediatric health care websites.
“I’ve done a lot of research, gotten a lot of federal funding and we’d learned a huge amount, but we still needed additional funding to get the app out there,” McCarthy said. “I’ve published so much. We know how it works, when it works. We’ve done a lot of specific research on this.
“But it’s not really done until a parent walks into a health center with their child that people can figure out how best to help them and provide that for them. Our crowdfunding campaign will help us get the app in the hands of parents.”
Dana Larson, executive director, communications and marketing at the University of Iowa Foundation, said the UI crowdfunding program has been successful because it relies on personal contact with potential donors.
“It’s an opportunity for people to connect one on one with people who feel passionately about a particular issue or cause,” Larson said. “When it’s a personal network, you can really connect with people and tell them what you are doing. You can tell your friends, family and colleagues, and they can get excited about it.”
Pradarelli said GOLDrush has been opened to student groups seeking funding for a particular project.
“The groups have to submit a video that talks about their project and why they are doing it,” he said. “We encourage the groups to provide periodic updates on their campaign. They need to have a robust crowd of people to reach out to for donations.
“We are looking at about five or six other projects right now. They may get the go ahead, but it will be largely dependent on whether they have a crowd of potential donors.
“That’s really critical for a successful campaign.”