WDA’s First Crowd Funding Wildlife Health/Disease Grants Call
Many people have heard of ‘Go Fund Me’ campaigns, but crowd funding is relatively new to science. In June 2018, WDA decided to partner with the goal driven small company Experiment to try out this new way of funding wildlife health/disease projects. Experiment had run a wildlife disease funding effort in 2017 with pretty good success, but not with sufficient response they felt they could continue on their own. WDA’s Futures Committee had identified grant funding for small research projects, particularly those supporting graduate students, as a potential priority. But before recommending it to Council as part of planning for WDA’s programs and benefits after Endowment is reached, the Futures Committee wanted to try it once as an experiment.
WDA put out a grant call in early July 2018 and to qualify grant proposals needed to:
1) Deal with a significant health or disease issue in free-ranging marine or terrestrial wildlife.
2) Have implications for, or a focus on, wildlife populations and the ecosystems in which they live, not individual animal treatment and/or captive wildlife.
3) Emphasize species conservation and application of a One Health approach.
As this was a crowdfunding call, grant applications and the entire process is different from traditional funding, particularly in the way proposals are written, and in funding expectations. Most frequently crowdfunding is successful for student or graduate student, and smaller projects, and where there is urgency for getting work done on emerging issues, or to pump-prime more comprehensive engagement. Average amount raised for successful proposals is in the $4000 range.
Experiment put out the initial call and counseled and mentored grant proponents. WDA reviewed each proposal for compliance with the calls criteria and some of the nineteen initial proposals were rejected.
Once the group of grants were deemed qualified the grants call went live. The call lasted 31 days (July 1, 2018 - August 1, 2018). Although both Experiment and WDA publicized the grant call, grant proponents bore the primary responsibility for lining up support. This is one big difference between crowd funding and traditional funding. Grant proponents must follow through and promote and publicize their grants, help find supporters and advocates throughout the process. Coaching by Experiment on how to do this proved critical to the success of several projects.
WDA was to provide $1000 to the most highly supported project and $500 to the second most highly supported project after 21 days. But we had a tie! Winning projects tied with 134 pledges each. Both Stephanie Norman’s project on antibiotic resistance in marine mammals and Wynand Goosen’s on Tb in black rhino got 134 pledges and they are splitting the two top prizes ($750 each).
At 30 days in WDA member author/mentor, prizes of $100 each were awarded to Henry Adams for his project on Bsal in Costa Rica (48 supporters), Terra Evans for Asian elephant herpesvirus work (71 supporters), Haley Stannard working on mange in wombats (14 supporters), and to Amy Robbins project on chlamydia in koalas (27 supporters). These projects too have received complete funding!
Funds were made available to winners by October 15, 2018. Grant recipients will provide appropriate feedback on the outcomes of the work in the form of ‘lab notes’ and WDA will post these at its website.
In total, 17 projects were accepted for the grant call. Eleven were fully funded (at or exceeding funding goals), 6 failed. A total of $67,382 was raised from 955 supporters. The current success rate was 64%, as compared to an average Experiment success rate of 45%. There was a very good variety of species, diseases, countries and health disciplines involved. WDA provided $1900 to match that $67,400. It was a great ‘experiment’ and may become part of WDA efforts to promote wildlife health (see Action Item #25).
For more information, visit: https://experiment.com/grants/wda