Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Hawkeye community has a strong tradition of giving, and it didn’t disappoint. Just before the winter holidays, the first round of GOLDrush crowdfunding concluded with two of three pilot projects exceeding their $10,000 goal.

“GOLDrush has proven to be another positive avenue for Iowans to channel their generosity and directly partner with projects that matter to them,” said University of Iowa Foundation President and CEO Lynette Marshall.

GOLDrush is a partnership involving the UI Foundation and the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Traditionally, faculty rely on grants from governmental agencies or private organizations to fund research and other projects. Crowdfunding allows them to quickly raise smaller amounts than are generally garnered through successful grant proposals while also raising awareness and community buy-in.

“The research mission at Iowa has always been to improve the lives of real people,” said Dan Reed, Vice President for Research and Economic Development. “GOLDrush has proven to be an effective tool not just in funding research, but moving the results of that research into the communities that benefit from it most.”

Ann Marie McCarthy, a professor at the UI College of Nursing and one of the project leaders of the Distraction in Action GOLDrush campaign, has had many National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants over the years for her research portfolio, which focuses on helping children cope with painful medical treatments from shots to more invasive procedures. She and her team developed a web-based app to teach parents and providers how to be effective distraction coaches. GOLDrush donations totaling $10,005 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,” said McCarthy. “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.”

“I was personally humbled by the generosity of people from the local community and across the country who felt that our project is important,” said Will Story, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and one of the project leaders on the campaign to improve health access for Congolese refugees in Iowa. Donors to the project included College of Public Health colleagues, local physicians and concerned citizens and totaled $10,313.

He added, “In addition to reaching our fundraising goal, the GOLDrush campaign exceeded my expectations by helping me to establish connections with likeminded individuals across campus. 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.”

Andrea Achenbach, Clinical Assistant Professor in the UI College of Nursing, practices three days a week in Linn County, providing initial refugee health assessments. She first learned of Story’s proposed work in Johnson County through GOLDrush and contacted him to explore ways they could collaborate. A few weeks after his GOLDrush campaign launched, Story said he attended a refugee assistance meeting at a local church and was shocked to discover many of the people there knew about his project and had even donated money.

“I hadn’t met the majority of them. There were about 100 people there: refugees, community leaders, politicians, public health officials from the state and county level. Those kinds of connections are invaluable to get a community-based project like this going,” said Story. “The advantage of crowdfunding is people hear about the project. With a grant, it’s more insular. You either get the money or you don’t, and only after that do you start making connections. This gets the ball rolling early.”

Building social networks also benefited the GOLDrush Project Lio-rama, said Trina Roberts, director of the UI Pentacrest Museums, who plans to use the $4,405 of funds raised to improve the exhibit of two lions on display in the UI Museum of Natural History.

“The most exciting part of the project for me has been the new connections we’ve made with our visitors and community, online and in person,” said Roberts. “We’ve heard from former museum employees, current and former Iowa City citizens, and UI alums about their memories of the lions, visits to the museum, and even the old Iowa City zoo. Building all those stories into the new exhibit will be a fun challenge.”

The University of Iowa Foundation and Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development are looking for future GOLDrush projects that have a compelling story, a reasonable dollar goal and a team of individuals that will share the campaign with their personal network of friends, colleagues, family members and other potential donors. Project proposals may be submitted through the online GOLDrush crowdfunding application. Faculty and staff with questions about their potential GOLDrush project proposals may contact Theresa Jubert, Digital Fundraising Strategist, at 319-467-3659 or

The University of Iowa Foundation’s mission is to advance the University of Iowa and fulfill the aspirations of those it serves. The university’s dedicated contributors fund a broad array of needs, from student scholarships, breakthrough research and life-changing health care to innovative facilities, community outreach and global education. More at and on Twitter: @givetoiowa.

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover.