Benefunder, a San Diego-based philanthropic research funding platform for higher education institutions, and the University of California, San Diego, recognized as one of the top 15 research universities worldwide, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to embark on a two-year pilot program. The long-term goal of the partnership between UC San Diego and Benefunder is to allow junior and senior faculty in diverse disciplines to create funding relationships with private supporters from across the country, and generate one-time and recurring donations to fund their work and vision.
The mission of Benefunder, which is pending status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is to reduce the innovation deficit by directing more philanthropic funding towards research and innovation at leading universities. This deficit comes as a result of stagnant or reduced government funding for academic research.
Benefunder’s new platform intends to increase the share of philanthropic funding that gets channeled to research. Last year, total U.S. charitable giving topped $335 billion; nearly 87 percent of that came from individuals, bequests and family foundations according to Giving USA. Benefunder targets major sources, including wealth management firms, private foundations, family offices for high net worth individuals and corporations into academic research, matching each donor with research that matters to them. The organization has established an online portal at Benefunder.org that enables donors to find, fund and follow researchers’ progress updates, findings, new ideas and other information.
“People and businesses make donations every year to causes and issues they care about,” says Sandra A. Brown, vice chancellor for research at UC San Diego. “Our researchers work on some of the most critical issues facing the world today. Benefunder is a way for donations to have a direct and powerful effect—to help understand and solve problems and enhance the quality of lives around the world. The hope is that working together we will actively expand funding opportunities for our researchers through new engagements.”
Benefunder’s CEO, Christian Braemer, adds, “Benefunder will be working with both Dr. Brown and the Office of Research Affairs at UC San Diego to on-board researchers in all areas of research including medical, technology, engineering, environmental sciences, social sciences, the arts and more to ensure this program’s success.”
Braemer notes that available causes will range from exploratory phases through basic and applied to research nearing commercialization, including cross disciplinary areas that are often overlooked by traditional funding sources.
In addition to this research, Benefunder will also be creating a profile for donors to directly contribute to causes like the Chancellors Associates Scholars program, various centers and other high level priorities.
“There is an enormous untapped opportunity to engage wealth management firms and family offices in research giving,” believes Braemer. “Benefunder fosters one-time and long-term relationships between researchers and donors based on a mutual interest, intellectual pursuit or social cause. Moreover, the platform primarily focuses on new funding sources, and will directly integrate with these sources to channel donations to UC San Diego.”
The organization’s business model is designed to create a long-term donation pipeline that matches potential donors to research that interests them, giving UC San Diego researchers a wider reach and more diversified sources of funding in the future.
Researcher Ralph Greenspan, who leads The Center for Brain Activity Mapping at UC San Diego, has joined the pilot program. “Benefunder represents an innovative answer to an increasingly pressing need in research: support for fundamental, basic science,” he says. “It is well demonstrated that the most far-reaching and momentous advances in technologies and therapies come from the most fundamental breakthroughs in basic science, whose applications then become apparent. That valuable source of discoveries has been all but choked off. Benefunder offers a viable path to reopening it.”