While crowdsourcing for startup business funding has been on the scene for years now, there is still room for innovation in the platform, as proven by a new phenomenon that has sprung up in response to the need for capital in unique endeavors. Niche crowdsourcing Internet sites are providing an alternative for entrepreneurs in small, specialized activities, and for investors looking for interesting and promising vehicles in which to place their money.

Inc. magazine reports that crowdsourcing sites dedicated to funding narrowly-focused ventures from urban gardens to high-level academic research are increasingly the place where the investor and the imaginative meet. For instance, members of academia can turn to sites like Microryza, Petridish, and Iamscientist to end-run the government grant process and kick-start scientific research. The investigators post a budget to one of the sites and ask willing investors to underwrite projects the scientists want to pursue. While the funding they receive from crowdsourcing is far short of what can be had from research grants — a common criticism leveled against the sites — researchers benefit from avoiding the lengthy maze that characterizes the government funding process. And the growing number of projects posted to the sites evidences a low funding threshold required by the academics.

Activists with programs intended to impact their communities often turn to Cause to Fund, which provides funds for a variety of public service and issue-oriented ventures, such as a program for the homeless in Tampa, Fla., that has received $2,000 in seed money. Crowdsourcing site Ioby has its roots in community gardens, and also provides funds for cleanup of streets and vacant lots, and other neighborhood improvement projects. Organizers can also use the site to attract volunteers for their activities.

Fundraisers and philanthropists have also turned to crowdsourcers Razoo, GoFundMe and Crowdrise to attract money for their causes. Organizers can set up fundraising accounts for the cause or multiple causes of their choice on the latter two sites. The former, Razoo, allows individuals to raise money for their pet organization. Memorial funds, charitable wedding gift registries and charitable birthday gift accounts appear regularly in the sites, according to Inc.

Fenzi, Francesca Louise. “3 Unconventional Crowdfunding Niches“, Inc.com. 3/21/13

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