New Crowdfunding Site Allows Public to Advance U.Va. Research Projects Through Targeted Donations

Women from South Africa stand together holding buckets of clean water giving the camera a thumbs up

“Clean Water by PureMadi” is raising $35,000 to make life-saving water purification tools more widely available in rural areas of South Africa, where access to clean water is limited. Photo courtesy of PureMadi.

U.Va. Innovation launched the University of Virginia’s first crowdfunding website this week, enabling alumni and others to make targeted, tax-deductible donations in support of specific research and development projects under way at the University.

“The University of Virginia is among the very first institutions of higher education to use philanthropic crowdfunding to advance university research,” said Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research at U.Va. “It’s our hope that this innovative initiative will build on the success of the University’s proof-of-concept research programs and establish a new model for funding promising, early-stage research.”

The site, accessible at, features videos and information about select translational research projects seeking funding to achieve specified milestones, such as the development of a prototype. Featured projects are currently seeking between $19,000 and $35,000 to advance clean-water technology and improve visualization of injuries following sexual assault.

The site will feature up to 10 translational research projects over the course of a six-month pilot initiative. The pilot is being administered by U.Va. Innovation in collaboration with University Development and several schools and programs across Grounds.

“U.Va. researchers are constantly problem-solving through innovation,” said W. Mark Crowell, executive director of U.Va. Innovation and associate vice president for research at U.Va. “Through this crowdfunding initiative, we’re creating opportunities for members of the community to be a part of advancing these exciting discoveries.”

U.Va. Innovation has partnered with USEED Inc., a crowdfunding start-up focused on philanthropic fundraising for higher education, to conduct the pilot initiative, in which researchers reaching their fundraising goals will receive 100 percent of funds raised. For projects falling short of their funding goals, U.Va. Innovation team members will work with project leaders to adjust project milestones so that available funding can advance the respective project.

The site launched with two projects, which have until June 27 to meet their funding goals.

Clean Water by PureMadi,” led by Jim Smith, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in collaboration with faculty and student researchers in the College of Arts & Sciences, McIntire School of Commerce, School of Architecture, School of Medicine and School of Nursing, is raising $35,000 to make life-saving water purification tools more widely available in rural areas of South Africa, where access to clean water is limited.

Reducing Inequity in Forensic Exams Following Sexual Assault,” led by Kathryn Laughon, associate professor in the School of Nursing, in collaboration with Shayn Peirce-Cottler in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Cassandra Fraser in the Department of Chemistry, is raising $19,000 to identify a new forensic dye that will help medical professionals visualize sexual assault injuries more effectively on women of all skin tones.

“We know through a number of research studies that nurses and physicians conducting forensic exams following a sexual assault are finding fewer injuries in women with darker skin, and we have good reason to think that that’s simply a matter of the technology we’re using to visualize these injuries,” said Laughon, who is also a forensic nurse examiner.

“Raising a relatively small amount of research funding through crowdfunding would help us go a long way toward identifying a solution to this important problem.”

For information about the platform or projects, or to make a donation, visit


Media Contact

Morgan Estabrook

U.Va. Innovation