Nonprofit Funding Models

The philanthropic sector in general and the membership of the Health Research Alliance in particular, is composed of a diverse set of organizations who have contributed to advancing biomedical research by developing human capital; building knowledge and expanding scientific disciplines; supporting institutions; stimulating innovation; translating discoveries into cures, therapeutics and prevention of disease; establishing product development partnerships; fostering the dissemination of information, data sharing and collaboration; and advocating for resources and policy changes.  

When HRA first started, most of the funding by members was traditional NIH-style grants, such as Research Grants, Career Development Awards, Fellowships, and Program Project or Center Grants.  These funding mechanisms usually require a number of standard documents (i.e., research proposal, biographical sketches, and budget) and go through a typical NIH-style peer review process. Using the data in HRA reporter as a measure, a majority of HRA member-funding still uses variations of these models.  

However, the variations in the types mechanisms that HRA members employ has significantly evolved along with the broader funding community.  For instance, HRA has many members who fund in part or in whole using a venture philanthropy model. As well, other groups are trying new approaches to accelerate innovation and solve tough problems through novel funding mechanisms including crowdsourcing, hosting unique scientific gatherings, and other mechanisms to connect academic research to drug discovery and clinical studies.

Some examples of innovative funding models from HRA Members’ Meetings and webinars:

  • CHDI Foundation funding strategy:  A science management organization for Huntington’s disease therapeutics
    Presentation by Simon Noble, PhD
  • The Kavli Foundation funding strategy:  Prizes or Research Fellowships and Why.
    Presentation by Christopher Martin, PhD


  • JDRF’s T1D Fund:  Advancing scientifically and commercially promising Type 1 Diabetes research by facilitating venture creation of and syndicated venture investments in companies pursuing the best opportunities to prevent, treat and ultimately cure T1D.
    Presentation by Michael Batten, MD, MBA
  • “Introduction to Crowdfunding” Webinar presented by Ethan O. Perlstein, Ph.D., formerly of Princeton University, and now an independent scientist, gave an overview of “crowdfunding basics,” discussed crowdfunding from the scientist’s perspective, and explored whether and how not-for-profit funders can use crowdfunding.
    Slides from the webinar are now available.