Forget about Aliens: Crowdfunding Campaign Sheds New Light on Mysterious Star

An astronomer is crediting a crowdfunding campaign for helping her move one step closer to solving the strange light emanating from a mysterious star that is larger than the sun and situated more than 1,000 light-years from earth.

About 1,700 “citizen scientists” were so compelled by the mystery that they donated $107,421 to the crowdfunding campaign, which Louisiana State University physics professor Tabetha Boyajian started in 2016 to pay for dedicated time on ground-based telescopes that were employed to observe KIC 8462852, or “Tabby’s Star.”

Thanks to the crowdfunding campaign, Boyajian – the star’s namesake — and a team of researchers debunked a theory that the weird blinking was really an alien megastructure orbiting the earth. Data collected, which Boyajian had published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggests instead that dust is the likely reason “Tabby’s Star” appears to dim for days or weeks before brightening again.

Without quick access to a government observatory or a large source of funding for private observations, Boyajian and her team turned to amateur astronomers and crowdfunding for as little as a few dollars at a time. Boyajian said she is humbled by the outpouring of donors to the crowdfunding campaign.

Tabby’s Star proves that crowdfunding can be a tool for not only solving problems in space but addressing dwindling funding resources for astronomy projects, said Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding website

Boyajian and colleagues collected the data in partnership with the Las Cumbres Observatory, a network of robotic telescopes around the globe. The observatory monitored the star 24/7, providing all the information needed to catch the star’s fleeting dips and trigger follow-up observations.

Supporters who donated to the crowdfunding campaign voted to name the dipping episodes Elise, Celeste, Scara Brae and Angkor. The last two are named after ancient lost cities.

Tabby’s Star is about 50 percent larger and 1,000 degrees hotter than the sun. While the latest research has narrowed explanations for the blinking and ruled out alien activity, researchers still haven’t figured out where the dust is coming from.

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Crowdfunding Delivers Help for Minnesota ‘Sandwich Man’ Who Helps Homeless

The retired Minnesota teacher who spends 365 nights each year rolling a grocery cart up and down the streets of Minneapolis handing out sandwiches to the homeless is now getting a little help himself.

Allan Law – affectionately known as the “sandwich man” around the Twin Cities – doesn’t know much about crowdfunding platforms, but he is pleasantly surprised to learn that a crowdfunding campaign has already raised more than $50,000 to help him deliver the sandwiches, coats, blankets and bus tokens he hands out to the homeless each day.

Teri Bennett heard about the sandwiches a few years back and began volunteering with Law. She soon realized the “sandwich man” needed help as well, and decided to start a crowdfunding campaign in the hope that enough money could be raised to purchase warehouse space and make her hero’s calling more convenient.

Right now, Law’s apartment, which has 20 freezers to store the hundreds of thousands of sandwiches made by church, business and civic groups that he hands out each year, doubles as ground zero for his nonprofit, Minneapolis Recreation Development Inc.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding platform, said crowdfunding campaigns make giving to nonprofits or volunteers who assist the homeless secure and transparent.

“If you are wondering how to help the homeless, crowdfunding can help,” she said. “Crowdfunding has become a valued resource for nonprofits because it is quick, easy and effective.”

On any given night, there are more than half a million Americans who are homeless. Many are veterans or victims of domestic violence, and many are suffering from chronic mental illnesses.

Hikind said crowdfunding campaigns can be built around community service initiatives directed to combat homelessness much like the nonprofit Law began years ago when Allan was still teaching in Minnesota. When he first started, Law distributed unsold bakery goods and sandwiches from stores. Those efforts grew to encompass donations from schools, companies, churches and community groups. He handed out 800,000 sandwiches last year, along with warm clothing, blankets and other items

Now 16 years into retirement, Law delivers sandwiches from the back of his van between 9 p.m. and 10 a.m., targeting times when people on the street are most vulnerable. He sleeps only a few hours behind the steering wheel each night. His two vacation days are Thanksgiving and Christmas. He’s twice been diagnosed with cancer, and he continued distributing sandwiches at night while undergoing radiation during the day.

Aside from his apartment, Law rents storage at several facilities. He said community groups are constantly feeding him donations including a recent delivery of 140 coats from Delano and hundreds more on the way from Hudson and River Falls. Southwest High School students recently made 2,000 sandwiches, he said, and Brave New Workshop holds a monthly sandwich-making event.

If the crowdfunding campaign raises enough money, Law hopes to get a larger van so that he can help more people.

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Crowdfunding is Purr-fect Launching Pad for Flushable Cat Litter Box

Washing, scooping and tracking litter across the floor – the pet peeve of owners who love their cats, but hate the messy cleaning routine each day.

That’s what spurred a team of engineers to devise an automatic litter box that makes every day living for pet owners more efficient and comfortable. The idea of a flushable toilet for cats may seem ridiculous, but the fancy pet technology — dubbed Catolet — is currently crowdfunded at a price of $159.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding platform UHelp, says there is no shortage of entrepreneurs who are banking on crowdfunding campaigns on the internet to launch their new products.

“Crowdfunding is supporting inventions by securing capital beyond traditional means,” said Hikind. “The most effective campaigns will not only gauge the market for appeal, but actually build momentum behind an idea and connect backers directly to the new product.”

Catolet has done just that. Almost $61,000 has been pledged through the crowdfunding campaign and the new product's designers say they have amassed 100 percent of their required goal. The smart litter box automatically senses when a cat or small dog has finished its business and activates a self-cleaning conveyor belt that flushes away the waste. Like a human toilet, Catolet is connected to the local water supply and flushes into the sewage system

On UHelp when you have a new product design you can incorporate the first run of the new model into your Thank You Rewards.  Try to relate the perks to the item at hand, because they should match well to the interests of your target audience, that is most likely to contribute.

In this case, for example you might offer unique tee shirts or other items for animal lovers for lower price perks.  .

Every day after your campaign goes live on UHelp, campaign organizers and campaign team members receive a marketing tip – Day 3 is entitled, "Create Thank You Rewards (Perks for Contributions)" . Thank You Rewards are a great marketing strategy and an optional part of any campaign.

The UHelp system allows for up to five Thank You Rewards (Perks) for different donation amounts. Perk titles should be clever and clear. Be sure you can fulfill perks by calculating all costs to your campaign including shipping. Upload an image of the reward. Use words like “only 25 available” or “for the first 100 contributors” in your description. Connect your tangible and intangible perks to the purpose of the campaign.

For entrepreneurs, crowdfunding is another way of funding your ability to produce and market a new invention.  It is not a loan and does not have to be paid back. Crowdfunding is when a crowd of people believe in your ability to produce a well needed project and are willing to contribute their dollars to your campaign.  Why UHelp, above the other platforms? because you get to keep all the money you raise (no platform fee), with immediate access to your funds.


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Crowdfunding for Castles: Strangers Rally to Save 13th-Century French Chateau

A group of strangers have banded together to keep a fairy tale alive.

That’s the idea behind a crowdfunding campaign to preserve the Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a 13th-century castle that looks as if it was taken out of a Disney movie.

Rather than see developers destroy the building, backers have raised more than $1.3 million to save the historic home — complete with turrets, towers and a sizeable moat – located roughly 200 miles southwest of Paris in Les Trois Moutiers.

As little as $60 will entitle contributors to a share in the company that owns Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers. So far, more than 13,000 donors from at least 100 nationalities have become part owners, which offers them a say in the chateau’s development and the chance to be among its first visitors.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free cowdfunding platform, said nonprofit organizations have only begun to scratch the surface to crowdfund historic projects centered on restoration and renovation

“This crowdfunding project demonstrates the power of the internet to rally many people to unite behind a good cause,” she said. 

The oldest sections of the chateau were built in the 1200s. Since then, the building has survived two English occupations during the Middle Ages as well as an upheaval amid the French Revolution.

Major restorations, in 1809 and 1870, helped incorporate the original building into a more Romantic style home. The structure was already in a state of disrepair when a math teacher acquired the building in 1981. The owner did his best to preserve the site, but not enough to prevent nature from sprouting greenery from windows and rooftops.

Organizers of the crowdfunding campaign say another €500,000 is needed for essential work to make the building safe. The goal is to reach 50,000 visitors by 2021 and 70,000 by 2022. The chateau will also host exhibitions and historical re-enactments and seek extra funds by renting out the property to film and production companies.

Do you have a historic preservation project? How about using Uhelp, the free crowdfunding platform.

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