Seed Grants: How Your Dollar Can Turn into a Million

First published: July 8th 2015. By Jeremey Duvall. DFP Co-Founder.


The most recent donations I remember making are the ones attached to credit card machines at retail and grocery stores. “Thank you for shopping at PetCo, would you like to donate $1 to rescue animals?” “Thank you for purchasing a bag of salt & vinegar Chips at Conoco, would you like to donate $5 to the Children’s Fund?” My answer is always yes without having any idea where my money is going and what it is actually doing. Why is that? Is it because we trust non-profit and charitable organizations to do the right thing?  There are a staggering number of multi-million dollar charities that end up donating less than 5% of their funds to the actual cause (Tampa Bay Times has an on-going investigation regarding “America’s Worst Charities”.) Even if you know you’re working with a great organization, how can your $1 or $2 donation make any kind of a difference? That’s how I felt at least. I was happy to contribute, but the real help was coming from donations with far more zeros on the end. We knew Drink for Pink would focus on breast cancer research, but how on earth were we going to get started? Neither Jeremey nor I knew the first thing about the research world. Enter the amazing team at Colorado Cancer Research Center. Jeremey reached out to the Cancer Research Center hoping we could get some help. Their response was surprisingly fast and receptive. From our first interactions when Drink for Pink was just an idea, they’ve been amazingly helpful. Ultimately though, we still had one question. We weren’t going to raise $200,000 (at least not this year). How could our small donation make a difference? Thankfully, a nationally-recognized researcher on young women’s breast cancer, had some ideas. Dr. Borges is constantly working in the lab to stop breast cancer, but she’s not alone. She has a whole team of junior researchers that are chomping at the bit to change the world. She shared a handful of their research proposals, and we were stunned. Take this one for example: The role of Sem 7a in breast cancer growth and metastasis. In layman’s terms, the researchers have identified a molecule (Sem 7a) that’s involved with tumor metastasis (spreading from one tissue to another). Blocking expression of Sem 7a could effectively stop tumor growth. Sound amazing? It is. The limiting factor isn’t ideas (they have plenty). It’s getting those ideas off the ground with funding. Running large clinical trials is expensive, and ideas have to show some major promise in order to get approved and funded. Dr. Borges introduced the idea of seed grants, a type of fund used to support well-defined research projects that may not typically receive money because of their early stage status. In Dr. Borges’s case, she has a team of junior researchers who have immense ideas and compelling projects in the works but no funding to help move them forward. By funding a seed grant, we’re helping to get an idea off the ground. If that idea then shows promise in a small trial, the researchers can apply for larger funding of $1 million or more. Ultimately, we think Drink For Pink can have the biggest impact working directly with these seed grants, propelling ideas into fully funded territory Our goal is to bring you stories directly from researchers as Drink for Pink evolves. We want every person that invests time and money on this cause to see their efforts pay off in ways they never expected. By putting the focus on the research and the brilliant minds behind it, we aim to change any negative paradigm you might have regarding charity. 100% transparent, always. 

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