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Getting Organized

To get funding, your team will need to be able to describe itself, the funding needed, and the benefits of getting that funding to potential funding sources.

Describe Yourself: Many teams make promotional literature about themselves to help with recruiting and funding. Consider putting together a brochure explaining the goals & needs of the team.

How much does an iGEM team cost?

The majority of most teams budgets is spent on (in order of decreasing magnitude): summer stipends for students, travel & lodging for the Jamboree, DNA sequencing/synthesis & Lab Supplies, and competition fees. A few teams also earmark a significant amount of funding for purchasing particular lab equipment or doing extreme DNA synthesis, but usually the team advisors' labs have everything needed.

Here is breakdown of expenses for an average iGEM team comprised of 7 students and 3 advisors.

expense cost / unit units total
summer stipends $4,000 / student 7 students 28,000
iGEM Team Fee $1000 / team 1 team 1000
Jamboree Fee $100 / student 7 students 700
Jamboree Fee $250 / advisor 3 advisors 750
flights to Jamboree $500/person (roundtrip) 10 people 5000
Hotels near Jamboree $250 / night; 2 people / room . 5 rooms x 3 nights 3750

Additionally, some teams need funds for DNA sequencing, synthesis, and basic lab reagents. Last year the DNA synthesis company GENEART provided 4kb of free synthesis to iGEM teams, and a similar arrangement is in the works for 2008. Nonetheless, some teams budget several thousand dollars for sequencing (for error checking! Important!) and synthesis. Lab reagents & hardware could easily be the most expensive element of a teams budget, but the cost is usually already covered by the operation of the lab hosting the team.

Funding Sources

Many different avenues exist for securing summer stipend funding. Often the hosting school itself provides a mechanism to fund summer research (UROP, etc.). Local and national funding bodies also often have programs to fund individuals students, although it may be more reasonable for the entire team to apply for a larger grant. The other main source of funding for iGEM teams comes from industry. Many companies have sponsored teams or donated equipment in the past and likely will again.

List of Potential funding Agencies

  • US: NSF (REU programs)
  • EU: EC

Andrew's Advice

Andrew Hessel, iGEM 2006 Ambassador and Evangelist
  • Fundraising starts by crafting a compelling message. Why is iGEM important to your team and why should others support you? There is no shortage of these with iGEM. A few: It promotes collaborative interaction on a near-global scale; the open sharing of biological parts and data; provides a rich, unparalleled educational experience for students; pushes the limits of synthetic biology. Each team is going to bring a slightly different perspective to this.
  • Let your team's excitement and commitment be clearly seen. Don't be afraid to show some enthusiasm for participating. It's hard to refuse giving some support to people that are eager and keen and giving up their summer to do something worthwhile.
  • Underscore why the supervisors are choosing to be involved and what they are putting into the program. People are more likely to support your team if they see that the leaders are heavily invested.
  • More than just participation, project goals that are clearly understandable (even if the technical details are not) will help. This is particulary important for genetic projects. Instead of telling people you're making mutant bacteria, it might be more effective to share an understandable application -- eg. it's towards making a new cancer cure or solving energy shortages. Even if the project is relatively simple, where might it lead in a few years? Today's bacterial thermometer could be tomorrow's natural biosensor for environmental toxins.
  • There should be a sense of urgency, that the funds are needed now. How the funds are to be used is important. People like to know where money is going. Is it to pay stipends, buy equipment or reagents, or support travel? Clearly show where there are sponsorship opportunities and for what amounts.
  • Utilize a broad range of fundraisign methods. Personally approaching and soliciting prospects, be they individuals or organizations, is by far the most successful. This may be a meeting with your team with a person or group, or by inviting sponsors to attend a formal presentation where the team makes a case for their needs. This may require leveraging personal or professional contacts, talking with other fundraising groups at your school (alumni and business development groups have a lot of experience with this sort of thing), telephone calls, or other legwork.
  • Use the media. If your team is being featured in a school newspaper, local newspaper, etc., make a part of the message about how people interested in supporting your team can do so. Do they need to contact a certain person? The department office? Go to a web site?
  • Most universities are old hands at raising money. Tap into this experience by visiting the alumni office, or the office of foundations that may reside on campus. These groups usually already have sophisticated fundraising tools and comprehensive donor lists and could be a great help if they become interested in your team.
  • Be creative! Very simple things can be very effective at raising money. Runs or other forms of sponsored sport are popular. So are lotteries (although a license is usually needed for these, so check with the alumni office). Or just
  • Take the time to thank and recognize people for the suppport they provide to your school or team. Follow up. Send thank you cards that everyone has signed. If donors agree, send them updates on your work.

An excellent example of how to go about fundraising was provided by the Cambridge 2005 team, which produced a brochure, contacted local biotechnology companies, and hosted presentations. They successfully received financial and in-kind support. Also consider speaking with various department heads (iGEM is multidisciplinary) and with companies that might one day benefit from project outputs, eg. energy companies, chemical companies, manufacturing, etc.

Feel Free to email Andrew for more 1-on-1 advice: ahessel at-symbol gmail period com