Civic crowdfunding for research purposes has been an emerging trend in scientific fields over the past few years. This article presents findings from a mixed methods analysis of 152 social science research projects that campaigned for crowdfunding. A total of US$583,074 was raised through the support of 6,663 backers amongst the 150 successfully funded projects. This study offers specific lessons for social work researchers engaging in crowdfunding campaigns. The data show that projects supported by endorsers and initiated by faculties were able to solicit more backers and funds. Another key finding is that the campaigns that had videos for promotional purposes were the most successful, but video length does not affect backers’ consideration. The article presents the potential ethical challenges for social work researchers in this crowdfunding arena. In what may first appear to be a democratic and emancipatory space, decisions are actually made about what topics are worthy of financing by people who have access to the online platforms and the disposable income to back the project. Nevertheless, these platforms offer a route to research funding for academics, practitioners and service user groups in a context where funding from research councils and foundations is increasingly limited and competitive.