Crowdfunding for academic research is becoming well established in the Sciences, but so far not in the Humanities. Witness the success of many projects on Experiment.com, Petridish.org, and other specialist academic crowdfunding sites. The vast majority of crowdfunding projects are for “hard” sciences. That said, I did notice one project on Byzantine architecture succeeded on Experiment.com and the site has categories for “Social Science” and “Anthropology” but it is overwhelmingly for physical and medical sciences. That might just be because Humanities academics have been slow to get involved, but if your field is History or English or Theology it may not fit well at these academic crowdfunding sites.
Many of those sites are for planned research projects, and cannot be a substitute for the publication grants that academics traditionally seek from their university or from charitable Trusts, to underwrite open-access journal article publication or even books. Worth trying as an alternative is Kickstarter which specialises in creative projects. True you may feel out of place as most Kickstarter projects seem to be games, films, gadgets, comics, and a host of others – but “Publications” is one of their established categories. It even has an “Academic” subcategory though it has few projects and many are not successful. This kind of crowdfunder is not asking for donations for no return: the “Rewards” for pledges are usually equal or higher in value than the pledge. It just front-loads the funding: hence the name “Kickstarter”.
The author (John McKeown) successfully ran a Kickstarter for an interdisciplinary book – History of Ideas and Cultural Reception of the Bible – and it is doing OK having topped 70% with a few days to go. This has a specific goal: my publisher OBP is a non-profit open-access so they ask authors to seek a publication grant from their university. If one is found then OBP reduce the price of the PDF edition. So any funds from Kickstarter are acting as a publication grant. If not then the PDF sells at normal price. Meanwhile the result does not affect the price of the print-on-demand paperback and hardback, nor the Kindle version: so all these make good “Rewards” for pledges in Kickstarter. The main hurdle is that many friends and academic contacts may not have heard of Kickstarter, or may not associate it with academia.