SICHL: The Past, Present and Future of Fundraising for Hearing Loss Research

Cliff Harris, MD, Associate Director of Development, Stanford Medicine

From Clifford I. Harris, M.D., Director of Development

What have your biggest successes in fundraising been in the past 5 years? 

Over the past five years, SICHL has been fortunate to receive support from a wide range of donors from across the country and around the world. We are grateful to all of them. Reaching our ambitious goal to cure hearing loss will only happen through partnerships with visionary donors who share our passion for this cause. While much of our work is funded by government grants, those sources are not sufficient to make dramatic leaps forward in curing hearing loss. The flexible funding provided by private philanthropy is crucial to fueling the creative, high-risk projects that will lead to breakthroughs.

Many of our most loyal donors now make SICHL a part of their annual charitable giving. Others have made legacy gifts through their estate. Some other donors have made generous five- and six-figure gifts to support specific projects in one particular investigator’s lab. We are tremendously grateful for a recent $5,000,000 gift from the Bill and Susan Oberndorf Foundation to promote collaborative research in all our  labs.

Another important success has been connecting with donors who are motivated by a desire to advance research in tinnitus and vertigo. Although the title of our initiative includes only “hearing loss” and not “tinnitus,” we anticipate that the methods we invent to regenerate inner ear hair cells will reduce ringing in the ears, as well as restore lost hearing. Similarly, SICHL holds the promise to address balance disorders, too, as the physiology of hair cells in the vestibular organ is analogous to the cochlea. I suppose it would just be too cumbersome to call this The Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss, Tinnitus and Balance Disorders.

What are the challenges to raising money for this type of research? 

The main challenge is getting the word out. Quite a few of our donors have been patients at the Stanford Ear Institute and learned about SICHL from their doctors. But we need to connect with a much larger circle of supporters than that. Thankfully, some of our donors found us through internet searches. (I can’t imagine how much more difficult this would have been 20 years ago!) One of the most helpful things our supporters can do is to help to spread the word through social media and other methods.

What are your fundraising goals for the next 5 years?

Our current top priorities include:

Faculty Support

This includes recruitment and start-up funds for new team members, expendable research funds for established investigators, or endowment funds to provide ongoing revenue streams for long-term projects.

Seed Grant Funds

These internal grant funds fuel innovative early-stage projects that can provide the necessary “proof of concept” to establish new avenues of research.


Biomedical Innovation Building

Gifts toward this fund will enable co-location of all SICHL labs within a state-of-the-art, purpose-built building and will allow for collaboration with other key scientific areas such as genetics, stem cell and neuroscience, which will also be housed in the new building. Ground breaking in mid-2017.

Technology and Laboratory

Access to the highest-quality equipment and technology (such as high-powered microscopes, cell sorters, and DNA sequencing devices) is essential to ensuring major advances in the field of hearing loss research.

Unrestricted support

Gifts of general support for SICHL are applied by the program director wherever the opportunity for impact is greatest.

Every gift counts! If you are interested in joining us as a donor, please give me a call or send me an email.  650-721-5659 or