In one of my most recent (and frequent) brainstorms, I came up with a really great idea. Koch and I were hiking on the La Luz Trail:
View La Luz Trail to North Tramway Trail in a larger map
At some point on the trail, we came really close to some really nice houses. That's when it hit me...
...We should go door-to-door discussing our research requesting donations to help our lab. At first I was kidding, and perhaps I still am, but just think about it. Having a private investor could be a lot of fun. You have a more personal interaction level with your funding source. First you are actively discussing a topic you are passionate about with a potential investor. Sure you can do that when writing grants, but there is structure and order to that which may be unnecessary. In this manner, you can get back to basics and prove your love of your research.
I also discussed how we could host a bunch of lab visits to let the investor check in. Let them see what there money is going to. There can be tons of other organized meetings. Various lunches and dinners would allow for an even more personal interaction and may even spark a new friendship. Of course your funding source would be invited to talks you give, which would allow them to learn about any advances you make, while also seeing the big picture.
The best aspect of this is that a rich person probably has more rich friends and if your philanthropist likes your research enough, he will tell his friends and maybe they would like to donate as well. Maybe he/she will host an event to support your cause and try to get all his friends to donate. All in the name of science.
Just think about what the wonders of having a financial backer could bring. The possibilities are endless. And if you are worried about getting rejected while going door-to-door then say to yourself, "It's no different than when I submit a proposal!"