Are you starting to feel like there’s no real winning investment strategies these days, at least for the average investor? Make some gains one month, only to lose them all the next.

Well, maybe it’s time to invest a little something in efforts that might not pay you back in dollars, but in online badges, acknowledgement of your contributions or donations, maybe even in a chance to provide input into a solution that can advance semantic web, Linked Data, or discovery technologies? Or maybe the ROI is just about feeling that you did something good.

Recently we wrote about Sebastian Trüg’s fundraiser to keep the Nepomuk semantic desktop alive, for example, which this month reached its 9000€ initial goal (though he’s still in search of long-term funding). Turns out there are – or recently have been – other opportunities to put some of your pocket change to work for a smarter and more meaningful web of data. Projects on Kickstarter.com, for instance, run the gamut from fashion ($1 to fund chic 3D glasses), to theatre (you can help launch the LA production of Spring Awakening for $10 or more), to technology.

Kickstarter builds itself as the world’s largest funding platform for great projects, and whiling away the late-night hours wandering through the crowd-funding forum, it surprised me to learn that among its successfully funded projects were efforts including hypothes.is, the brainchild of online travel industry pioneer Dan Whaley. This is described as “a distributed, open-source platform for the collaborative evaluation of information. It will enable sentence-level critique of written words combined with a sophisticated yet easy-to-use model of community peer-review. It will work as an overlay on top of any stable content, including news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and regulations, software code and more-without requiring participation of the underlying site.”

Interestingly, hypothes.is is based on a new draft standard for annotating digital documents currently being developed by the Open Annotation Collaboration. The OAC is leaning heavily in the direction of the semantic web and Linked Data with the Open Annotation Data Model for associating annotations with resources and sharing them across clients, services, collections and applications. It describes the annotation data model as representing core entities such as Annotation, Body and Target with HTTP URIs and having to provide a set of top-level classes/entities and properties/relationships that will maximize interoperability across platforms. Hypothes.is just last month surpassed its $100,000 Phase 1 Kickstarter goal with some 791 backers throwing in $10 or more on Kickstarter (plus received $105,000 from investor and entrepreneur Sunil Paul who matched all donations made on the platform between November 9 and November 13), plus some $20,000 from other donations to the non-profit. (Kickstarters at the entry level got stickers for laptops and car bumpers, and a quarterly donors-only email newsletter, plus the tax deduction to the non-profit, while those contributing more also were expected to be issued invites to the launch party, coffee mugs and polo shirts).

That doesn’t mean you can’t make a contribution now, as it’s moving on to Phase 2 which will include individual and foundation fundraising for building a team and hiring developers. Hypothes.is in February is hosting a Reputation Model workshop to help it develop its model for collectively calibrating member contributions to ensure quality analysis.

It’s likely you’ve also seen the personal appeals to donate to Wikipedia that started last month, from founder Jimmy Wales to users who are sharing their stories. Reportedly these appeals struck a chord with Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who donated $500,000 to the online knowledge center. So you might think of a contribution there in this light: As long as there’s strong support for the Wikipedia infrastructure that keeps free information free (and free from ads and flashing lights), there’s always going to be more opportunity for DBpedia to extract that wealth of information as structured data so that users can query Wikipedia in more sophisticated ways and link its data with other information out there.

You can also make an investment in providing services to Open Source software development projects – such as the Jena Java toolkit for developing semantic web apps and the open source edition of OpenLink Virtuoso – over at Sourceforge.net. In return, you the ROI option of including your name on its Supporters page and of having a special icon designating you as a donor wherever your name appears on the site.

Now take a break and go check the stock market.