Crowdfunding in Higher Education, what works.

Crowdfunding by its very nature varies and adapts to the needs and wants of the population it serves. The reasons that different sectors—from nonprofits and entrepreneurs to nongovernmental organizations and education institutions—seek out crowdfunding solutions to their funding challenges are similarly varied.

In order to help future users get a better handle on the specific needs that crowdfunding addresses for higher education institutions, we turned to one of our current education clients–a specialist in online fundraising– who was kind enough to reflect on his school’s experience with crowdfunding in general and with Launcht specifically. For privacy reasons, no doubt easily understood by those in the administration of higher education, this client was unable to allow us to use his real name or that of his university.

While each school is a unique entity and community, our client hopes his experience will be useful and reassuring for other schools considering adding crowdfunding to their fundraising portfolio. “It’s pretty quick and painless,” to get setup he said, and it thus far has proven to be quite effective for filling growing gaps in traditional fundraising structures, particularly with younger donors.

The client was drawn to look for new and improved fundraising methods after he noticed that his school’s phone-a-thon style of fundraising was not effective in either today’s technological or economic climate. With the demise of landlines among younger alumni, and the growing comfort with giving online across the board he posited, “I really think that [crowdfunding] is future of fundraising.” Particularly, he noted, crowdfunding has been an excellent investment in a new way to reach young alumni and to streamline on-campus engagement.

As anyone involved in education can attest, some of the most important lessons and mentoring relationships take shape outside classrooms. This idea was another guiding principle in our client’s interest in crowdfunding on his campus—“we’ve got a lot of students who are passionate about various projects, but who have no fundraising or money management expertise and have difficulty accessing funds.” Launcht worked with the client and his staff to create a crowdfunding platform that would give students a certain amount of necessary freedom to learn fundraising and management skills in a supervised and university-sanctioned capacity.

Our client also highlighted that “if we didn’t start crowdfunding on campus, people would have done it on their own.” It is a wonderful opportunity for students and faculty to show initiative and engage with the world on and off campus, and it is good for the university administration as well: for a university trying to track and account for various funding sources, donors, and initiatives, it made good administrative sense to have a centralized point for all the school’s crowdfunding.

Once the client and his colleagues determined that crowdfunding was a space they needed to get into, they found Launcht to be the best combination of price and time. Our source added, “There aren’t a lot of crowdfunding places that help universities and really understand what we’re trying to do,” but he believes that Launcht has a good handle on the university needs and process. He has found the site and platform to be easy to use from the backend, and continues to be impressed by how easy it is to adapt and make changes as necessary. The university found Launcht in September and had their site up and running with active projects by Halloween. Our client notes that one challenge he would advise other universities of is the timing: “it’d be best to start campaigns at the beginning of the school year—fundraising really dies off after the holidays.”

Finally, he also mentioned the evolving learning process of discovering what sorts of projects and campaigns are most successful. “People like to invest in people, not in tools. It helps to be able to show a story where the campaign is helping students work with other people.”

Which, really, is what crowdfunding and Launcht are always aiming for, first and foremost–fostering new connections and democratizing access to capital.

 

About Bethany Taylor

Bethany is a writer, part-time librarian and seasonal gardener and is very excited to write for Launcht as it works towards democratizing the ways that good projects make their impact on the world. Her other writing appears at granitebunny.blogspot.com and www.hothousemagazine.org.
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