Rollins College and The Riddle of Success

Now, building off of the recent post about the success of matching grants, here is a riddle: What is better for a 24-hour crowdfunding campaign than a matching grant?

The rather obvious answer: TWO generous donors.

Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida was lucky enough to live out this riddle with their recent campaign, the 501 Challenge.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.22.45 AMAs Meghan Moist, Assistant Director of Annual Giving for the Rollins Fund explained, the original plan was the now almost usual set-up for a crowdfunding match grant challenge of prioritizing quantity of donors over pure quantity of dollars. If the Rollins Fund received donations from 501 donors on May 1 (5-01…get it?) then a generous Trustee of the college would donate $50,000.

The 501 Challenge went live at midnight on May 1. As several other of Launcht’s clients have noted, getting initial community buy-in to a crowdfunding campaign is an enormous boon to the overall campaign—donors like the sort of race against the clock aspect of campaigns, but also want to contribute to something with a strong likelihood of success. It helps to have a few pre-donors, and Rollins had 230 pledges of support before the campaign even went live. At 2:30 in the afternoon—with everything going quite well towards that initial goal of those 501 donors, another Trustee announced that if 750 donors contributed, they would personally add a $25,000 to the original match.

Mr. Fred Rogers would be quite proud of the sharing nature of his fellow Rollins alumni. All told, 860 members of the Rollins community—the campaign was open to students, parents, and employees as well as alumni—donated to the 501 Challenge. With the double matched grants, the grand total for the Challenge was $209, 433.28.

Not bad for 24 hours of work, really.

Moist mentioned the highlights of the campaign having been the crucial campus community buy-in, that welcoming current students and their families, as well as faculty and staff to the challenge “made the whole experience easier and much more fun—everyone joined together to reach and surpass the goal.” Donors have reported to her team that they felt very connected to the crowdfunding experience, and that it was really empowering for donors to share the campaign, their interest and—literal—investment in it through social media. Which, in turn, of course, allowed the campaign to succeed.

Through the grapevine of higher education funding—which she has found to be very open and sharing of best practices—Moist had heard of Vassar’s successful campaign this winter and was encouraged to explore crowdfunding as an additional tool for 24-hour campaigns. “We’re all conscious of how we can keep things new and exciting.”

Crowdfunding and matching grants and generous Trustees and an excited, engaged donor community seems like a great way to launch into this brave new world.

Inclusion of Rollins as a Launcht success story does not equate to an official endorsement by Rollins College.

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 and
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