How Crowdfunding for Student Projects Liberates the Annual Fund

“When we crowdfund, we are putting definition to something that would have been supported by the Annual Fund anyway.”

T2a29d01his week, I had the honor of connecting with Geoff Hallett, Crowdfunding Director at Penn State, in order to gather insight into how crowdfunding supports his student population and whether crowdfunding has disrupted Penn State’s Annual Fund in any way. Many of our new partner institutions share this as a top concern when implementing crowdfunding on their campus, so I wanted to get the perspective of somebody on the ground who is successfully raising gifts for both crowdfunding and unrestricted giving.

I could write many blog posts on his insights around this subject – and I probably will – but let’s start with a perspective that Geoff uncovered throughout our conversation that deserves to be highlighted:

Crowdfunding in higher education frees up unrestricted dollars by allowing those gifts to provide support elsewhere.

Geoff told us that students often ask for funding for various projects, as Penn State’s Annual Fund is what supports the funding of many of these projects’ budgets. This means that unrestricted dollars have historically been used to support groups who could have otherwise supported themselves while gaining real-world leadership experiences in the process.

Crowdfunding empowers students to take ownership over their own funding. If a club, organization, or research team is able to be self-sustaining instead of relying on the support of unrestricted dollars, then you are now able to address more causes with less strain on your Annual Fund. The scope of support your institution can give broadens, and you have the privilege of pioneering a program that makes sustainability and philanthropy a priority on your campus.

Geoff attests that crowdfunding complements and even amplifies unrestricted dollars. “Crowdfunding would have been supported by the Annual Fund anyway,” Geoff said, “[and as a bonus,] it engages people less likely to give unrestricted gifts.”

This truth flips the fear of disrupting the Annual Fund through crowdfunding on its head.

Geoff provided a final thought as our conversation came to a close, “It’s no secret that not all alumni give back to their institution. There are clearly alumni we are not engaging with, and if crowdfunding engages them, there is no reason to not try it.”

We hope you permit yourself to lay your Annual Fund and crowdfunding fears to rest, and that you get to experience how crowdfunding can empower your student population and liberate your Annual Fund in substantial ways.


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