How to Employ Permission First Crowdfunding in Higher Education

The fear of rejection is real for many crowdfunders in higher education. It can feel like your reputation is on the line; that everyone is watching. What if we fail? What if asking for money affects my relationships? What if my friends feel like I’m spamming them?

When I trained crowdfunders early in my time with USEED, they had often expressed these fears. Internally, I was somewhat hand-wavy. It’s fine. No one is going to reject you. Your crowdfunding campaign is great!

That is until I volunteered to crowdfund with a team of young women at one of our partner institutions, Rochester Institute of Technology. And then I had those same questions.

I was nervous that I’d come off as “spammy” or inauthentic. I did not want to engage with anyone who didn’t want to engage with me. But how could I know who those people were? It felt like a minefield.

So, to ease these fears, and to make this a better experience for me and for the people whom I would reach out to, I employed what we now teach as permission first crowdfunding.

Permission first crowdfunding means that you reach out to your friends, family, peers – really anyone you’d like to connect with once your crowdfunding launches – and ask them for permission to share your campaign with them once it goes live. This is especially important for acquaintances and people who have likely not yet heard about your crowdfunding initiative.

Here’s how we recommend employing permission first crowdfunding:

  1. Gather a list of potential contacts (we recommend at least 21) with whom you’d like to share your crowdfunding campaign.
  2. Determine the most comfortable way to reach out to each of them. Is it Facebook? A social app? A text or a phone call?
  3. Reach out to them before your campaign launches and write them a brief message. Here’s what you should include:
    • What your crowdfunding campaign is about.
    • Why you chose them. Is it because they also care about the work you’re doing? Or because they are always so encouraging to you?
    • Ask for or confirm their email address – email is still king in crowdfunding so you’ll want to have it on hand!
  4. Once they respond with permission (as most will), add their email address to the list of people you’ll email once your campaign goes live. Bonus points: feel free to share updates with them as you’re preparing for launch!

I followed this model with my own personal network. Here’s one of the many positive responses I received:


This initial interaction with my friend showed her that I respect her time, showed her that I chose to reach out to her for a meaningful reason, and then, finally, led her to give to the crowdfunding campaign.

Using permission first crowdfunding meant that the day the crowdfunding campaign launched, I sent emails out to the people who had already told me they wanted to hear about it. This relieved any fears I had that my email would be seen as spam or that I may get a rejection email in response.

Crowdfunding success is 90% the work you do before the campaign launches and 10% what you do after it launches. So while permission first crowdfunding might feel like an added effort, the results will be fruitful.

So show respect and thoughtfulness to your community by extending a hand early on. You’ll be surprised how welcome this advance is and how much more comfortable the act of peer-to-peer crowdfunding will be!

Interested in learning more? Let's talk