Who Benefits From Crowdfunding in Higher Education?

Philanthropic crowdfunding can be an extraordinary experience that touches everybody who comes in contact with it. It has the power to radically transform student innovators, donor stewardship, young alumni engagement, and higher education as a whole.


Crowdfunding for student projects

Imagine being a student who has been passionately working on a project for several months alongside your peers. There is an upcoming out-of-state competition that your team has qualified for, and you have put in countless hours preparing for it. You then find out that funding for your project has run out. You’re a team of students, so there is no way you can afford to complete the project – let alone travel expenses – for this competition on your own.

Lack of funding means that you miss your opportunity to go to the competition, and you’re crushed. After graduation, you are now trying to manage student loans, and you’re struggling to start your career. Soon, you get a call from your university: “Please donate to your alma mater’s annual fund.”

With a laugh, you hang up the phone. The nerve!

On your campus, there are student leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs hustling to make change happen within the walls of your university and beyond. Unfortunately, their budgets are limited and these students are often disempowered to find additional funding for the projects that matter to them. This results in extinguished dreams and severed ties between students and their university.


They have friends, family, alumni, professors, and mentors who not only desire to see these students flourish within their initiatives, but who are willing to give their own financial and social support to make it happen.

Peer-to-peer crowdfunding provides real world experiences for student leaders. They gain experience in leadership, communication skills, creative planning, and teamwork. Their resumes grow alongside the affinity they have for their university. The ties that have been severed are now stronger than before.

Students are empowered again.


Crowdfunding for donors

Crowdfunding allows students to lead donors in robust educational experiences that delights the donor and connects them to the university.

We already know that donors – especially first time donors – deeply desire to know the direct impact their financial support to the institution has on the students inside of it. This is the biggest advantage for crowdfunding many smaller, interest based campaigns: new donors learn to trust the institution by seeing how their financial support directly impacts those in need of funding.

Last month, I interviewed Taylor Strayton, an assistant director in the Annual Giving office at University of Miami, after I met her at the INBOUND 2015 conference. She shared with me a bit of wisdom that has stuck with me in regards to how crowdfunding empowers not just those seeking funding, but for their donors as well.

“Students are the expert in their field.” Taylor continued, “They will attract donors by making their philanthropy a learning experience.”

And that is the power of crowdfunding in higher education: Real world learning opportunities for students and donors.


Crowdfunding for Annual Giving

Annual Giving has been positioned to inspire and engage donors in order to establish a culture of philanthropy on their campus. When implemented thoughtfully and purposefully, crowdfunding can unlock Annual Giving’s potential to revitalize donor engagement in radical ways.

A donor’s first giving experience to your institution matters. Young alumni especially require a foundation of trust before they make financial contributions to your annual fund. So the question becomes: How are you building that trust?

Running targeted peer-to-peer crowdfunding campaigns throughout various interest groups is an excellent way to facilitate a first giving experience that is both memorable and meaningful to a new donor. Engaging young alumni means that you must get on their level by creating opportunities for their peers – many of which are students – to trust the institution. Networking is a powerful tool for Annual Giving that crowdfunding opens with ease.

In addition, students themselves are given a unique opportunity to connect with young alumni through crowdfunding, which deepens their relationship to the university. This, in turn, makes them much more likely to give back to their alma mater after graduation.


Crowdfunding for universities

Crowdfunding in higher education means pioneering a program that empowers students, faculty, and staff to secure funding for the projects and initiatives that matter to them most. It means connecting donors to the amazing things happening on campus, and it means creating a culture of philanthropy and connectivity that permeates through your institution.

So who benefits from crowdfunding?

Everybody does.

When you bring crowdfunding to your campus, you unlock a powerful resource that will bring people together and transform the institution and everybody inside of it.

Interested in learning more? Let's talk