Posted June 30, 2016 by Benjamin Williams 

Online Crowdfunding: A Tool to Support Student Organizations

Fundraising has always been part of a student organization’s DNA, whether it be a bake sale on campus or partnering with a local business to get proceeds donated. But now, fundraisers can use the power of the Internet to streamline the process.

Colleges and universities have begun exploring online crowdfunding platforms as a way to support student organizations raise money for events, programs, and even scholarships.

If you’ve seen friends share GoFundMe pages then you’ve already gotten a taste of what online crowdfunding can accomplish. The student organization I advise has used GoFundMe to fundraise for the senior class gift, which supports an endowed scholarship. When police officer Garrett Swasey was shot and killed in the line of duty at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs, the Garrett Swasey Memorial Fund was established on the YouCaring platform and has raised more than $252,000.

The University of Colorado system recently decided to provide crowdfunding to each campus to support the work of staff, faculty, and students. While three campuses are managed by the System Advancement office, the Boulder campus employs a full-time staff member dedicated to crowdfunding projects.

I talked with colleagues here and at other campuses launching crowdfunding platforms to gather insight regarding best practices. Here are some things to consider when developing or supporting a crowdfunding program on your campus.

Want to start a program?
  • Consult with the advancement office on your campus or in your division to see if this is something they’d be interested in.
  • Develop a process for how student organizations will access the program.
    • Who do they need to talk to? Who supports them in developing a marketing plan? Who reviews to ensure the project aligns with the university mission?
  • Who will manage the program?
    • Is there a staff member who will be a contact in your office? Is advancement willing to designate a staff contact?
How to support student organizations if you won’t be starting a dedicated program:
  • Develop a document for student organizations that outlines the marketing, processes, how to perform outreach to target groups, etc. required for successful crowdfunding initiatives.
  • Determine where the money goes. If you require student organizations to have a bank account on campus, that’s a great place to have the money live. 
  • Decide if and how you can market crowdfunding as an option to student organizations. 
Whether your university has a dedicated program or supports student organization campaigns in other ways, online crowdfunding opens new doors for funding the great work student organizations do. For inspiration, check out this compilation of the 20 best crowdfunding initiatives at colleges and universities across the United States published by Brown University in February 2015.
Benjamin Williams

Benjamin Williams is the Associate Program Director, Student Center at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Ben manages a facility inside the Student Center; advises the Homecoming, Ramblin Nights, and Music committees for the Student Center Programs Council; and supervises six student staff in Under the Couch, a music listening space where students can perform, record music, or just study. He holds a bachelor’s in sociology from Georgia State University and a master’s from Miami University. His ACUI involvement includes serving on Regional Leadership Teams, the Education and Research Fund Program Team, and currently as one of the program leads for I-LEAD®.

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