Universities could convert music, movie downloads into fundraising cash

Student downloads could raise money for colleges.

College students’ love of music, movies, video games, and books could be a supplement to college and university fundraising as campus decision makers prove more willing to experiment with technological ways to ask donors for cash.

A new website called Huzo is inviting colleges to join its entertainment service, and the site’s founder, Terrell Samuels, said that if enough students sign up and buy songs, games, and eBooks, institutions could bring in tens of thousands of dollars.

Huzo users earn back 2 percent of every purchase they make on the site, meaning they’d receive two cents when they purchase a $1 song. If a college or university persuaded its students, faculty, and alums to join Huzo, and each member spent $7 a month on the site, the campus would reap about $30,000 annually, Samuels said.

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Students could also make a few dollars with consistent downloads from Huzo’s library of songs, movies, and eBooks.

While Huzo is still invitation-only, the site has a few high-profile higher education users such as the University of Michigan, Arizona State University, and the University of California.

Samuels said Huzo was a natural fit in higher education because of schools’ enormous social media followings.

“A lot of colleges have hundreds of thousands of [Facebook and Twitter] followers, but they can’t figure out how to monetize this,” said Samuels, who has developed Huzo for three years. “People don’t know that you can make a significant amount of money” by leveraging faithful social media followers.

Samuels said he created Huzo when, during the worst days of the economic downturn, spending on entertainment actually rose by about $20 billion a year.

Adding a “philanthropic component” to that massive consumer spending, he said, was the idea behind Huzo. Samuels is targeting celebrities, athletes, organizations, and universities with large, engaged groups of social media users likely to create a Huzo account and spend a few bucks every month.