Before You Start
Crowdfunding, which harnesses the “crowd” to gain needed funding for a product or cause instead of specialized donors, and often enlists the use of social media to increase the ‘virality’ of a project to make it more successful, is unique for education. In the scope of university crowdfunding, most donations go to a specific fund or cause, and because the money goes to supporting a larger nonprofit organization, many donations are tax-deductible.
Also, because of the nature of university crowdfunding, its structure typically varies slightly from the usual crowdfunding campaign. Where a product-based campaign might offer the donor first release of the product upon production, most university-run projects do not have the same type of tangible product. For that reason, university crowdfunding campaigns typically offer giving levels or project-specific perks to incentivize donors. Levels usually explain what the specific donation amount will do to help the project, whereas perks will offer individual recognition to the donor for their support to the cause.
According to marketing blog HubSpot, all institutions should look for these three characteristics in a crowdfunding site before moving forward:
- Who uses the platform? Most platforms highlight who is the best fit for their platform, so be sure the platform fits your unique needs.
- What is the pricing structure? Many platforms only reveal pricing if you request more information. However, for those that offer this information up-front, monthly or annual fees, a percentage of the total donation, and additional payment processing fees are standard.
- What features are included? “Whether it’s peer-to-peer fundraising pages, event ticketing and registration, or CRM integrations, make sure to review all features offered and find the platform that best fits your fundraising needs, not necessarily the one with the MOST features,” writes blogger Taylor Corrado. “Think less is more in this scenario if you’re just getting started with crowdfunding.”
20 Crowdfunding Sites for Colleges and Universities
[Listed in alphabetical order per section]
Specifically for Higher Education
AlumniFunder: Whether it’s a project to enhance the student experience on campus, raising capital to build a new science lab, or funding consumer development of a robotics product, AlumniFunder can help. The site features projects from institutions like Georgetown and Princeton. Pricing available via inquiry.
Experiment: This site helps researchers secure microgrants to support their scientific work. Backers fund directly to scientists, so there’s no middleman or overhead involved; however, the project must reach its funding target, or no one’s donations are charged. According to the site, there have been 20 published papers in scientific journals through funded experiments. Institutions using the platform include Duke University, Cornell University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Purdue University, UCLA, Brown University, and many more.
GiveCampus.com: With colleges like William & Mary, Holy Cross, Illinois Wesleyan, and Villanova to name a few, GiveCampus.com is a social fundraising and engagement platform that aims to empower institutions to not only get donations, but improve acquisition and retention. The site has helped more than 70 colleges, high schools and elementary schools raise $10 million since it launched last year. Schools are charged a subscription fee based on the amount of money they aim to raise. Subscriptions start at about $1,000.
Hubbub: Projects are created by students, university members, and alumni. The site reviews all projects for suitability, judging them on the quality of the presentation of the projects, their goals, and the level of organization and commitment demonstrated by the teams behind them. Hubbub covers the costs of payment processing fees, so that institutions always get 100 percent of the value of pledges. However, every project must achieve its minimum needed by its completion date or no funds change hands. Hubbub’s Pro-Site is a fully featured crowdfunding platform that can be branded by specific institutions, and has been used with success by universities and non-profits worldwide. At the University of York, crowdfunding using YuStart (the name for their Pro-Site) led to an increase of 33 percent in total donor numbers in just one year.
Piglt: A site for all education-related causes that encourages the institution’s community to be contributors, Piglt charges a 5 percent fee if the goal amount is reached and 8 percent if the goal amount is not. Loyola Marymount University and Skidmore College are just two institutions that feature PigIt.
USEED: This platform allows institutions to use advocates—students, faculty and alumni—and their stories to increase donations from an internal community, as well as the community around the institution. ASU has entered USEED’s beta program to allow students to use crowdfunding to raise extra funds they need to gain real-world experiences outside of the classroom, such as service abroad, starting a company, or creating a technology or work of art. Current USEED users also include: Knox College, University of Houston, Simon Fraser University, University of Louisville, uOttawa, Indiana Tech, Dallas County Community College District, and more. Pricing available via inquiry.
(Next page: More of the best crowdfunding sites)