Crowdfunding Open Houses

Posted on 12/14/2016 - by Dan Allenby

process-is-the-goalThe University of Missouri–St. Louis discovered that sometimes the process can be the best goal. Eager to respond to the many requests they were getting from students to provide support for crowdfunding projects, the advancement department invested in a new crowdfunding platform. This technology could be used to run short‐term online fundraising campaigns in support of specific student or faculty projects.

Soon after the platform was live, the big question for the advancement team was how to let members of the campus community know about the platform without being overwhelmed by requests. They decided to host monthly open houses (or information sessions) for anyone who was interested in getting support for a project or simply learning more about crowdfunding. They extended invitations to leaders of student groups, clubs, teams and activities across campus.

This approach gained a lot of interest from the very beginning, with 20–30 attendees at each meeting. The information sessions provided an opportunity to engage students and to teach them about philanthropy in general – not just about crowdfunding. They prompted a discussion about how the institution manages and allocates budgets, and uncovered fundraising opportunities and prospects that weren’t previously on the advancement team’s radar. Additionally, the sessions connected the development office with other parts of the university, including student affairs, athletics, and information systems. In many ways, they forced the advancement team to be more inward-facing.

After the open houses, interested students were invited to complete applications to be supported by the university in an official crowdfunding project. Interestingly, in many cases, it turned out that crowdfunding wasn’t actually the ideal strategy. Sometimes it made more sense to address the funding need by creating a new calling segment for the phonathon or by producing an email appeal. There were even times – when a proposed project was already in line with existing priorities – that university departments were able to fund a need directly.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis’ experience is a reminder that, while it’s worthwhile to develop certain programs with a goal in mind, it’s important to recognize that the process you go through to reach that goal may be just as – if not more – significant to your team’s success.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Building a Crowdfunding Program.