GW creates fundraising program for student groups

Students groups could have a new way to rake in funds this fall.

Last week, the University started a crowdfunding program to fundraise for specific student organizations and projects. Students have until Oct. 21 to submit applications, which will be reviewed by a committee, to be included in the new platform that will tap alumni and other prospective donors for project-specific donations.

A group can raise as little as $2,000 and as much as $10,000 through GW Colonial Crowdfunding. Each group or project must designate a student project manager, and even if the group doesn’t meet its goal, the funds must be spent on the project, University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said.

Hiatt said registered student organizations can submit proposals for the Center of Student Engagement to fundraise between $500 and $2,000, the Colonial Crowdfunding minimum. If a group’s request is approved, they’ll be given a custom URL to use to fundraise.

“Unlike some major independent crowdfunding platforms, we will provide student organizations with 100 percent of the funds that they raise for the project, even if the stated fundraising goal was not met,” Hiatt said.

If the group or project is selected, they will have a Colonial Crowdfunding page for three to six weeks, where anyone can donate. After a project’s fundraising period ends, every dollar raised is deposited into its GW gift account, which is managed using OrgSync.

The GW Crowdfunding Committee, which created the initiative, included “a diverse group of students and staff members from various departments across the University, including the Division of Student Affairs and Development and Alumni Relations,” Hiatt said.

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Aristide Collins said the new program gives more donors a chance to contribute.

“Colonial Crowdfunding really gives a broad section of people the opportunity to support an initiative in the Division of Student Affairs, so there are things like that that we support and encourage,” he said.

Project managers are required to promote their cause with “at least three social media updates,” according to the crowdfunding policies, and students must indicate how they’ll personally thank donors and update them on the project’s process.

During the University’s first “Flag Day,” which brought in about $40,000 from current students and alumni, students were encouraged to write thank you notes to alumni donors at stations on campus, which could help solidify relationships with donors and encourage them to donate again in the future.

Unlike other fundraising platforms, GW’s platform is tailored to ensure student groups can keep all the funds they raise. Kickstarter takes up to 8 percent of funds raised. IndieGoGo takes 5 percent of campaigns’ funds if they meet their goal and 9 percent if they do not, as well as a 3 percent processing fee.

Money raised through the program will count toward the University’s $1 billion campaign. The campaign topped $807 million this fall, University President Steven Knapp said at the Faculty Senate meeting.

Other universities crowdfund to boost student organization fundraising. The business school at the University of Delaware started a program to fund student-led projects, in 2012, and Middlebury College runs a website called MiddSTART, which it calls “a network of microphilanthropy” for student projects as well as scholarships.

This year, the Student Association had $1.2 million to split among student organizations registered with the Center for Student Engagement, and more groups received co-sponsorship funds than last year. But some leaders said crowdfunding would be helpful to supplement funding for specific initiatives.

Amina Akhtar, a senior and the president of GW Amnesty International, said the group would apply to fund a trip to New York in March through the platform because “when you have crowdfunding that’s associated with an institution, it’s a lot more credible than doing it on your own.”

“We didn’t get money from the SA last year. A lot of human rights-related organizations didn’t get money last year. So when we found out about crowdfunding as another way to get money, it was really appealing to us,” said Akhtar, who is a former Hatchet videographer.

“With the recent issues with the Student Association finances and all the discrepancies and confusion, I think it’s a really great alternative to get money from a community, and a community that really cares about what your organization is doing,” Akhtar added.

Natalie Maher contributed reporting.

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