Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising money through small gifts from a large number of people, often via the Internet through sites such as GoFundMe. In 2013, the crowdfunding industry raised more than $5.1 billion worldwide, according to an article in Forbes.
FundISU was developed specifically for Iowa State. It’s a new platform hosted by the Iowa State University Foundation that allows non-traditional donors to contribute to a project or cause for a 30-day period. The tool comes in response to numerous student organizations seeking help with fundraising.
“Through FundISU, groups can now help themselves by leveraging their own social networks to secure funding for their passion projects at Iowa State,” said Mary Evanson, the ISU Foundation’s senior director of annual and special gifts. “FundISU provides groups with a secure fundraising tool and offers donors the security of knowing their gifts will be put to work at Iowa State University.”
It costs about $34,000 to put on Iowa State University’s annual fashion show and to award prizes in more than a dozen scholarship categories. Organizers hope to raise $20,000 through crowdfunding. Donations are tax deductible.
“It is a new and exciting type of fundraising and we are excited to try this for our organization,” said Courtney Brockman, one of the Fashion Show’s two assistant producers. “We believe this new fundraising approach is the best for our organization because it is completely different than anything we have done before.”
Donors to the Fashion Show can choose to give between $25 and $500. Incentives will depend on level of giving and will include a shoutout on Twitter, a chance to buy Fashion Show tickets early, a T-shirt, an alumni reception, and brunch with the producers.
Brockman, a senior in apparel, merchandising, and design, said students learned about crowdfunding through their classes. Many fashion designers have turned to crowdfunding campaigns to start their clothing lines all around the world.
The Fashion Show’s crowdfunding campaign will supplement its other forms of fundraising this year including concession stands at ISU Basketball games, T-shirt sales at Memorial Union and Lebaron Hall, food fundraisers at Buffalo Wild Wings and Chick-fil-A, and talking to businesses.
“For many years, The Fashion Show has done traditional fundraising efforts and reached out to businesses and families for donations, without being able to show them our true appreciation for their donation,” Brockman said. “By having this FundISU campaign, we are combining a new type of fundraising effort that gives our donors an incentive in return, and keeping our traditional efforts after the 30 days are over.”
The Fashion Show is in its 34th year. It’s scheduled for 7 p.m. April 9 in C.Y. Stephens Auditorium and will feature more than 150 student-designed garments on the runway and in mounted exhibitions. Ticket presales begin Feb. 29, while public sales begin March 7. Tickets are $16 for students, $22 for adults, and $20 for groups of six or more at the Iowa State Center box office, or $28.25 through Ticketmaster.
Crowdfunding for Collegiately Creative Conference
The ISU Event Management Club also plans to use crowdfunding to raise money for the first-ever Iowa State University event management conference, “Collegiately Creative,” scheduled for April 16 in LeBaron and MacKay halls. The all-day conference is being planned by college students for college students.
“The conference will be a day full of inspiration, encouragement, and motivation,” said Kativa Eckholt, a senior in event management who’s fundraising chair of the Event Management Club. “Our mission: Inspire and encourage creativity to benefit your professional journey through hands-on activities and empowering speakers.”
The Event Management Club’s FundISU page is expected to be up in February. Event management students are currently working on a short video for their platform page, to show how the conference will impact lives.
“FundISU is a great approach to helping us fundraise for our conference by being another outlet to people we might not normally reach on our own,” Eckholt said. “We have the opportunity to share who we are, what the club is passionate about, and why the Collegiately Creative Conference we are planning matters.”
Elizabeth Johnson, president of the Event Management Club, added: “The conference is aimed to inspire the Iowa State students and light their inner entrepreneurial fire. It is open to all students (not just event students). This is the first time the club has ever used FundISU and we are all very anxious to see what kind of results the program will bring.”
Previous campaigns exceed goals
Two previous Iowa State University crowdfunding campaigns were very successful and exceeded their fundraising goals last fall.
A project in December by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences aimed to end hunger in rural Uganda by supporting the construction of a training center in the Kamuli District. Project organizers aimed to raise $10,000 but surpassed that goal by instead raising $52,275 from 73 donors, which included money from a matching gift challenge.
“Students who had participated in the study abroad, service learning, school garden program in Uganda had direct knowledge about how a new training facility will impact the Iowa State program in Uganda,” said Gail Nonnecke, a University Professor and Morrill Professor in horticulture who directed the program. “Their passion and enthusiasm helped drive the fundraising.”
Nonnecke said organizers sent the crowdfunding website address to all former participants of the program, which has had students enrolled for 10 years. They shared it with their families and friends, or donated themselves.
Another project in October by the College of Design aimed to help defray expenses for “Studio Andino,” an optional studio that involves traveling to Peru to conduct design-build projects in marginal neighborhoods in the metropolitan region. That project also surpassed its $7,000 goal, by raising $9,480 from 73 donors.
Seeking commitment, appeal, potential, urgency
Evanson said Iowa State is in the first wave of universities experimenting with crowdfunding platforms. Others include the University of California, Los Angeles; University of Arizona, Tucson; Michigan State, East Lansing; and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
“I think crowdfunding has certainly been shown to be an effective method of funding startups and new ideas,” said Reynol Junco, an associate professor of education and human computer interaction at Iowa State who’s also a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.
“I can think of three technology gadgets that I currently use that were developed because of crowdfunding campaigns,” Junco said. “I think crowdfunding as public relations for a new product is really cool too. It helps build excitement about the new product and a following.”
The ISU Foundation welcomes applications for FundISU from teams of faculty, staff, and students with at least six members. Those applying must either be officially affiliated with an academic unit or recognized as a student organization by The Division of Student Affairs with sponsored or affiliated status.
Applications are reviewed by both the ISU Foundation and the dean of the college, or the Division of Student Affairs. Criteria include whether the project falls under the Iowa State mission and has team commitment, project appeal, and potential for reaching its goals.
Interested groups should allow at least four to six weeks to prepare for the campaign. Organizers are asked to produce a 2- to 3-minute video to go along with the website asking for donations. The best crowdfunding projects have a specific deadline that creates a sense of urgency to encourage donations during the 30-day period.
While the responsibility for the crowdfunding campaign falls on the students or group members, colleges are often asked for assistance in publicizing the campaign to students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
“I see this as a tool that will grow in importance as more people find out about it, and as they understand the benefits of using FundISU versus other crowdfunding resources,” said Karen Simon, the ISU Foundation’s assistant vice president of communications.
Those interested in applying for FundISU should call Evanson at 866-419-6768 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.