Higher Education Crowdfunding: After Social Media and MOOCs, Watch out for Crowdfunding

Article excerpt

Whether we like it or not, disruptive innovation is now the name of the game in highered. What's to blame? Internet technologies, of course. No doubt your institution has had to change its marketing and communication practices over the last five years to adapt to the paradigm created by the rise of social media. Meanwhile, the academic side is under pressure to offer alternatives to the traditional higher education model through MOOCs and venture-funded startups. As if that wasn't enough, converging factors point to college and university fundraising as the next item on the soon-to-be-disrupted list, from what some predict will be a rise of crowdfunding in higher education.

WHAT IS CROWDFUNDING?

As its name suggests, crowdfunding relies on the participation of anyone who takes an interest in a particular goal or project. Heard of the "The Veronica Mars Movie Project" on Kickstarter, which raised more than $5.7 million in a few weeks last spring? Earning attention from social, online, and traditional media, this project is one of the better known examples of the power and potential of crowdfunding.

The word crowdfunding appears to date back to at least 2006 and is typically defined as "the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations." A quick look at Google Trends (http://goo.gl/eoClQ) shows that mentions of crowdfunding in the news have skyrocketed over the past 18 months.

BUT IS IT FOR HIGHER ED?

Crowdfunding has been used mainly to raise funds online for artistic projects, innovative products, and promising startups. The biggest platforms, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, have hosted several campaigns submitted by students, faculty members, or schools. Indiegogo has partner pages with the University of California, San Francisco as well as Haas School of Business at UC, Berkeley and the University of San Diego.

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Niche crowdsourcing platforms have also started to approach some higher ed communities and institutions. Platforms such as USEED, launcht, and GiveCorps Pro work directly with schools to take advantage of the growing interest in crowdsourcing. Others, like AlumniFunder or PIGLT, bypass traditional fundraising channels to play matchmaker between enterprising students and alum donors. As research funding falls prey to the budget ax, crowdsourcing sites such as Microryza and Petridish have even pledged to help researchers find the funds they need.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT CROWDSOURCING?

While it's not yet on the radar of most development professionals in higher education, crowdsourcing has become a very noticeable part of the online fundraising landscape for younger donors. …