While the role of Institutional Advancement may differ slightly at every college, at its core, its tasked with furthering the mission of the school. While on the surface the department is tasked with protecting the school's integrity, the most important function is that of fundraising and endowment. However, recent technology and the rise of the share economy has thrown what were historical fundraising models, on their head. Crowdfunding, the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, has threatened the traditional institutional advancement role. Contrary to popular belief, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive of one another and can co-exist in the same sandbox. Here is the case for why crowdfunding is in fact, the future of college institutional advancement.
Tradition. Its a word upon which some of our nation's finest schools have been built and flourished. Where tradition goes wrong is when its misconstrued for an excuse to be inflexible. Institutional advancement isn't called institutional tradition for a reason. Its mission is to push the school forward. We can't be leaders in higher learning, educating our students to prepare them for the future, if we ourselves fail to embrace the very same technology they will use to be successful. We must advance tradition by remaining true to the schools values and ideals while embracing technology and the new share economy. Those who are truly creative in understanding how crowd sourced campaigns can help the school, are the schools that will lead tomorrow.
One of the main objections we often hear from institutional advancement departments about launching a crowdfunding campaign for schools is "we got this." For many large institutions with vaults of money in endowment, raising money a few bucks at a time isn't going to pose a threat. Yet we often see reluctance because their afformentioned traditions cloud their judement. For some smaller schools, the sentiment is that any funds donated to an individual student or group, are funds that could have gone to the school. This is a falacy however.
Crowdfunding is an alternative source of finance and in a majority of cases will never replace a scholarship. The average crowdfunding campaign yields roughly $7000 and the average donation is $88. Thus, the typical crowdfunder isn't a classic philanthropist. By offering additional avenues for non-traditional funders doesn't canibalize institutional advancement's cash cow.
One of the best parts of crowdfunding is that, while you might achieve the same financial goal, you don't have to host an expensive gala to get there. A simple email thank you, video or small momento is all that's expected and very appreciated. Donors are often just looking to be part of something larger than themselves without putting in much more effort than a click of a button on their smartphone.
The best part of microdonors are they're very easy to access. Crowdfunding sites like RocketHub afford very easy tools for you to export and import contact list for easy of future communication. In tomorrow's economy, true value will not be measured in how much you have, but how many people who have are you connected to. By adding these individuals in your well structured CRM you can be ready for your next campaign.
In speaking with schools across the country, one of the increasingly challenging hurdles to overcome is engaging alumni. While getting former students to give back to their alma mater has always been an art, digital mediums have ratcheted up competition for alumni attention. While crowdfunding options don't pretend to change that, they do open a new donor base. While not every former student is in the position to write "a check," doesn't mean they're not engaged or concerned about the welfare of their school. While previously disinterested in philanthropy, these provide the perfect buyer persona for microdonators.
How we shop, buy and now donate has been changed by technology and the social migration to a more shared economy. As instiutions steeped in tradition and existing mentality, it may be a challenge to find ways to integrate these new ideas. The Case Study below speaks to a school embracing some of those inovations succesfully. I encourage you to be creative and open minded. See how crowdfunding can complement not hinder your path of intstitutional advancement.