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Crowdfunding effort spurs four new projects

Monday, October 3, 2016

Entrepreneurs, students, filmmakers – it seems like everyone is into crowdfunding. So, it should come as no surprise that colleges and universities are trying their hand at financing campus projects through small donations from friends, alumni and those within the college community.

Locally, Mercyhurst University, through its advancement office, launched an inaugural crowdfunding platform (seize.mercyhurst.edu) last month to raise money for four mission-driven and university-supported projects. The takeaway: each was fully funded and then some.

“Our office saw this as a way we could help our faculty, staff and students bring important projects to fruition,” said Caleb Pifer, vice president for external affairs and advancement. "Research has shown us that Millennials are more likely to support specific causes and projects than they are to support a general non-specific donation."

Thirty-eight donors contributed $4,500 to purchase a MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer for the graphic design department. Their goal was $4,000. Another over-the-top fundraising effort was achieved by the rowing team, which raised $5,375 toward the purchase of a wakeless training boat to replace the old aluminum boat currently used by coaches. That project was funded at 107 percent of its $5,000 goal, thanks to contributions from 41 donors.

Then there was a project of the archaeology and geology departments to create a fun and educational Portal to the Past exhibit at the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum. Sixty-seven donors contributed $4,420 toward a goal of $4,000.

A local service immersion experience for students also achieved its goal of $2,500, thanks to 22 donors.

“All of these projects had support not only from our internal community but from alumni,” Pifer said. “The effort raised money, but also a level of excitement and collegiality among those who invested.”

Art Department Chair Jodi Staniunas Hopper agreed. "Makerbot Mania provided us with an opportunity to reach out to our alumni through various social media outlets, email and phone and provided us with a chance to catch up with them as well as ask for support," she said. "Many of the donors responded with how jealous they are that the students are going to be exposed to the technology and have the opportunity to work with the Makerbot 3-D printer. Ultimately the hours of emails and phone calls paid off and we will now be equipped to integrate the technology into our foundation year 3-D course, computer illustration techniques and next year in a special topics class. This was a major step in keeping up with the technological advances happening in the K-12 grades and I can't thank our supporters enough!"

All told, the month-long crowdfunding effort raised $16,795.