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9 tech essentials for running a university crowdfunding platform


What’s the key to a successful institution-wide crowdfunding program? Buy-in from key stakeholders; e.g. project creators, student associations, departments, donors, corporate sponsors etc.

Can tech features improve buy-in from stakeholders? Yes, dramatically so – if we make it easy for them to interact with the platform and each other.

This post looks at 9 features to consider when researching your university crowdfunding platform – to get buy-in from stakeholders, so that your program can look like this!



Chart showing how a successful crowdfunding platform interacts with different university stakeholders

#1 Funding models

For: project creators

Lets look at the different funding models available in crowdfunding.

“All-or-nothing” funding


Example of ‘all-or-nothing’ model on Kickstarter

If your crowdfunding target is £5,000, ‘all-or-nothing’ funding would mean that the project creator only receives donations if that full £5,000 target is met. If it isn’t met, none of the donors’ money is taken out of their account. This model ensures that donations aren’t wasted on campaigns that haven’t raised enough to make the project happen.

All-or-nothing funding is central to the rise of crowdfunding due to the urgency it creates. but there are other models of funding that mean you can better support the variety of campaigns that your students and departments are creating.

Minimum-needed/stretch goals

Minimum-needed/stretch goal funding models firstly allow project creators to set an all-or-nothing minimum target, as above. The ‘minimum’ needed target refers to the lowest amount required to make a project happen (i.e £500 for sports kits).

A second target is also set (i.e an ‘overall’ goal or a ‘stretch’ goal). This target is for any extra money that is raised, to take the project further. Using the sports kit example, the minimum of £500 may be needed for the kit but an extra overall/stretch target could be set to £800 for extra sports kits to be bought.

This is ideal for smaller student projects & de-risks setting a large funding target.

Example of a ‘minimum needed’ funding model on Hubbub

Participation goals

Participation goals refer to targets showing how many people donate to a project, as opposed to how much  is raised. This is useful for, say, senior class gift – when participation is more important than amount raised.

The University of Oxford’s Somerville College, for example, had a target of 100 alumni donors to their Somerville 20 in 2 Days project.

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#2 On-platform project creation

For: project creators, platform admins

Crowdfunding success does not mean taking a student’s idea, and guiding them through writing the perfect project page.

There’s not enough ownership in that. Project creators should be given the tools and guides they need to write their own – personal – project pages, and submit them to you when ready. A crowdfunding moderator’s job now shouldn’t be too upload all the info – you have better things to do!

This is why projects should be made by project creators, with automated guidance along the way. Moderators of (Hubbub’s) platforms are able to see draft projects develop but they will only be submitted to you when they’re ready.


Example of a moderation panel on a Hubbub crowdfunding platform

#3 Gamification

For: project creators, project teams

When we create a crowdfunding program we allow our students and faculty to act as fundraising ambassadors for our institution. We can use leaderboards to encourage our ambassadors to better promote their projects, reaching more new donors.

Just like we record our best student callers in a telephone campaign, we can record the best crowdfunding promoters by tracking their social media impact:


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Example of leaderboards on a Hubbub university crowdfunding platform. Feel free to request a demo to see how our leaderboards work!

#4 Project dashboards

For: project creators, platform admins

Project creators must know how their promotion is working if they are to remain enthused and so they can make smart marketing decisions. This means giving them oversight of their project stats, such as the number of page views they are receiving from different activities. The data below (provided on a private dashboard) can also be used by platform admins so that they can encourage their project creators at the right times.


Example of project page views on a crowdfunding project dashboard

#5 Matchfunding

For: project creators, major donors, corporate sponsors

If your program focuses on student projects, you can expect around half of all donors to be under 25 years old – naturally building a donor ethos in our students and young alums. To reinforce this benefit, some universities offer matchfunding to their projects.

There is roughly 1 view for every dollar given to a crowdfunding project, so there are thousands of individuals who see that alumni are actively supporting causes at your institution. Similarly, this exposure means that this is also a great mechanism for encouraging corporates to support your projects.

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Example of matchfunding on The University of Southampton’s crowdfunding platform

#6 Mobile responsive payments

For: project creators, donors

Every provider will tell you their solution is mobile responsive – which most pages will be – but the question is whether the payment page is.

Around 50% of all traffic to your crowdfunding platform will be from mobile, so it’s important payments are too. If not, conversion rates will be low. As part of your due diligence, from your smart phone give $1 to a project on each of the platforms you’re considering. The differences will be staggering.


Example of mobile payment for a crowdfunding project

#7 Auto-email stewardship

For: project creators, donors, platform admins, development office

Donors need an immediate thank you email. Why?

1) so their gift is warm in their mind, and 2) they need to feel comfortable that their donation was successfully received – ideally with tax relief details.

Projects need stewardship too: a good platform will also provide auto-emails at various events and times to project creators and platform administrators. Auto-emails should include “call to action” to increase vitality and success of your projects.


An example of an auto email sent to project creators

#8 Auto-retention

For: project creators, donors, platform admins, development office

How best to steward crowdfunding donors is still in debate, but one proven way is to make an additional ask at the point of giving. The regular gift option below is ticked by around 20% of alumni donors.

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Example of an annual giving opt-in after a donation has been made

#9 Donor profiles and histories

For: donors, platform admins, development office

Would you keep using Amazon if it didn’t store your credit card details? Would you use Facebook if it didn’t record your history?

If a crowdfunding platform lets donors create profiles, they can make later gifts quickly, and look back proudly over their donor history. Of course, this also means that platform admins can also identify prolific donors for later gifts. If profiles are created through Facebook or Twitter login moderators can begin to collect additional information to support our stewardship.

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Example of my crowdfunding profile on Hubbub

BONUS FEATURES (non-essential)

#1 Departmental subsites

For: departments, platform admins

I mentioned earlier that ownership is key to crowdfunding success, and this goes to stakeholders throughout your institution too. If you want your enterprise or athletic departments to provide great projects, you need to give them some ownership of the process.

One way to do this is to give them their own sub-sites with their own permissions to moderate their projects. All projects still appear on your institution’s platform, and you still collect all the funds and donor data.

Subsite Graphics

Duncan Knox

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