We launched our crowdfunding platform in November 2015, the culmination of several months of prepping and planning.
We decided to jump into crowdfunding because we firmly believe it’s the future of funding student projects. It has meant we’ve been able to help a greater number and variety of student projects, and given us the opportunity to embed philanthropy across all our University member groups.
It is also a fantastic tool for teaching students much sought after skills in networking, communications, and promotion, supporting student employability. Already, our crowdfunding programme is a recognised module on our University’s award winning employability award scheme, and students using the platform will now have their crowdfunding skills recognised on their degree transcripts.
We launched the platform with 9 projects, 8 of which met their minimum target and raised over £10,000 between them in 5 weeks.
Here are a few of the successes and learnings we gained from our experience of launching crowdfunding at Essex.
Our launch event was fun, vibrant and interactive. All project creators were given the opportunity to pitch their projects to members of the University, including our Vice-Chancellor, and all projects received donations on the night.
Our Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster, has been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive of Click from the very beginning. Not only did he attend the launch event, but he also donated to every launch project personally, and posted encouraging messages and retweets during their campaigns. His tweets generated some of the highest clickthrough numbers across the platform, and his support was invaluable in embedding the concept across the University.
Having a really strong brand was integral to embedding the platform. The platform lives and dies on its users, so we have worked hard to make sure our branding was eye-catching, attractive and consistent. ‘Click’ has been the buzz word on campus – even if you don’t know what crowdfunding is, you will have heard of Click!
Before launching, we held several steering group meetings with representatives from different areas of the University such as the Students’ Union, Communications, Marketing and Careers to build familiarity and support for the platform. These representatives became our advocates, championing Click in their sectors and aiding engagement.
We threw the ‘kitchen sink’ at our launch projects, doing all we can to ensure their success. We organised a workshop with Hubbub representatives Lewis Clayton & Ralitsa Padalska, giving all launch projects the best available expert advice, and giving us an opportunity to teach future students how to crowdfund. We also matchfunded the launch projects, given them an extra boost and rewarding their hard work.
No matter what you do at the back end of the platform and how much training and support you give to applicants, at the end of the day it is student’s responsibility to do their own fundraising. The reason why one of our projects didn’t get funded is because despite all of our support and encouragement, the students involved did not keep up their end of the agreement by promoting the project. It’s really important that the students selected for the platform are engaged, enthused and committed to their project and are fully aware of how much time and energy they will need to commit.
Click has represented a departure from the tradition ‘alumni fund’ style of handing out grants to student projects. We have come up against some opposition about moving to a model that rewards student effort rather than simply hands out cheques. We have persevered, and aim to further develop Click as not only a funding platform but a development opportunity for student’s skills.
Having 9 live projects on the platform was rewarding, but a lot of hard work. Although 8 were successful, it was a nervy last few days. Both us, and the students (some of which were running two projects at once) were spreading themselves quite thin, and on reflection it might have been a lot less stressful had we been choosier with our launch projects and started with 5!
The launch of Click has far exceeded even our wildest expectations, and has been a fantastic success story for Philanthropy at Essex. We are now full steam ahead building on this success and embedding Click as the place to get your project funded for all University members.