Office of Development launches crowdfunding platform for students

This year, Lawrence University has developed a crowdfunding program called LU Blue Start. The program is designed to connect students seeking funding for extracurricular projects with alumni who want their donations to Lawrence to have an instant and visible impact on the lives of students.

Crowdfunding is a type of investing that calls on smaller donations from a larger group of investors, rather than a few individuals contributing a greater amount. A popular example of a crowd-funding business is KickStarter, after which LU Blue Start is closely modeled. Blue Start, which has its own page on the Lawrence website, is now up and running. The idea was borrowed from Middleburry College, which initially launched the project as a program in which only students funded each other’s projects.

Blue Start is designed to help students fund individual projects that are pursued out of the students’ own interest. Projects for academic credit or for a registered student organization are not eligible for the program. The projects are selected by a committee of staff, faculty and students who convene to determine which projects are the most feasible. Blue Start will accept four student projects per term. Projects that are accepted will appear on the website. At that point, it is up to the student to rally support for the project. Alumni will then be able to donate to causes that they identify with or want to see realized.

In an interview conducted earlier this week, Assistant Director of Annual Giving Cassie McDonald discussed the types of projects that she expected to show up on Blue Start.

“At first, I think we’ll get a lot of upperclassmen with scientific research projects,” said McDonald. “But I hope we get a variety. We have such a good volunteer base on this campus that there will be some really good tie-ins with community service. One student is even discussing a sound design project, which is something we wouldn’t have even thought of.”

Blue Start is nested within the Lawrence University website under the “Alumni” tab of the homepage. From there, students can sign up for Blue Start and alumni can browse through the currently featured projects. The page features step-by-step instructions. The deadline for applications will normally be seventh week. However, since the program has just begun, Blue Start will be accepting applications at a later deadline this term, likely eighth or ninth week.

When asked about the potential success of the program, McDonald discussed that part of the success would depend partly on how appealing the project looks for potential investors. McDonald discussed that some projects will benefit from regular contributors, while others will have to advertise their cause effectively to receive support.

“It’s going to be a mixture,” McDonald said. “It’s going to depend on the kind of project and how the student reaches out. The development team will also send out emails to alumni and friends of the university to help them. I think there are a lot of younger alumni who are especially interested [in] Blue Start because when they can see directly where their donation is going, it’s more gratifying.”

In an interview with senior and Development Office intern Taylor Tomaszewski, who helped create the platform, she discussed the potential benefits of this new form of fundraising.

“There are over fifty on-campus student organizations. They can’t always do everything that students want to do,” she said. “Instead of taking away from a group or not being able to get involved in a group, they get this other avenue, as well as sharing the project not only with their family and friends but also alumni, the board of trustees, even President Burstein.”

For students interested in signing up for Blue Start, they can find the application under the ‘Giving’ tab on the homepage of the Lawrence website.

In an interview with Senior intern Taylor Tomaszewski, the benefits of the program were discussed. “There are over fifty on-campus student organizations. They can’t always do everything that students want to do. Instead of taking away from a group or not being able to get involved in a group, they get this other avenue, as well as sharing the project not only with their family of friends but also alumni, the board of trustees, even President Burstein.”

For students interested in signing up for Blue Start, they can find the application under the ‘giving’ tab on the alumni page of the Lawrence Website.

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