Tufts Crowdfunding supports its first round of fundraising projects

Tufts Crowdfunding, a new initiative of the University Advancement Division, helps Tufts affiliates receive donations from outside parties. (Courtesy Tessa Buckley via Amy Lipsitz)

This past January, the Tufts University Advancement Division launched Tufts Crowdfunding, a new fundraising initiative for Tufts programs and organizations. Tufts Crowdfunding helps projects from the Tufts community raise money through the basic format of most crowdfunding platforms, with all donations going directly to the specific projects, according to Tessa Buckley, the assistant director of Digital Fundraising and Direct Marketing.

“We want this to be a dynamic tool for students, faculty and alumni to fund transformational projects and experiences that they’re passionate about,” Buckley told the Daily in an email.

Potential projects are pitched through an online application found on the Tufts Crowdfunding website and can be undertaken by any member of the Tufts community.

“Tufts Crowdfunding puts forth specific student, faculty and alumni campaigns that have an immediate need and direct impact in the Tufts community and beyond,” Buckley wrote.

Project proposals are selected by the University Advancement Division, the Office of Campus Life, the Office of Students Affairs and staff from different university schools, according to Buckley.

For the projects that have already launched, potential donors can choose from a variety of tiered giving options that often correspond to a certain tangible aspect of each project’s goal. For instance, the Tufts Wilderness Orientation (TWO) fundraiser, currently featured on the Tufts Crowdfunding website, accepts a low-end donation of $10, which goes to supporting the meals of a student participating in the orientation program, while the high-end donation of $3,200 covers the entire cost of an orientation trip for eight students.

“Successful crowdfunding projects have a compelling story to interest donors, and a motivated project team that will create great content and share the campaign with their personal network of friends, family and other potential donors, ” Buckley wrote.

While all of the current pilot projects have already received at least some donations, the TWO fundraiser received 183 percent of its $7,500 goal in just two weeks. The different options for donation amounts were designed by Christa Ricker, the assistant director for Campus Life, and two undergraduate students to reflect the needs of the program and its participants.

“[The fundraiser] is focused on multiple ways in which we can increase accessibility [for student participants],” Ricker said. “We just tried to make them reasonable and accessible.”

After sending out extensive emails to past TWO staff members, participants and families of participants, the TWO fundraiser has so far received 174 donations. While most were in the $15 to $25 giving range, the fundraiser also received a few $400 donations, according to Ricker.

Ricker added that Tufts Crowdfunding has received some donations from unexpected sources.

“In a really cool surprise, we had a good number of donors who are just friends, not connected to Wilderness in any way,” she said. “Not a parent, not a staff, not a participant, just people who believe in it.”

While the TWO fundraiser has almost doubled its fundraising goal, the other three projects featured in the first round of Tufts Crowdfunding are still raising money toward their initial targets.

RecycleHealth, a research initiative headed by Dr. Lisa Gualtieri of the Tufts University School of Medicine, recycles and redistributes fitness tracking devices to individuals interested in improving their physical fitness, with a special focus on the needs of populations who are less likely to own these devices. The group is still hoping to raise $6,300 toward their goal as of yesterday.

Gualtieri noted that this campaign is a little more obscure than the others listed on the site.

“Looking at the other campaigns that are on the Tufts site, they are much more connected with Tufts, while RecycleHealth is part of Tufts but it probably doesn’t have quite the same appeal to Tufts students and alumni,” Gualtieri said.

According to Buckley, one of the keys to crowdfunding success is conducting extensive networking and reaching out to a large donor base for support. Once proposals to launch new projects are accepted by Tufts Crowdfunding, Buckley and Tufts Crowdfunding provide additional information to the project owners in order to make their campaigns more successful.

“We work closely with project teams to hone their pitch for support, set realistic goals and establish a solid outreach plan to donors,” Buckley wrote. 

While Tufts Crowdfunding provides guiding information for individual organizations and prospective donors, the content and promotional work of each campaign is managed and carried out by the managers of each project, according to Buckley.

Tufts Crowdfunding is accepting applications for a new round of projects to be launched in April and is looking for proposals from across the university’s schools. In addition to accepting applications from large student organizations and smaller programs, Gualtieri said that Tufts Crowdfunding also serves as a potential alternative source of funding for researchers.

“I think that a lot of my colleagues in the Medical School are perhaps hopeful,” she said. “In this day when funding can be harder to get, you can apply for a lot of grants before you get funded. I think a lot of my colleagues would like to see us be wildly successful because it is a model that they would be able to use as well.”

Though organizations that work with Tufts Crowdfunding can only raise money through their own commitment, the initiative nonetheless provides a platform for these organizations and highlights the work of members of the Tufts community.

“I think there are a lot of creative people with ideas that, with a little bit of funding, they would peruse,” Gualtieri said.