Big Data, Crowdfunding and the Fundraising Technology Craze
“It really galvanized the entire Vassar community and then went viral and well beyond the Vassar community and raised more than $100,000 through Crowdrise,” McCarthy says. “And it was an experience. People really felt engaged and connected. In that particular instance, there was an attack on the values that we all hold dear here at Vassar, which are nondiscrimination and inclusion and excellence. Many alumni enjoyed being a part of that experience, and the class of ’89 came to us and said, ‘We want to do something like that.’”
After that, crowdfunding really piqued Vassar’s interest. Then it began to see many of its peer institutions and other universities embarking on 24-hour crowdfunding giving challenges, which had giving at the center of the campaigns but veered from the typical appeal. They were all about creating experiences and building community to support the institutions.
Vassar knew it wanted to get into the crowdfunding game, but it also wanted to test this new fundraising channel before utilizing it for the class of ’89’s 25th reunion campaign. It targeted its third fundraising appeal of the fiscal year, which dropped in February and historically performed the poorest of the college’s four annual fundraising appeals.
Copy and steal everything
To get started, Vassar participated in a webinar from fellow liberal arts institution Illinois Wesleyan University, detailing its “All in for Wesleyan” 24-hour crowdfunding giving challenge.
“We just thought it was very interesting and decided, in the spirit of CASE — copy and steal everything — we’re going to see if we can replicate a version of that that’s for us and see how it works.”
To tailor the Illinois Wesleyan idea for the Vassar community, instead of using the president of the college as the face of the campaign like Illinois Wesleyan did, Vassar asked its student body president, Deb Steinberg, to be the lead, since typically the February appeal comes from a student.