Fundraising for a student organization isn’t easy, but crowdfunding has recently emerged as a unique way to raise money from many individual donors. Websites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe are popular choices to jump-start a campaign, but more recently, educational institutions have moved towards utilizing crowdfunding as well. UCLA embraced this opportunity to connect with Bruin students, faculty, alumni and its community when it launched UCLA Spark in 2014.
After training with the UCLA Spark staff, our team ran a crowdfunding campaign last month for Operation Bruin Smiles, a program initiated by the UCLA ASDA Veterans Services Committee. We started with a goal of raising $10,000 to provide subsidized dental treatment for UCLA student veterans and former foster youth. Our campaign was a success; in just 30 days, we raised over $22,000. But, you can do it too! Here are a few UCLA Spark tips to help you organize your own campaign.
- Communication is key. Share your project so that others can get excited about it too! Use your page to inform people about your project and share the impact that your campaign will have. Remember to be transparent about where your supporters’ donations are going. Give your campaign some personality by featuring photos and video clips of your team in all of your messages. For Operation Bruin Smiles, we created #BruinSmiles posters to hold in pictures, which helped us promote our campaign on social media along with our hashtag. Be creative and have fun with it!
- Recruit a strong team. UCLA Spark recommended that we build a core crowdfunding team to spread the word. We can tell you from experience that this should be an essential part of your crowdfunding campaign. Include students who are invested in your project and reach out to influential community leaders who may have personal interest as well. After asking our dental school faculty to reach out to their professional connections, we were fortunate to receive a corporate donation and a large contribution from our local Rotary Club. Because our campaign involved service to veterans, we also asked military support groups to share our link on their social media sites. The takeaway is that it never hurts to ask, so be bold! There are tons of people out there who would love to support your project, but just don’t know about it yet.
- Recognize your supporters. Remember that your success will come from the collective efforts of your individual donors, so don’t forget to thank them appropriately. Ensure that any perks, such as Facebook shout-outs or small gifts, are delivered to your donors in a timely manner. This will help grow your community of supporters and foster goodwill for any future crowdfunding campaigns you may run.
I firmly believe that if you put in the work, good things will happen. For example, in the process of reaching out to our faculty, our dean, Dr. No-Hee Park, caught wind of our fundraiser and offered to match every dollar donated to our campaign, up to $10,000. His matching challenge energized our campaign. We raised 226% of our original goal because more people were motivated to donate, knowing that each dollar was going twice as far. Yet, none of this would have been possible without the hard work that our team put into community outreach and social media.
Looking back, I believe we accomplished more than just raising money. Our campaign ensured that our program would be financially sustainable and we helped others learn more about the services we offer. Crowdfunding is such an engaging and innovative way to bring awareness to your student organization, so get out there and bring your ideas to life!
~ Melissa Lin, Los Angeles ’18