Starting this school year, a new crowdfunding opportunity, Knoxstarter, is now being offered as a way for students, education departments, sports teams, music ensembles and club organizations to raise funds for various trips and equipment.
A total of three Knox College organizations have used Knoxstarter to raise funds this year, such as the The Knox College Choir, who raised a total of $15,871 so that all members would have the opportunity to attend their tour over spring break.
“The idea behind this whole concept is that we want to have fundraising ideas that people are really passionate about … finding things that help Knox students,” Director of the Knox Fund Julie Layer said.
Over the course of three years, Layer, alongside Associate Director of Alumni and Constituent Programs Jennifer Gallas and Amanda Chavero of the Office of Advancement, has been developing a way for students to operate their own fundraising operations.
“It has to benefit Knox and Knox students and faculty in some way. It can’t be for someone’s favorite nonprofit; it has to be Knox-oriented,” Layer said.
The Knoxstarter platform is provided by a vendor known as USEED, which takes the place of an intensive full-time staff. USEED has a system for helping students be successful in their fundraising through team meetings, setting goals based on the number of people involved. USEED brings in their own staff, web development, industry research, advising and consulting into the project. It is more than just students interacting with a computer screen; they are in contact with the team of people behind USEED.
“It’s a small team, less than a dozen people, but we have weekly calls with the Director of Education. We know who works with the students,” Chavero said.
Students who are looking to use Knoxstarter as a way to raise funds will find an application on the Knoxstarter website to fill out. The application first goes through Layer, Gallas and Chavero, who will review it and decide if the fundraiser is appropriate. There is an interview with the students who are organizing the fundraiser before moving onto the next step, which is creating a team of five leaders who oversee the project.
The five leaders, such as the Project Manager and Web Content Developer, are all jobs that the students can use on their resume after the fundraising experience. Knox College Choir’s Campaign Manager Tommy Hintz explained that every role provided a certain level of experience that would benefit other projects outside of the crowdfunding campaign.
“I gained so many skills in terms of being a leader and in terms of reaching out to people. Being able to talk to so many choir alumni about this campaign helped me learn a lot about the most effective ways to reach out to people,” Hintz said.
Beyond the leadership roles, there are people who are in the campaign known as champions, who work with the leaders on the fundraising. The champions are those who are interested and passionate about the project.
“It is all student-run. You have a faculty or a staff advisor, but the students are the ones who do it [the project],” Layer said.
Layer estimated that it takes about a month to set up the project between students creating videos explaining why they are interested in the project and how it will benefit them. These videos may be filmed on a phone or laptop and can show off the group’s quirks, personality and passion for their project. The idea is that everything regarding the project comes from the heart.
“Why do you care, and why should I care [about the project]? That’s the whole point,” Chavero said.
When the campaign is finally ready, the project will go live on the internet. Champions on the team will send emails to their friends, family members or anyone they think would be interested in giving. Halfway through the campaign, Knox sends information to alumni who might be interested in donating to that particular fundraiser. For example, when the Knox Men’s Basketball team was raising money for their trip, former players were sent information.
“We want people to think about this more broadlynot just a trip somebody takes. Any group that has a passion, a project and enough people to work on it, anyone can do it,” Layer said.
Layer mentioned that she could see more student organizations, such as ABLE and Sustainability, getting involved with Knoxstarter. The projects do not necessarily have to be trips either. They can involve research, inviting a guest speaker to campus or even raising funding for new equipment for music ensembles. Knoxstarter is open to any groups of students who want to start a fundraising campaign for any projects they are passionate about.
Students do not need to have $15,000 projects to participate in Knoxstarter either. A $2,000 project would work just as well, and it means that the group participating in the campaign can be smaller.
“So, if it’s a smaller club or organization, they’re not excluded from it [Knoxstarter], which is something we were excited about because it’s really truly open to everybody,” Chavero said.