The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

Crowdfunding Comes to Higher Ed!

Crowdsourcing is not new. It’s likely you have heard about Kickstarter and individuals raising funds from strangers to create stunning and sometimes outlandish products. Check out my favorite: the Ostrich Pillow.

Ostrich Pillow

Ostrich Pillow on Kickstarter: 1,846 backers | $195,046 pledged

According to industry reports, more than 450 crowdfunding sites exist today. Some of them focus on artists, entrepreneurs, and cause-funding efforts. Others in all three.

In 2011, more than 1M crowdfunded campaigns were posted and completed. In total, $1.5 billion were raised! – Massolution Crowdfunding Industry Report

Crowdfunding in Switzerland

Michèle Laird of reports that there are at least 6 crowdfunding platforms in Switzerland today. Some focus on creative projects, act as an idea accelerator, and others solely fund new products or business ideas. What’s outstanding is the participation and success rate (68%) of crowdfunding in Switzerland for art projects, for example, as reported by In 15 months of existence, this platform has raised 2 millions CHF (Swiss Francs).

Abart Book

Abart Book on 34,043 CHF pledged in numbers (as of May 6 2013)

Total funds raised 1,971,800 CHF
Total contributors 15,040
Completed projects  271
Ongoing projects  59
Success rate 66%
Most funded (amount) project 34,043 CHF
Most contributors (Aquaponics)  324 people for a total of 20,884 €

Read the article on

Crowdfunding Made in Switzerland

Crowdfunding in Higher Ed?

MiddSTART screenshot

Yes, that’s right!

In the U.S. fundraising is an art—an industry in itself. Many people make lifetime careers out of fundraising: in politics, in higher education, and in the non-profit world. Universities in the U.S. devote entire teams and implement sophisticated campaigns to raise funds from alumni and corporations.

Despite the threat that these crowdfunding platforms may pose to universities in terms of competing for alumni dollars, they also reveal interesting insights about engaging support from individuals around a cause or a project.

See, when you contribute to any of these sites, you get immediate access to information about the project, receive regular updates about the impact of your contribution, and get special perks or benefits from having supported the project. People love to see their money at work!

The community tends to be more involved when they see where the money is going. They can make strides made to reach particular goals. Instead of selling chocolate, schools might try to send a letter home explaining what crowdfunding is to parents and community members. – TeachThought

Middlebury College was the first institution to dive into the crowdfunding adventure with MiddSTART, launched in 2010. Given its initial success, $90,000 raised in its first year, Middlebury College has added MiddGoal, a separate athletics fundraising site.

Other crowdfunding platforms for higher education include & These two platforms allow students and young graduates to raise money to either cover their studies in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings. ScaleFundingUSEEDDonorchoose, and Superior Ideas are some of the many crowdfunding platforms geared towards higher education and research.

Why should Swiss universities pay attention?

Although the concept of fundraising and cultivating donors is not foreign to Swiss universities, it is clear that Swiss universities do not face the same funding challenges that US universities face.

Besides raising funds, crowdfunding could be used to:

  • Teach students about entrepreneurship
  • Fund small projects and bypass bureaucracy
  • Engage alumni and current students in a meaningful way
  • Access to great content for your social media channels
  • Benefit from the virality that crowdfunding can generate

Given the success of crowdfunding success in Switzerland, one can expect to start seeing projects originating in universities. Have you seen any student or university initiated project in a Swiss crowdfunding platform?

Putting fundraising needs and cost of education issues aside, as communicators and social media professionals, we must pay attention to trends that hold potential to engage our audience in meaningful ways. And crowdfunding does exactly that!

Hope or Hype?

Undoubtedly, there seems to be a crowdfunding craze right now. Many compare it to the groundswell around social media back in 2009. But the numbers are indeed impressive and the success of budding entrepreneurs motivating.  Many higher education institutions are already reaping the benefits of this trend and platforms are sprouting up every day.

As with everything, it is key to stay informed and carefully outweigh the pro’s and cons.  Make sure to follow HigherEd Crowdfunding to access interesting insights and news around this fascinating topic.

Want to learn more about crowdfunding? Read how it’s being used in science in Power to the People on

Author: Florencia Prada

Florencia Prada is the Head of Digital Marketing at swissnex San Francisco. While she loves all things tech, she tries hard not to get carried away by shiny objects and new ideas that are all too pervasive in Silicon Valley.

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