UC Berkeley is developing its own crowdfunding platform with the hopes of joining three other UC campuses, which already operate their own platforms, by early next year.
Crowdfunding, a form of community-based fundraising usually done on the Internet, allows the public to financially support ideas or projects they find interesting. UC Berkeley plans to hire a manager to facilitate operations leading to the launch of the campuswide platform, which is projected to be about spring of 2015. The project is hosted by the campus’s office of annual giving and regional programs, a unit within University Relations that manages philanthropic funds for undergraduate programs, faculty support and research.
“There are so many exciting initiatives happening at UC Berkeley,” said Lishelle Blakemore, executive director of the office and executive sponsor for the crowdfunding initiative. “We believe that crowdfunding may be a way for us to shine a spotlight on those exciting opportunities.”
The crowdfunding platform is intended to “provide a solution at no cost for the campus community” and to also raise funds for research projects and campus events, Blakemore said.
According to Blakemore, the idea for the platform has been in development for more than a year. The campus administration does not plan to utilize the platform to raise funds for the administration, she said.
The campus is in the process of identifying a vendor to provide the technical platform and finding a crowdfunding project manager to oversee the launch of the platform. Moving forward, the team is working to develop a marketing program and organize the administration to determine how funds will be transferred through the platform.
Crowdfunding is the next stage in how people use social media and engage in social networks, said Richard Swart, technical adviser for the development of the platform and director for the campus College of Engineering’s Fung Institute’s program of innovation in entrepreneurial and social finance.
“Crowdfunding is about the why, not the work,” Swart said. “People choose to crowdfund a project for the same reason they choose to donate to a nonprofit organization.”
Rewards-based crowdfunding, a type that allows crowdfunders to reward their contributors with perks, was popularized by platforms including Indiegogo, a site created by Haas School of Business MBA alumni Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell.
Considering the amount of interest in entrepreneurship on campus, crowdfunding gives people more options in accessing funds for their projects, steering away from the traditional route of getting funding through banks or venture capitalists, Swart said. He added that contributors to crowdfunding projects through the campus platform will be able to stay active within the campus community.
“The university is just putting their feet in the water,” Blakemore said about the campus’s progress.