October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

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Colorado State University Takes Crowdfunding To the Next Level

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Colorado State University, the first university in the state to open a web-based crowdfunding platform to potential donors, is taking its beta test to the next level.

After a successful initial test of the Charge platform with 10 student businesses over the summer, Colorado State University is now piloting community-based fundraising for projects in the School of Biomedical Engineering.

“The overall goal of Charge, the CSU crowdfunding platform, has been to build a more technologically advanced way of giving while creating a more intimate experience for the supporters of CSU,” explained Meg Weber, executive director of Annual Giving and Donor Relations. “It allows donors to directly support specific projects at CSU, so their dollars can have an immediate impact in areas where they feel a deep connection with CSU.”

On Sept. 30, Charge went live with requests for support for scholarships for SBME undergraduates, a fund that will support graduate students attending the national meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society to present their research, and an outreach program that introduces elementary school students to concepts of brain and nerve function.

“We selected these projects to be part of our pilot program because they represent the breadth of efforts for students, research, and outreach” said Stu Tobet, director of the school, which includes faculty from CSU’s colleges of Engineering, Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Health and Human Sciences. “We will engage multiple innovative approaches to reach members of the community who are interested in our work as well as those who may want to learn more about the incredible advances our faculty are making.”

The three initial pilot projects are:
The Student Travel Support Fund, managed by Tobet, aims to raise funds to send graduate students to the national Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting. It will allow our community to help SBME students tell the world about the critical work they are doing and explain to their peers in the scientific community key aspects that make the work special. This personal communication is critical, because there are always important pieces of information that might not fit in the space of regular written reports.

School of Biomedical Engineering Scholarship for Leadership and Innovation, also under the direction of Tobet, will be raising funds to supplement existing scholarship opportunities at CSU. As an interdisciplinary school, SBME students rarely have scholarships designated for their major. These funds will provide for students to enroll and attend when financial issues might make it impossible. It also will help promote the participation of students in laboratory experiences from the early stages of their educations. This fund will be available for 60 days.

Muscles Alive! is a public outreach program, under the direction of Brian Tracy, a professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science in the College of Health and Human Sciences and on the SBME faculty, that brings the concepts of brain and nerve function into K-12 classrooms throughout Northern Colorado. Tracy uses kid-friendly Popsicle stick electrodes, iPads, and novel inexpensive electronics to create Muscles Alive!, which allows kids to see, hear, and experience their own muscle electrical activity and learn about how their body works. The equipment has been used for everything from science fair projects to the Brainium event at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Muscles Alive! will be available for funding for 90 days.

“These projects define the creativity and passion that donors to Charge can encourage and support with gifts beginning with as little as $10,” Tobet said, although gifts in greater amounts are encouraged.

“Unlike similar crowdfunding programs in the private sector that fund projects only if a certain goal is met, Charge directs 100 percent of gifts to the project designated by the donor, whether the goal is reached or not,” Weber added. “All gifts will be processed immediately and deposited into the project account. Some projects will have specific goals and timelines, others may be ongoing, but all the projects funded through Charge will further the land-grant mission of Colorado State.”

After analysis of the SBME tests, the ultimate goal is to be able to roll out the Charge crowdfunding platform to other colleges, departments, and units across campus. Charge is administered through CSU’s annual giving office.

“This crowdfunding initiative shows, once again, that Colorado State is on the cutting edge of innovation,” said Brett Anderson, vice president for University Advancement at CSU. “We are now offering our donors another avenue to provide support directly to the colleges, programs, and specific projects at the University that are most meaningful to them. Our crowdfunding approach is very personal, will have an immediate impact on the lives of our creative students and faculty, and provides a very tangible way to demonstrate the impact of each gift.”

Charge combines the long-standing business practices of the Division of University Advancement with a proven crowdfunding system developed in Fort Collins by CSU alumni. CSU has partnered with Community Funded LLC and its “Empowered By” product to create the Charge platform. During the High Park Fire in 2012, Community Funded facilitated giving of tens of thousands of dollars to nonprofit organizations, from volunteer fire departments to relief and rebuilding agencies. Empowered By allows other organizations, such as CSU, to take advantage of Community Funded’s experience and expertise to build their own community of crowdfunders.

Although crowdfunding platforms all across the world raised an estimated $2.8 billion for individuals, businesses, and nonprofits in 2012, very few U.S. universities have added the option to their fundraising efforts to date. Many others are still in the planning phase, while Colorado State has embraced Charge.

For more information about crowdfunding at Colorado State, contact Meg Weber, executive director of Annual Giving and Donor Relations, meg.weber@colostate.edu, (970) 491-7737. To see the projects currently available for funding through Charge, go to www.engr.colostate.edu/sbme/charge

Founded in 1870 as the Colorado Agricultural College, Colorado State University continues to fulfill its mission as a land-grant university as well as one of the nation’s leading research universities. CSU conducts world-class research in infectious disease, atmospheric science, clean energy technologies, environmental science, and biomedical technology that attracts more than $300 million in research funding annually. Professional programs in veterinary medicine, occupational therapy, journalism, agriculture, and construction management are ranked among the nation’s best.

Community Funded is an online fundraising platform that allows individuals and organizations to create and share fundraising campaigns with an engaged community. Community Funded was launched in Fort Collins in 2012 by local businesspeople who are also Colorado State University alumni. Community Funded’s “Empowered By” solution gives organizations the ability to integrate crowdfunding technology into their own websites to attract new donors and build engaged communities of supporters.

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