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Crowdfunding: What Do Educators Think?

Crowdfunding, used to bankroll everything from high-tech products to the upcoming Veronica Mars movie, has been making its way into schools. The practice, which involves asking for small amounts of money from a lot of people in order to fund a specific project, has replaced traditional fundraising in some schools.

In traditional crowdfunding scenarios, contributors get something for their cash—it might be a finished product, a movie ticket or access to special content. Schools, however, tend to use a more straightforward contribution model, where a donor’s “prize” is knowing that s/he has supported the school’s goal.

Read about best practices for school crowdfunding projects.

With crowdfunding still somewhat new to educators, online chatter on the practice has been loud. A crowdfunding discussion on received a number of comments:

A great idea, if handled carefully

Whitney Hoffman, digital media consultant and author, likes the concept, but has concerns.

“There have been some interesting crowdfunding initiatives, like those for Makerbot’s initiative to put a 3D printer in public schools—one friend put up their project and raised their $100, and the rest was paid for by Makerbot within 48 hours. That’s a big win.

[Yet] I worry that we’re forever being ‘hit up’ by a school or program—at our school, there’s a participation fee for the school musical of $70 or more, depending on the show (some kids are subsidized if it's an issue); the band sells spirit wear and fruit near Christmas, in addition to having several fundraisers, bake sales and the lot—and that’s before we get to the sports teams, Girl Scouts, after prom, the education foundation, etc.”

Likewise, Gwen Pescatore, president of her Home & School Association, believes crowdfunding can work, but that schools must be careful of going to the well too many times.

“I think, if not careful, fundraising can get in the way of building unbiased relationships, prevent partnerships where all see each other as equals working together for the same goal, and take the focus off what’s truly important...that every child deserves an equal opportunity at a quality education.”

Pescatore does, however, find that because of the limited time commitment needed on the part of parents, they generally are willing to participate in crowdfunding at their child’s school.

She added, “I like the idea of crowdfunding because it is a clear, defined goal. Everyone knows what they are fundraising for and how much they need to raise (something that isn’t always communicated when holding multiple smaller fundraisers). Regardless of how funds are raised, I think it is the transparency, and passionately sharing of the ‘why,’ that gathers support.”

So educators have nothing to fear?

Alaethea Hensley, director of marketing at Edbacker (a crowdfunding platform), helps dispel educators’ fears, explaining that crowdfunding is just a new way to fundraise.

“Online crowdfunding is different but the same in many aspects. It requires just as much work as a product fundraiser, but it is also a lot safer than door-to-door fundraising.”

Indeed, Kevin Jarrett, a K-4 technology facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey, has used crowdfunding—with great success.

“I have successfully used crowdfunding twice. The first time was over a year ago for some crazy classroom clocks (I wanted to help set an irreverent ‘mood’ for my classroom), and the second was within the last month (I managed to get one of those 3D printers Whitney mentioned). We used both times.”


Article by Daniel Kline, EducationWorld Contributing Editor
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