Each year, 15 Carleton students make a life-altering journey to Antarctica as part of the Students on Ice program. Sailing south from Ushuaia, Argentina, these students witness first-hand the awe-inducing southern polar climate and glacial landscape while carrying out collaborative research. Such opportunities don’t come without heavy costs, however. Typically, each student pays a $10,750 fee plus the cost of a return flight to Argentina. But this year, anyone can help a student’s dream become reality through a new fundraising initiative at Carleton University.
Carleton’s new Future Funder microgiving platform takes a page out of the books of crowdfunding success stories like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The Future Funder portal gives people an opportunity to browse through and pledge their support for one of many innovative student or faculty projects at Carleton. Web pages, which tell each project’s story with pictures and video, create a compelling case for support. The intention is to give potential donors a clear sense of where their money will go and what kind of impact it will have.
If the success of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are anything to go by, crowdfunding is here to stay. Until now, the model has yet to be employed extensively by the Canadian education sector, but Carleton hopes that Future Funder can revolutionize the way people support post-secondary education.
“Modern philanthropy is about collaboration, and crowdfunding is really collaboration on a larger scale,” said Carleton’s Chief Development Officer Paul Chesser. “Whether they give $10 or $10,000, we want to be able to offer Carleton donors the chance to direct their gifts to the projects that mean the most to them—and then demonstrate the impact they can make. Future Funder provides even more Carleton donors with clear accountability and a truly collaborative relationship.”
Future Funder promises to be a boon to Carleton’s deep pool of students, faculty and staff who are carrying out projects and research. In addition to Students on Ice, funds are currently being raised for an exchange program offered by Carleton’s Philosophy Department and the University of Delhi. Donors can also support the Solar Decathlon project, a collaborative, student-built net-zero solar house that will compete at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon this fall. There are plans for more, including projects associated with the return of Ravens football and a renewed homecoming celebration. These efforts and more keep the interests of Carleton students squarely in mind.
“The Antarctic Peninsula distinctly documents climate change of the geological past and present,” said Earth Sciences Prof. Claudia Schroder-Adams, who oversees the Students on Ice project. “Bringing young minds to this incredible polar classroom, where all aspects of polar science are taught by an interdisciplinary team, is the best education for future polar scientists and environmentally aware citizens. To participate, the students need to make major personal investments, and any help they can get from the public is sure to go a long way.”
Future Funder also maximizes the potential of social media. Through networks such as Facebook and Twitter, each project can easily be shared with like-minded donors within personal and professional networks, building a larger group of supporters and expanding beyond the Carleton community.
One of Future Funder’s early initiatives was a journalism scholarship in honour of Carleton alumna Sheila Bird. The goal was to raise $3,000 online, which would bring the total amount given to the scholarship to $25,000 and allow it to be fully endowed. Through Future Funder, the project was easily shared among friends and family members; a dozen gifts quickly brought the project past its goal and raised nearly $5,000.
Similarly, an effort to raise money to acquire the Archives of Taylor & Francis Online Journals for Carleton’s MacOdrum Library—which raised $11,095—was funded by more than 140 gifts from parents of Carleton students, like-minded friends and users of the library. As the platform grows, social media gives it the potential to expand beyond Carleton’s global network of alumni and supporters, tapping into a massive audience.
“There is a huge amount of creative energy and enthusiasm here at Carleton,” said Ryan Davies, director of Advancement Communications. “We think that when our students, faculty and ambassadors apply that energy to their projects through Future Funder and reach out to their friends and families, we’ll find new support for our great student initiatives. With the public’s help, Future Funder can give students and faculty extra resources and keep Carleton on the leading edge as a top-notch learning environment.”
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