New DIY fundraising option for university community

University teams looking to raise $1,000 to $10,000 have a new place to turn -- a crowdfunding platform set up exclusively for Iowa State.

FundISU is managed by the ISU Foundation. But teams will run their own fundraising efforts, said Mary Evanson, the foundation's senior director of annual and special gifts. The teams will set up crowdfunding sites, cultivate supporters and publicize their campaigns.

Crowdfunding is a popular fundraising tactic that focuses on seeking small gifts from lots of people rather than large gifts from a few. Generally, the Internet and particularly, social media, are big players in crowdfunding campaigns.

Large crowdfunding platforms abound on the Internet. However, Evanson noted that FundISU, offers these benefits to university fundraisers:

  • Donations are tax-deductible
  • The ISU Foundation will track and manage the gifts, charging its standard 5 percent fee to recoup costs. Some third-party crowdfunding sites charge 8 to 13 percent.
  • If the campaign falls short of its goal, funds already raised will be available to the college or unit sponsors for use on similar projects. Some crowdfunding sites keep the cash when campaigns don't hit their marks.

Studio Andino

FundISU's first fundraising effort is for Studio Andino, an interdisciplinary design studio in Peru that brings together students from Iowa State and the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences, Lima, to work on projects in several communities in Peru. The Iowa State team, led by associate professor of architecture Clare Cardinal-Pett, sought to raise by Oct. 15 $7,000 to fund materials and tools, transportation, food and water for students and other expenses associated with the design-build projects. The team hit its goal Oct. 7. Additional funds will help reduce the cost of student travel to Peru.

First wave

Evanson said Iowa State is in the first wave of universities experimenting with crowdfunding platforms. Others include the University of California, Los Angeles; University of Arizona, Tucson; Michigan State, East Lansing; and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Through crowdfunding, Iowa State can reach beyond its current alumni and donor base, Evanson said.

"Faculty, staff and students dip into their own networks to fund ISU projects," she added. "Long-term, we hope some of these donors develop an affinity for FundISU site and for giving to Iowa State."

Getting started

FundISU welcomes applications from faculty, staff and student teams with at least six members. Those interested in trying FundISU should read the Q&A and contact Evanson at (866) 419-6768,


The ISU Foundation purchased the FundISU platform from ScaleFunder, a crowdfunding operation for educational institutions. ScaleFunder is part of Cedar Rapids-based Ruffalo Noel Levitz, which provides services, software and consulting for higher education management and fundraising.