Crowdfunding program makes Impact

Mark Feuerborn

With hopes of spurring community involvement in various student and faculty projects on Washburn University and Washburn Tech’s campuses, the Washburn University Foundation has recently created a new crowdfunding platform; Impact.

In a press release on Jan. 31, Marshall Meek, executive director of major and planned giving at the Washburn University Foundation, highlighted his hopes for the new crowdfunding platform.

“This is a perfect opportunity for the Foundation to partner with faculty and staff to fund projects that will broaden a student’s learning experience, projects that otherwise wouldn’t be possible because of budget restraints,” Meeks said. “This helps us connect donors to projects they care about, and they can see the direct difference they are making for our students.”

In the press release, JuliAnn Mazachek, vice president for academic affairs at Washburn, echoed this sentiment.

“These projects reinforce our faculty and staff’s commitment to providing all Washburn students an exceptional education,” Mazachek said.

Sarah Towle, assistant director of communication for the University Foundation, spoke on how Impact was conceived.

“Crowdfunding has been around for a few years now, [with sites like] GoFundMe, Kickstarter, huge successes,” Towle said. “Part of the downside of them is that they might take some money out of funds [donated]. We’ve seen some other universities do crowdfunding sites, so we decided to look into the idea as well. It is our own platform. We want to cultivate that donor and tell them what their gift is used for.”

Looking at the Impact website, there are currently six projects available to donate to, including a professional recording at a studio for Washburn’s Jazz Orchestra and funding for Washburn Tech students to travel to the National SkillsUSA competition. Towle commented on the Jazz Orchestra Recording project.

“We have a lot of people that are friends of the music program that have given to the Jazz Orchestra Recording,” Towle said. “That’s because they’ve given in the past, they’ve seen what those gifts have done, and so now they’re able to give to a specific project. It also is able to connect the donor on a deeper level with what they’re giving their money to.”

For each of the projects’ pages, Impact features a video to discuss the project and its goals, a tab for updates on the project based on its financial milestones and a donor wall to see who has contributed to each project. Towle also pointed out that the Washburn University Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means, unlike on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, donations to the Impact program are tax deductible for the donor.

Chase Sachs, a Washburn University alumni, said he was especially happy to see an option that would fund equipment for archaeological excavation and forensic anthropology.

“Since I have left Washburn to pursue Near Eastern Archaeology, I have often thought how unfortunate it is that a person often has to give up on their interests simply because of where they were born and raised,” Sachs said. “Archaeology is one of those fields where if you are not born and raised in a major city, then you do not have the resources to pursue your academic interests, so it is encouraging to see Washburn addressing that issue.”

Sachs said he was excited to see a project, “Digital Storytelling,” hosted by a professor he knew from his time at Washburn.

“I know Dr. Wynn and am thrilled to see her hard work on this project,” Sachs said. “In today’s time it is imperative that historians take advantage of the digital technologies available to them just as they did with the innovation of the printing press. [It is] exciting to see Washburn professors like Dr. Wynn anticipate and actively participate in the future of the discipline of history.”

Towle explained that Impact is focusing on the six current projects open to donations for now, but that students and faculty could come forward with new projects in the future.

“We’re looking for projects that have the most impact on students,” Towle said. “We want to see what everyone has to say, but you can always submit a proposal.”