USEED Engages Students as Powerful “Frontline” Fundraisers

by on Dec 15, 2015


Crowdfunding start-up USEED designed its platform from the ground up to meet the particular needs of colleges and universities. Unlike other recent crowdfunding platforms hitting the market, USEED focuses exclusively on educational institutions, aiming to hone in on the particular challenges and opportunities of advancement in higher education.

USEED, recently named one of 2015’s 16 start-ups “poised to disrupt the education market,” offers a way for donors to make targeted donations supporting specific areas or projects that interest them. The platform first launched in 2011. Founder Brian Sowards designed the prototype for the University of Delaware and found that 77% of donors were first-time supporters of the university. Of those donors, 12% were later identified as major gift prospects. While this could be attributed to a number of factors, Sowards was inspired by the notion that unlike traditional development strategies that rely on a donor’s connection to an institution or tradition, USEED’s brand of crowdfunding extends beyond that audience and connects with would-be donors around a particular cause and story that speaks directly to them. Plus, because the digital platform is run by teams of volunteers working on a specific project, those teams are able to craft unique messaging and storytelling (through print, photos and videos) that are authentic and may resonate with different audiences.


The University of Washington recently paired with USEED for a pilot project. The partnership website is easy to navigate, within a portfolio of giving options for donors. A visitor to the University of Washington website would find the USEED platform through the Giving page’s More Ways to Give section. There, amidst a variety of less common giving options for donors – such as in-kind gifts, real estate and securities – is a link to the USEED platform. Currently, the site – hosted at – showcases a number of projects seeking support and the opportunity to contribute directly to those projects. On the individual project pages, there is information about target goals, real-time progress updates, team members, updates and more information about the project itself. Projects seeking funding are diverse and range from budding engineers to the UW Farm. The platform offers the ability to browse by subject and share via social media.


University of Washington USEED Platform Landing Page

Empowering Students, Engaging Donors

By partnering with colleges and universities to build crowdfunding platforms for student projects, USEED creates a potential win-win-win for students, alumni and development teams. Students serve as ambassadors for the school while at the same time learning the essentials of entrepreneurship. They petition for support to help fund the school projects they are most passionate about. Alumni make meaningful connections with their alma mater while supporting specific projects and areas they are most excited about. They also know exactly where their money is going. For their part, Development officers add another tool to their toolbox and a way to reach potentials donors through effective storytelling and compelling content.

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