Crowdfunding : How to Use Your Social Network to Fundraise with Deposit a Gift

There isn't one word to universally describe the college experience. While for some it can be exhilarating, fun and exciting, for others it can be a stressful time. What most students can identify with is that college is expensive. You can save money in preparation for college for years and still be surprised by unexpected costs that come your way. Working multiple jobs or taking out loans is often the solution most students choose in order to deal with their money woes, but there is a new trend on the rise that can be incredibly helpful.

You may have heard of crowdfunding sites that are used to fund album releases, tours, film productions or non-profits, but have you ever considered taking your fundraising efforts online for personal use? According to Forbes Magazine, crowdfunding is "the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet" and is actually a very realistic way for students to raise money to attend college or pay for all the little extra things they need while away at school, like a new computer, a t.v. or money to join student organizations.

Student organizations can also make use of crowdfunding sites like Deposit a Gift, one of the newest sites to enter the crowdfunding arena, for philanthropic ventures or event planning. With new social media sites and mobile apps being developed and launched everyday, students have an excellent opportunity to relieve their financial worries by marketing their personal fundraising campaigns or that of their organizations to anyone around the world.

 

In 2010, Deposit a Gift was founded by Dana Ostomel, a UCLA grad who's worked in marketing for companies like Snapple, Century 21, and Mastercard. Her Campus USF talked to Ostomel to find out more about this innovative tool, the crowdfunding trend and how it works for students. Check out the interview below.

Her Campus: I know you have a background in marketing. What inspired you to create Deposit a Gift?

Dana Ostomel: "It goes back six or seven years now. We actually started the site as a cash gift registry and it was really because I was going to a lot of weddings and I thought, you know, 'What would you do if you didn't want people giving you gifts from a registry and you just wanted cash instead?' So we were really focused on weddings and the gift of travel at the time. About a year into it people started using it to raise money for a new computer, their own businesses, graduation and study abroad. So we decided to take a cue from our customers and turned it into a site that's really customizable, people can infuse their personality. It really just gives them a mini website and they don't even have to know how to code. With what we just launched, we now have two products -- a cash gift registry and a customized tool for fundraising, with a thermometer, different goals and an activity feed."

HC:Why do you think crowdfunding has become so popular recently? 

DO: "I think it's because people realize the power of the internet. When you have a fundraiser and use online crowdfunding sources, you're able to expand your meaning of community, see more people get involved and tap into your network to meet your goal. What a lot of people don't realize though, is that it's not easy. They see campaigns go viral, so they think they just have to set up the page and that will happen for them. There is work involved. You have to post updates, send constant emails and make a marketing plan, if you really want it to work, but you can't look gratutious. You have to stay on people's radars so they feel that they are getting good information. If you're fundraising for someone's medical bills or treatment, give updates on their health, give public shoutouts to donors, or updates on your goals. It really is about a herd mentality. It's almost like a chain letter."

HC:What sets Deposit a gift apart from other crowdfunding sites?

DO: "It's a variety of things. We offer different layout and design aesthetics with over 200 designs to choose from. You can make your campaign unique and design it to fit your situation. We also offer high-touch customer service. We are very involved with getting campaigns up and running. It's not all or nothing. You keep everything you make, even if you don't reach your goal. We offer a lower fee than other crowdfunding sites. There are three flat fee options and our most basic plan is 1% less than others. We're proud to offer the lowest fees in the industry. You get your own URL, so the site is very easy to share and translates really beautifully offline."

HC: What makes Deposit a Gift especially beneficial to students?

DO: "They're usually really into technology and they're early adopters, but the majority aren't fundraising online. They usually stick to these tried and true methods that are passed down from the class before them and it's just happening on campus. With Deposit a Gift they can reach out to so many more people, including those who might not even be present."

For more information, check out the How it Works page on Deposit a Gift, like the site on Facebook and follow @Depositagift on Twitter for more updates! 

Photo Sources: http://plywoodpeople.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Fundraising-1.jpg

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