Crowdfunding Is Catching On At Schools Desperate For Cash

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Business Insider by Jennifer Radcliffe (AP) | January 21, 2014

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Source: AP

HOUSTON (AP) — Coach Brittany Staggs wanted her students to get a rigorous workout even on rainy days. The equipment she needed would cost $800.

With the click of a mouse, the School at St. George Place physical education teacher's request for a Wii, dance video games and projection technology was sent to thousands of potential donors. Within a month, the students in the Houston Independent School District were sweating to popular Disney tunes in the cafeteria of the Galleria-area school.

"It was awesome," a breathless 6-year-old Summer Fahoud told the Houston Chronicle after trying out the technology.

Crowdfunding — an increasingly popular way of using the Internet to raise money for everything from starting a company to adopting a baby — is slowly taking root in Houston-area schools. Painfully slowly, some would say.

While the largest of the education-centered crowdfunding sites, donorschoose.org, started in 2000, only early adopters have put crowdfunding to work in cash-strapped public schools. Overwhelmed teachers are reluctant to tackle yet another endeavor and often are uncomfortable with the platform, experts said.

Yet, while other campuses struggle to raise meager funds by holding labor-intensive car washes, hosting spaghetti dinners and clipping "box tops," the School at St. George Place has banked $43,000 worth of supplies since August 2012 from donorschoose.org.

Related: Crowdfunding Higher Education: An Alternative Approach

"It's 2014. Technology is here," said Adam Stephens, the 32-year-old principal of the School at St. George Place. "This is a great resource, and this is free, to get right down to the nitty-gritty."

Teachers can create proposals in their pajamas with little risk, he said. Corporate giants like Chevron and Kia sometimes provide matching funds, he said.

The timing couldn't be better for fundraising to evolve in public education, experts said.

Related: Crowdfunding is essential for SME innovation and job creation

U.S. Census Bureau data show that 2011 was the first time per-student spending declined nationally in public education at least since data collection began in 1977. In Texas, funding fell from $6,656 per student in 2001 to $6,559 in 2011, according to Texas Education Agency data.

The need is so great that startups, including a Houston company, are joining the ranks of education-focused crowdfunding giants like donorschoose.org and adoptaclassroom.org.

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada crowdfunding hub providing education, advocacy and networking opportunities in the rapidly evolving crowdfunding industry. NCFA Canada is a community-based, membership-driven entity that was formed at the grass roots level to fill a national need in the market place. Join our growing network of industry stakeholders, fundraisers and investors. Increase your organization’s profile and gain access to a dynamic group of industry front runners. Learn more About Us |Prezi or contact us at casano@ncfacanada.org.

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