Virginia Tech launches crowdfunding site

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) There's a new way for you to contribute to some of the ground-breaking work being done at Virginia Tech. And you never have to step foot in a lab, or even on campus to do it.

The home of the Hokies launched a new online platform this year: a crowdfunding site the school calls Jump. And in its first year, with just four pilot programs, the school drew in more than 300 donors and more than $21,000.

Virginia Tech gets a lot of financial assistance every year through the state and private donation. But crowdfunding creates a new opportunity to support individual projects on campus.

"A lot of the donors through crowdfunding are family members, friends, alumni who were also involved with the university and want to give back and actually see how their impact can make a big difference," VT Director of New Media Susan Gill said.

That was certainly true for the Moss Arts Center, one of the pilot programs that exceeded its goal. The center wants to raise money for children to experience art. They say this is much more efficient than traditional fundraising.

"This is a way to get out to a lot of people very, very rapidly to build on networks, to build on the networks of our alumni and our patrons here at the Moss Arts Center," Moss Arts Center Executive Director Ruth Waalkes said.

The platform also announces projects to the public before they've even begun, like the soccer headband project we told you about last week.

"Crowdfunding is a new way to look at social media to involve consumers and to involve people that are going to be using the product and create excitement about it. engineering professor Stefan Duma said.

But with so many crowdfunding options, like GoFundMe or KickStarter, why the Virginia Tech specific platform?

"Virginia Tech has an incredible network of alumni and friends across the country and around the world, so I think having that brand affiliation is really, really critical," Waalkes said.

The school plans to do crowdfunding at least twice per year, but each project that is on the platform must qualify.

"We will make sure that it does fit in to what really helps advance the university and the groups within the university themselves," Gill said.

Gill tells me there's already groups signing up for the next round of crowdfunding, which will likely come this October or November.