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1Gen2Fund-1st Generation College Student Crowdfunding & Support (2/3 Survey) Please Help Us! Take Survey

A college-based crowdsharing scholarship platform that allows 1st generation students a place to ask for support for 4 year college degrees.

Photo of Karen Sorensen
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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

There are 3 types of users of the SaaS platform: the 1st generation student (the seeker), the donor/alumni/investor (the giver) and the college administrator (the connector) each one has a problems with the current system. This platform allows for the seeker, giver and connector to create relationships that will increase success of 1st generation students within 4 year colleges.

How 1Gen2Fund Works

1Gen2Fund to is a SaaS platform that would provide a digital place where 1st generation students (The Seeker) can ask for financial help, receive e-coaching, and resources so they can be successfully complete a 4 year college degree.   The Givers--Alumni, Current Students, Individuals, and Corporations can either be recommended or browse for the 1st generation student that they would have a "connection with" and donate directly to seeking funding and direct donate to a student with whom they “connect with”. There are type prototypes that are being presented one with a search function the other with a recommendation matching design. 

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Prototype Screen Shots Search
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Problems 1Gen2Fund Address

The 4.4 million 1st generation students (32% of all 4 year college students) have a hard time finding the financial resources and navigating the current system higher education system. 76 percent of these students come from families that are considered low income not allowing for financial support from their families. Further, 1st Generation students don’t understand the traditions and culture of a higher education institution since their families, family friends, and peers don’t not have any background experience with being a in college. The students once reaching college feel isolated and social outcast in this new and unfamiliar environment.

The 1st Generation student is important to 4 year colleges and institutions. They represent a significant population size of incoming students, but they represent some major challenges for the institution with high dropout rate (60%), disproportionately minority, 1/3 are not of traditional student age (18-24), and enroll part-time. In addition, 1st generation students have a higher student loan default rate of 11% compared to 5% of non-first generation students. Higher Education institutions are often affected by 1st generation students that attend because their bond rating can increase and if default rates are too high they could lose their accreditation.

For higher education institutions, the health of the institution is dependent of donations from alumni, individuals, foundations and corporations. They need these additional resources for capital improvements and enhancement programs that increase the institutions probability of survival. However, these donation to the institutions become harder and harder to receive since often alumni, individuals, foundations, and corporations what to have a personal connection to where the funds are being allocated, while wanting the institutions to have impact and accountability to where the funds are allocated.

Solving Problems with 1Gen2Fund

Students benefit from this because they have the opportunity to have college paid for with a direct route to donors versus competing for individual scholarships. Also, the student’s involvement and dedication to the school increases allowing for more commitment and less isolation. Alumni and donors can develop a personalized relationship with current students, giving a higher degree of donation satisfaction that demonstrates impact investing. Colleges benefit by allowing increase recruitment, retention, and alumni/donor involvement. Finally, the strong student/alumni connections resulting from such a platform will naturally increase the success rate of students, whom can also garner career from outside sources.

The student would need to meet criteria in order to be eligible for the platform, e.g. be a first generation student, have a certain GPA, special talents, etc... Students would make videos that talked about their passion, goals, background,etc... to provide potential donors a profile of the student. Students that have been accepted to the school but have not signed a commitment letter can post, helping students raise funds without loans before coming to the school. Talented students would have an opportunity to connect with the school and feel that there are people that support their success. There can be a real bond that forms between student, school, and alumni/donor.

Students can receive up to the maximum school financial aid budget for attending that particular school, minus any other free aid they are eligible (Pell grant and outside scholarship funds). With the platform limited to 1st Generation students it allows for a diverse body of students to have access to college. Once the platform is in existence for 3-5 years, those that benefited from raising school donation funds on the platform will likes “give back” by donations to current students.

Stakeholders--The Seeker, Giver, and Connector

Each of the stakeholders have different pain points, issues, and motivations,  with the current system. 1Gen2Fund utilizes cluster segmentation to address the needs of each of these stakeholders to create interconnections and synergies that can solve each one of their pain points and problems allowing for them to be motivated to action. We have taken a deep look at each one the stakeholder from a personalized prospect to create to find the best solution that will address each one in an unique and viable manner. 

The Seeker (1st Generation Students)--I was a associate director of an financial aid 7 years, and in the process interviewed over 4000 college students and their families about financial aid and the issues they had at a very expensive propitiatory 4 year school. We developed persona's and evaluated demographics to create a hypothesis. We conducted 1to1 interviews with 1st Generation students about the platform. We spent time getting to know 1st Generation college students and looking at the issues that they were facing being the first one to attend college in their families. We developed a Seeker User Journey that allowed use to get a picture of how the user would interactive with the platform. The feedback we received indicated this would be a very positive resource for the students. 

The Seekers Journey

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The Giver (a person or entity that supports the giver)-- UPDATED 2/3/2016

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We wanted to learn more about all the possible users of 1Gen2Fund. We had identified several possible Givers in our ideation process they included: Alumni, current students, outside individuals, existing scholarship funds, and corporations. We wanted to narrow down the best and most likely factors of who would be most likely to donate on this platform. We have developed and conducted a survey about individual's donation habits and as of Updated 2/3/2016 we reached 28 people (survey results)-- please take a few moments to take this survey if you have not already--  The feedback was informative and has given us some direction as to the next steps in the process.  We collected demographic information,  hypothesis, and assumptions about the Givers to give use a clear indication of how they were and the likelihood of donating. 

We developed user journey's on how both the alumni, current student, individuals and corporations would use the 1Gen2Fund platform. 

The Alumnus Giver

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The Corporation Giver

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The University (The Connector)

4 Year Higher Education Institutions

The 4 year higher education institutions systems are often seen as the enemy when talking about the high cost and access to higher education. 1Gen2Fund feels higher education is some we want to help just like we want to help the 1st Generation student. They act as the glue to provide connects between the seeker and giver and a major important step to the success 1st Generation students. We have developed a hypothesis and demographic about the higher education system and how best they can serve 1st Generation students. Included at this is looking at crowdfunding resources with in the higher education. are in the process of learning more about how we can create technological solution that will help 4 year higher education institutions be more successful. We have talked with an expert from University of Pennsylvania--Education Higher Education innovation program about the University needs to better serve them. Currently, we are creating a database of 4 year public and private non-profit educational institutions within 100 mile radius of San Francisco that gives us contacts in Student Services, Admissions, Financial Aid, Alumni and Development so we can conduct face-to-face interviews to develop surveys that can be widely distributed. 

(1/24) Early Interests --Path to implementation 

1Gen2Fund has started developing relationship with a Crowdsourcing White Labeling company that has been providing customized crowdfunding platforms for 4 years.  This has opened the door to new possibilities to ask for donations from a branding sponsorship from corporations and targeted donations. This would allow 1Gen2Fund to cut technology development time and change our time line to implementation. 

Road and Path to Implementation

Path2Pitch Progress {1/17}

Milestone 1--Founder's Biography PowerPoint Slide (see attachment)-- Learn about the team--Karen Sorensen, Dr. Mary Jean Koontz, Julia Rose West, and our 1st Generation intern Jamie Yang, a Junior at Gloucher College majoring in Business Management and Economics.

Milestone 2-- Pain Point and Hypothesis PowerPoint Slides (see attachments)- We took the time to identify each of our stakeholders--the seeker, connector, and givers- pain points we developed hypothesis to where they would use 1Gen2Fund. There was multiple givers identified in the process. 

Milestone 3-- Mary Jean has created a survey that we are planning to distribute through our personal connections and social media channels to survey possible users that we identified as givers. We feel this is the most important question to have answered right away, to determine if the our model is sustainable.  We have already did survey's with 1st Generation students and have started to contact college administrators to setup interviews to determine the value 1Gen2Fund would be for the college. 

Milestone 4-- We are in the process of organizing the feedback from our 1Gen2Fund seeker interviews. The connectors and givers are in process. 

Milestone 5-- We started developing persona's based on my work as a financial aid director. I worked with all aspects of the college from scholarships, admissions, career development, register, etc... this allowed for us to develop the user experiences based on my interactions with these stakeholders. 

Milestone 6-- We are currently in the middle of developing our prototypes for our seekers, connectors, and givers. 

Milestone 7-- 1Gen2Fund Business Canvas PowerPoint slide (see attachment)-- We started with our business plan canvas as a living document. It is a guide to how we see 1Gen2Fund progressing. 

Milestone 8-- We are exploring how we will develop the MVP and the technology we want to use to develop the SaaS product. We are using Bootstrap templates for some of user experiences design features to test if this application would be useful. I have started watching videos on working with Bootstrap, but this would be the first time for me to work with this coding platform. I have started developing the software architecture maps and looking at the database structures, which we included elements in our user experience maps. 

Milestone 9-- This will not full completed until we have better feedback on users.

Milestone 10--We have started gathering our documents utilizing PowerPoint, so when we are ready to make the pitch deck we will have slides created and easy to change. Pitch Deck's are very much living documents. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

(1/24) 1Gen2Fund-- Currently creating a database of 4 year higher education institutions 100 miles from San Francisco to start surveying and conduct face-2-face interviews with college administrators. Prototype testing with 1st Generation students and givers can start in March 2016.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would love to talk to anyone that would like to work on this idea, the more the merrier! Please share your research with us through our Slack group

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes

Evaluation results

21 evaluations so far

1. Does this idea make college more accessible, especially for low income students in the U.S.?

Yes! - 57.1%

To a degree - 38.1%

Not that I can tell - 4.8%

2. Does this idea think beyond current cost structures of college and activate new sectors or partners?

Yes! - 57.1%

It's attempting to - 28.6%

Not that I can tell - 14.3%

3. How excited are you about this idea?

I'm so excited I just can't hide it! - 36.8%

I'm pretty neutral in my excitement level - 47.4%

I don't feel very excited about this idea. - 15.8%

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Attachments (7)


This is milestone #5 for Path2Pitch


Learn more about Karen Sorensen and Dr. Mary Jean Koontz by viewing PowerPoint presentation.


Current Survey Giver Donor Survey Results (summary in text)


Seeker (1st Generation Student) Interviews


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Congrats Karen, Mary Jean and Julia!  Great prototypes and visuals.  Excited for you, and to see impact from this idea!  

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Thank you Tina--For your support. I hope we can use some of your awesome research to make 1Gen2Fund better. Karen

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Congratulations Karen and team. Looking forward to seeing this idea being prototyped.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Karen.
How is the project going? Are you continuing to build it?

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