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ProjectED - (Updated 1/27/16 - Corporate Sponsorship Document Added)

A millennial driven platform using crowdfunding and corporate sponsorship to invest in 1st Gen students on their path to a college degree.

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

ProjectED is a corporate sponsored crowdfunding platform. It tackles the problem of low rate of entry to and high attrition rates from college, by first generation and low-income students. It addresses this problem by creating a platform to raise funds for essential resources needed to guide and financially support youth along a continuum, from high school, through the admission and integration processes, all the way to their goal - graduation with a bachelor's degree.

Updated: 1/24/16 - New User Scenarios - #3 and #4

Description and Implementation

ProjectED is a corporate-sponsored crowdfunding platform that engages the millennial generation in addressing the inadequate financial and social resources available to first-generation and low-income students along the path to a 4-year college degree. It will address the unique obstacles that this vulnerable student population faces through a "whole student" approach, by allocating collected funds to essential support services and financial assistance that students require from high school, through the admission and integration processes, and all the way to their goal -- graduation with a  bachelor's degree. Funds will target scale-up and expansion of programs and services proven to contribute to educational success. 

How does ProjectED work?

This idea brings together the public, corporate sponsors, non profits and higher education institutions to bring actionable change by creating opportunities for low income and 1st generation students to achieve college success.  

The project seeks to innovate by tapping into the philosophy of action that millennials bring to causes that move them. It will be supported by a web based platform that will engage millennials via education and experiences, motivating them to become the "crowd", investing in the educational opportunities of their peers with their voice, networks, energy, time, talent and treasure.  Financial investment will be encouraged through contribution matching by corporate sponsors.

Funds collected will be allocated for essential resources that will be provided to student recipients via community based organizations, schools, and at partnering higher ed institutions.

The ProjectED web platform will support and share content reflecting all activities that the project supports.  

The Project seeks to address the problem of low entry to, and high attrition rates from, college by low income and first generation students.  It re imagines affordability, cost, and access to a 4 year degree by focusing on essential resources for success, which include the following:

  • information on scholarships, grants, loans and by providing guidance to keep one on track to access these financial supports.
  • guidance on college choice so that students choose wisely, attending schools that have resources in place to support their success.  Seeking to prevent failure and drop out due to lack of resources, with loss of valuable investment of money and time.
  • guidance on college options so that students find the right fit - financial, emotional, social and academic.  All of these are vital to attainment of a 4 year degree.
  • mentoring of college students, keeping them on target to graduating on time, borrowing less, and entering the workforce with skills that lead to a high quality job.
  • grants for necessities that promote student attendance and success.

Parts of the Whole

I. Millennials

Millennials want to be part of a movement. Give them one that they care about and they will be passionate and, yes, evangelical about it. (Forbes 2015)

There are 89 million millennials in the USA.  This group comprises a quarter of the country's population. They are a mission driven generation championing causes they care about in multiple ways.  ProjectED creates an opportunity for this group to bring huge support to this cause. Investing now can effect change within their own and subsequent generations.  Can millennials leverage their power as a group, as desired consumers, and as workforce talent, to incentive corporations to join ProjectED as sponsors?

A Student Call to Action, Crowdfund Campaign - Cal State University, March 2015

Millennials as Givers- Key Takeaways from the Millennial Impact Project, 2015

84% of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014.

71% said they would be likely to give if they could increase their impact by seeing their gifts matched by another donor.

72% of millennial donors surveyed don't need to volunteer for an organization before they donate.

Millennials need to experience the cause's work without having to be on-site.

(attached documents: full summary and sources)

II. Corporate Sponsors - UPDATE: See attached document, 1/27/16

"Corporate social responsibility is millennials' new religion."  Crain's

What might incentivize corporations to sponsor this project?  

Might this be an opportunity for corporations to highlight their values to students and the entire millennial group, a desirable customer base and potential new employee talent?  What might this look like in a ProjectED campaign?  

Millennial Brand Loyalty - What brands might sponsor ProjectED?  Will millennial brand loyalty act as an incentive for brands to participate in this project?

(attached document - full summary)

III. Identifying ProjectED Implementation Partners

  • Collaborate with experts who can advise the Project on programs with proven outcomes on student success.
  • Are there potential partners within this OI Challenge? 
  • Partner with colleges and universities to identify needs.                                 

Universities as Possible Implementation Partners - Update: 1/22/16

January 8, 2016 - I met with the Executive Director of Government and External Affairs at Brooklyn College, CUNY, to get feedback on ProjectED, and to gain insights into the needs of that college and it students, as one example of a public university. Brooklyn College has historically served low income and first generation students, and it continues to do so.  See attached document for insights and learnings from that conversation.

IV. The Platform - Updated 1/22/16

A website facilitating engagement and connection.  It is here that millennials will connect to the cause, and feel a personal call to action.

The Millennial Impact Report reveals that this generation donates monies without necessarily connecting through volunteerism, but it also highlights that they want to be connected to the cause, and to others.  To best motivate millennial investment, ProjectED will explore a variety of ways to connect donors with the cause's work, and to each other, online and off.  My question is what will best serve the goal of ProjectED - to support this cause?  Exploration in process...

Tracking ProjectED beneficiaries overtime, sharing stories of impact with the community on the website, and via social media, is a great way to further connection to the cause and also to gauge impact.  One assumption to test is that recipients will agree to this. 

(see attached updated document, 1/22/16)


Assumptions to be tested:  (Update 1/22/16)

1) Recipients of ProjectED will agree to share their impact stories.  Some 1st gen students face stigma on campuses. Will students agree to share personal stories?

2) Donors to the crowd fund will be happy with the corporate match as their "prize."  Crowd funding platforms provide donor gifts as incentives for giving.   Will donors expect gifts/prizes, in turn for donations?  Will a corporate match be "prize" enough?

3) Corporations will fund educational programming in this way vs. directly donating to specific programs in the community.  

(Refer to the Corporate Sponsorship document for feedback on this, 1/27/16)

4) Millennials self report that they are giving to charities.  Is this truthful?  Are they acting the same way that they are reporting?  


Scaling Up (Update 1/21/16)

Use social media.  

Include millennial users in the process of building the platform.  Millennials are collaborative and when possible they want to co-create products and services with brands and industry. This approach can be beneficial to building out this project’s platform. Early feedback and continued input from users will be key. (Source)

Collaborate with corporate sponsors to create on line and offline events to build the project's visibility.  

Leverage Student Engagement and Philanthropy Month

Involve foundations early in the process because like corporations they also have the resources that can build this project. (as advised by a corporate contact, 1/24)

Long Term Goals and Sustainability  (Update 1/20/16)

What will the ongoing role of corporate sponsorship be? How long will corporations continue to support this Project?

Might corporate partnerships function as a catalyst, bringing initial funding and resources to jumpstart ProjectED, with the idea being that the next phase will bring foundations and individual donors in as partners? There is precedent for this approach in corporate sponsorship campaigns in the past.

Corporate Investments in College Readiness and Access, 2008


USER SCENARIOS  -  See attached documents.  (Updated 1/24/15, added #3 and #4)

1 - Meet Scarlet - 1st Generation Student (based on an interview, Jan. 2016)

2 - Meet Julia - Millennial Investor - Volunteer and Donor (Based on an interview with Julia, regarding her volunteer work with the corporate community program, Macy's Corp.)

3 - Meet Gael - Millennial Investor, Donor and Event Organizer  (As an example of what is possible, inspired by research which indicates that millennials enjoy participating in experiences that support the causes they care about, and connecting with others during these experiences.  They also ask friends to support them in these efforts.)

4 - Meet our "Corporate Partner"  (As an example of what is possible, inspired by the successful #loveisagift campaign, Mass Mutual.)

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

Update: 1/24/16 Interview first gen students on whether they will be willing to share impact stories as recipients of ProjectED. Survey millennials on whether they will donate to charity via a crowd fund, and accept a gift of a corporate match to that charity, rather than a personal gift?

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

What does the community think? Is this feasible? Does it interest millennials? Support to distribute surveys. Support on creating visuals to express the idea.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

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

  • No

Evaluation results

27 evaluations so far

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

Yes! - 48.1%

To a degree - 48.1%

Not that I can tell - 3.7%

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

Yes! - 44.4%

It's attempting to - 37%

Not that I can tell - 18.5%

3. How excited are you about this idea?

I'm so excited I just can't hide it! - 22.2%

I'm pretty neutral in my excitement level - 63%

I don't feel very excited about this idea. - 14.8%

View more

Attachments (12)

The Problem_Document 1 .pdf

Barriers to access and degree attainment


User Scenario 1 - Meet Scarlet, A 1st Generation Student


User Scenario 2 - Meet Julia, A Millennial Investor - Volunteer and Donor

Gael .pdf

User Scenario 3 - Meet Gael, A Millennial Investor - Donor and Event Organizer

A Corporate Partner.pdf

User Scenario 4 - A Corporate Partner

How Does ProjectED Work _ I. Millenials.pdf

How does the millennial generation connect with, get involved with, and support causes?

MIR_KeyTakeaways 2015-2.pdf

2015 Millennial Impact Report - Top 100 Findings

Corporate Sponsorship.pdf

Update: 1/27/16 What might incentivize a corporation to sponsor ProjectED? Feedback on this idea, and learnings, from professionals working within the corporate community.

Brand Loyalty.pdf

Millennials and Brand Loyalty

Update - Universities _How Does ProjectED work.docx”.pdf

Universities as Implementation Partners Jan 8, 2016 - A conversation with the Executive Director of Government and External Relations, Brooklyn College, CUNY - Insights and Learnings

Update-The Platform_How Does ProjectED work_.pdf

The Platform - A place to learn, connect and invest in ProjectED's mission.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Bettina, great idea as always. 
I find the idea worth investigating (and I guess that might help answer the question about millenials and their social activism :- )).  I'm also wondering why it should be millenials. I understand your inspiration but I think you could leave it open, couldn't you?

Your idea made me think of an idea developed during one of our openIDEO meet up: 

and also of this idea:

I find interesting your idea of combining crowdfunding (small amounts) with companies "matching" the funding. 

By the way, if you have some time tomorrow, please stop by at NYU Greenhouse. Some of my students worked on the challenge and they will be presenting their ideas: 

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thanks for the comment A-L!  Glad you like the idea.  It definitely needs iterating.  I agree that opening up the Project is a good idea.  Karen posted some stats in her comment above which are really useful.  I will give some thought on how to reframe the Project.  
Thanks for the links.  I checked out The Freshman Survival Kit.  I love the idea and posted a comment for the DFA NYU group over there!  Will check the other link when I have some time.

Thanks for the invite.  I am really tempted but work is so busy so I do not think I will make it.  Keep me in the loop.  If there is a meet up during Refinement let me know!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi A-L.
If you have time it would be great to get feedback on the Idea at this point. 
To your point about the idea targeting millennials vs. leaving it open - as an entity it will be open, but in terms of marketing it will target millennials because of their approach to social action - they influence each other and their broader circles, and this can leverage more donations.  That is
what I have learned doing research.  So the idea is to use them to spread information, using their voice - social media plays a big part here, and to connect the cause to others inspiring actions - which includes monetary donations.  Apparently millennials influence their parents shopping habits, so I am hopeful they might influence their charitable spending as well?  

One of my big questions for myself at this point is how much of an engagement component the platform will provide.  From my research it is clear that millennials donate money even if they are not volunteering, but they do need to engage with the cause in some way - "they want to experience the cause's work but it does not have to be onsite."  So for me this implies sharing stories.   I outlined what the platform could provide in terms of engagement but am wondering where to go with this.  
Another question I have is tracking recipients.  Would it be necessary to track outcomes to prove the model?  or can that be tracked by the programs who are funded with ProjectED funds?  Is tracking really only necessary in terms of sharing stories overtime with donors?
And my last question for myself is whether it is necessary to provide gifts/prizes for donors as is done on other crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.  This is not something I had planned to do as in my mind one would donate for the cause without needing it, but maybe that is an assumption that needs to be tested, as people are accustomed to getting prizes when on crowdfunding platforms?  Maybe the corporate match is the prize?

Well thanks for letting me think and type!  Any feedback is welcome as always!  

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Bettina,

sorry for being so slow. I am really impressed by the research you did. I have to go and look at the insights you posted as attachments. 

Thanks for the clarification on the focus on millenials. I'm very curious to see what you found when you test your assumption "4) Millennials self report that they are giving to charities. Is this truthful? Are they acting the same way that they are reporting? (update 1/24/16)"
I think you are also right to make the distinction between donating money and engagement. I am wondering why you think engagement is so important for them to engage more than financially, and how. They are not the ones sharing stories, are they? Those sharing stories would be the recipients - if I understand properly.

I am not sure I understand the distinction between the programs and the individual recipients. I thought you were supporting individuals. What are these programs? 
No matter what you are funding, it will be important for the donors, but for you too to keep track in one way or another of the impact of the funds / donations. 
I have my personal views regarding perks on crowdfunding platforms. I personally don't donate for this but I am not a general case... although after asking around me, I'm not alone either. I also think that perks work better if you have a product. When it comes to social programs like ProjectEd, I think that perks should not matter... Maybe a story or a personal thank you. We're sponsoring  the education of a child and I know that I like to know his / her name and have news at least once a year on how he is doing. In the past, I also received a letter from the child we sponsored and that was nice. I think a personal connection would be great. However, some people might feel uncomfortable but some specific stories highlighting the impact of donation would be nice. 

I hope this helps!
Again sorry for the delay.



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