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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.



Photo of Elizabeth Kukka

Thank you for taking on such a challenging topic. As an educator and someone who has worked with multiple non-profits throughout the Bay Area, this issue is very real. There are many organizations who are offering this service who are also struggling to raise new funding. Have you considered being the "connector" for this concept? Providing a platform to the organizations that are doing this work and connecting them to the resources that will allow them to make a greater impact. 

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Elizabeth.  Thank you for your comment!  
Yes I see this Project as being the connector.  The idea is to raise funds which will be distributed to organizations doing the work in order to expand services and to scale to places where there are no services offered.  The Project will crowd fund, donations will be matched, and monies from that pot will be allocated to either programs in the community, or to universities who can allocate either directly to students, for specific needs, or to boost their student resources.  I spoke with an administrator at Brooklyn College about the idea.  It was a great conversation about what the college's needs and student needs are.  If you have a chance look at the linked document - "Universities".  I would love any feedback you have on that.

One approach that looks very promising is using peer coaching to support students at multiple points along their path.  As data proves programs effective they need to be expanded and scaled.  Here is an example of peer coaching being used to get students from college acceptance, through to college entry.  Before I researched this idea I did not know the stats on this - up to 1/3 who are accepted to college do not make it there in September.  Unbelievable.

Does this make sense?  Let me know if you have other questions.
Thank you!              

Photo of Elizabeth Kukka

Thanks for responding! I was under the impression that your organization would be providing services to the students, I didn't realize that parter organizations would provide the services. Have you considered social investment bonds? If at any time you are looking for non-profits to connect with, or are looking for an introduction,  feel free to reach out :) 

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Elizabeth.  
Thanks for the offer to make introductions and for your support!  
I am not familiar with social investment bonds.  I will look into it to learn more!  

Photo of McCabe Callahan

Bettina, I would love to talk with you. If you could reach out through email I believe we have a platform that can significantly help you in what you are trying to accomplish with this idea. I would love to show you more about what I mean. Thanks and good luck! I evaluated you and shared your links. 

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi McCabe.  
Thank you for your comment!  I will reach out through email. 

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hi Tina--Great work. You spent a lot time on interviews and getting to know everyone involved.  Good Luck--K

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

@shanezhao   @joannaspoth
It would be great to learn from the experts!  I am struggling with the question of how much donor engagement to include in this project.  I outlined what the platform might be.  My question for myself, and others, is what is necessary? What best serves the goals of the cause?
The other question I have is whether outcomes need to be tracked overtime as proof of the model, or whether this would be done by organizations who either provide direct services to students, or facilitate distribution of funds for particular needs.  Might the experts have opinions on this?

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hi Tina--Great user persona's. I came across on one of my feeds and wanted to share it is about the migration of millenniums from Nielsen here is the link 
Stay in touch--Karen

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Karen.  Thanks for the comment and the link.  The user scenarios are real people.  I had to embellish the part about ProjectED as it is still fiction, but the other parts are true.  
I have been doing a lot of background research, reading and talking to a few people.  There are many research points that support this idea.  (My limiting factor seems to be time in terms of sharing what I am learning by updating the post etc. ) 
How is your project coming along?  

I spoke to someone from the corporate world today.  I did not get much feedback on what might incentivize a company to participate.  He felt that it might be difficult to crowd fund from millennials as "So many are saddled with debt."  True but research shows that over 80% of millennials give to charity, even if only small amounts.  (perhaps not the most financially sound thing to do but it seems to align with their interest in social activism, as a group.)  
I wonder how corporations choose what to support.  The person I spoke to worked for many years as a Director of a global unit at Amex, and we had an interesting discussion on their branding which gave me some things to think about.   I decided to learn more about their Community Giving Programs and while doing that I found something interesting.  Through their Membership Rewards Program one can redeem points for a donation to a charity of their choice up to $500 for the year.  I like this idea a lot because you can give but you don't really feel the pinch because it is cash you never had in your hand.   They are partnered with Save the Children for this with a partial match.  Maybe they would be interested in ProjectED?  Not sure if they are pursuing millennials as customers.  From what I read a large number of millennials do not have credit cards, because they do not have enough credit history to get them.  

What are you learning about corporate sponsorship in relation to your idea?

I actually think this idea of redeeming points for cash might be a good way to encourage folk to save for college, starting early on.  If you use your Amex card regularly, build up points, and then "put them away" perhaps that will be a good savings mechanism, again because it is not cash that your budget is depending on.  I think I will share this idea with Gavin for his ecosystem.
What do you think?

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hi Tina--
The corporate sponsorship has been a real problem. I had thought about a type of redeeming points for cash program to get people to save for college, it was one of the ideas that I was formulating when I start thinking about this challenge.  The idea was through Bitcoin, folks (target market 24% of low income and 1st Generation students parents) would be encouraged at Walmart, 7-11, etc... to contribute their spear change to purchase bits and pieces of Bitcoins for their kids college futures. They could track it over smartphones.   I have really good Bitcoin connects so I  think I could get Tim Draper, the largest holder of Bitcoins, to create some type of matching program. Also, I know that there are colleges out there right now that are taking bitcoins as payments, mostly to support international students. I have been following bitcoins and alternative methods through mobile device since about 2008 and attended the first conference ever for Bitcoins.

Why, I rejected this idea was really personal. About the same time, I was formulating ideas for this challenge,  I had gotten a letter from Merril Lynch Wealth Management that my son's 529 account, which I contributed $100 each month from the time he was 1 month old until he was 7 years old,  notifying me I was over charged extra fees because I was setup on some "special charge rate" that was more expensive than what I could have been charged and for the last 15 years I have been paying more in admin fees that I needed. They wanted to let me know I wanted to change this status. There must be some type of litigation about this from some one else. Since, I liquidated all of my holdings from Merril, and they moved what little money I had to another account which is not tied to the 529 fund. They cannot find the account to fix the extra fees, associated with the 529 account. Its a mess, and my son starts college in 2 years. I think I lost thousands of dollars in administration fees associated with my son's 529 account. Further, the 529 is set up on a sliding scale, risker investments when he is younger then moving into more more secured investments when he is older. Right now bonds are not hot, so all my money is tied to this market that has terrible growth. You can say that you want to take over the portfolio, which would be fine if I was following investments, but right now I have only been focusing on technology and Wall St. does not get technology, so it would really have to become a new job for me to make up the money I have already lost do to admin fees.  At this point, I am very, very bullish on any kind of "savings" and "insurance" programs for college for anyone. I just cannot see parents of low income 1st generation students not getting lost in this "saving" programs, when I with a high degree of knowledge and background in investment being lost. It is almost like I need a mentor and assistance too!

With 1Gen2Fund, I was coming at this from the corporate talent-base problem.  I know there is a problem with diverse talent shortage in the technology industry, hot topic right now, that they are getting nailed on, so any way that shows that they are moving to improve their PR on this issue, is a pretty easy sell, to help support the future of diverse talent within their organization. This path matches well with a college job placement departments, but is really limited.  One industry, but not an universal way to change corporate culture across a multitude of industries.
It is really hard to figure out ways for corporations to support these types of initiatives when the main purpose of the company is to make money for shareholders.  You need to show how by doing X you will increase there bottom-line by Y.  In impact opportunities,  I see only 3 ways: demonstrate how they can increase customers, increase usage of existing customers, and demonstrate how by doing this you will avoid something negative happening to your company.  We are taking the low road to activism "We have a solution that is going to stop the pain now and help you with the negative impact that you are feeling, so you can protect you shareholders". Not the most positive message, but it works.  I wish that OpenIDEO would have a challenge just asking the question-- How to get corporation more involved with impact opportunity investing?

I hope that UBS invites me to the trip to NYC, just to have to opportunity to meet you! K

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Karen!
I actually like the redeeming points program.  Maybe card holders do not have to invest in a 529 plan?  I agree that these things are complex even for highly educated users.  I am sorry to hear your story.  Many low income and 1st Gen students' parents may not have credit cards.  That might be an obstacle as well.

Corporate motivations are based on their needs true.  It is finding a balance I think as programs do need funding - so what is the best way for all to be supported?  I have been plugging along and am working to update my post with ideas.  

If you do come to NYC let me know.  It would be great to meet you!

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hi Tina--
I really love the idea of redeeming points or even left over change. Like you spend $25.25 and you are asked to round up to $26.00. The additional .75 cents would go to some college fund that is associated with your debt card. Even low income folks have debt cards, now since it is pretty hard to get away with not having some type of digital payment system.  After a certain point of savings the institution (Paypal, Stripe, western union, etc...) would match a portion like 10% that was saved that month.  I have a Paypal debit card that works very similar. I love it, I pay all my bills on it since they give me a percentage back each month. Usually, the amount I receive is greater than the fees I am charged at a bank. These alternative financial institutions might be interested in these types of programs.
This came over one of my feeds today-- about the different consumption of the age brackets of millennials.  Its about their digital shopping habits.  Also, I found this study about millennials from Cone Communications its an in depth study on customer service relationships  It seems Cone specialize in cause marketing, social responsibility, corporate branding, etc...  Looks like the majority of their work is located in Boston. Have you heard about them before? 
I working away too.... Happy MLK day to you! K

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

These links look informative.  Thank you.  I am particularly interested in the Cone Study.   Another report that has been extremely useful is the Millennial Impact Report.  They have been studying millennial giving since 2009.  There is data and quotes, lots of learning and insights.  I have pulled from it to update the post - to be uploaded soonish. 
As you are further along with your updates do you see any synergies between our projects, other than they are both crowd funding platforms?  I have not dug deeply into your updates but did scan. What is your focus at this point?  Have you spoke to grads that would participate?  Are you creating an option to have several people fund one student?

There are universities/colleges that have used crowd funding of student projects, and campus events.  Maybe those institutions would be open to your idea, as they have familiarity with this approach?

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hi Tina--
Thanks for the resources on Millennial's. I am too interested in this group along with the Z's, which is the first group of kids that were born not knowing the world without internet. Yes, I see synergies between both of us. There can be multiple clusters of donors, each with their own motivators and trigger points.  The Millennial's are the small donors, $5-$20, since they have limited resources. I think this is where the students go out and ask friends and is a way that colleges to start a tradition of donations from current students. We then have the baby boomers ,we are looking for donations ranging from $21-$500 dollars. There will need to be a rewards program set up for these, some type of give away, like swag--t-shirt of the school, etc... and tax deductions are important. At the corporate level more of a sponsorship type of involvement. Also, there is existing scholarships where we could act as a common application for them, reducing scholarship administration cost. It is all on how we build our filters and one thing is to maximize their usage each would have a different technology need. For millennials it would be a mobile app. Baby-boomers, corporations, and scholarship funds it would need to be browser based.

I have been reading a lot about crowdfunding education programs. The most interesting was 2013 the UC's system raised 1.3 million for scholarships through a type of challenge program. They hired a super talented PR firm to represent them. There clearly is need on the university side, since there is a white label crowdfunding company that specializes in colleges and universities. Or deadlines have been short on this, since a majority of the challenge was during a time period where colleges where closed and it is just now that some students are going back to school.  No way will I get someone to spend a lot of time talking with me during the start of Spring semester.

Do you see synergies?

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thanks for sharing Karen.  I had not realized that you were viewing your idea in this way.   
From my research most millennials are doing their contributing on the web, not using smart phones.  Many report not being asked to used smart phones for this and others report concerns about security.  I guess if it is a web browser that can be modified for a smart phone platform that might work well for this demographic. 
The notion that this might be a way for colleges to start a tradition of giving with current students is important  It might also be a way to bring young alumni into the donor pool where they are not currently active.

This UK based company is doing interesting and impactful work in the education area.

Photo of Danielle Magee

Hi Bettina,

Great idea- as everyone has said below. I would like to emphasize on corporate responsibility. 

"4 in 5 said they'd be more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause they care about (if price and quality were equal) and 3 in 4 would think more highly of a company that supports a social cause."

Me, personally, will never think twice investing in a product if I know it is going to the greater good of the world. I think now corporations are looking to emphasize their responsibility to social issues domestically, and globally as a business. Think Facebook, Square, WellsFargo...even Goldman Sachs! 

I think the most infectious way to get a corporation to work with you is not to ask them for money, but to ask for volunteers. When an individual is touched by an experience- that is way more impactful then writing a check. I would say, partnering with corporations on a human level, not a financial one, can yield a greater impact for your cause. 

Of course, partnering with corporations on an outreach level is great but have you thought of a mentorship program to include in your corporate sponsorship? You can even do this digitally and can still leverage volunteers from the work force. Then they can put a face to what they are investing in. Not only corporate sponsors, but people all over the world that are using their products. Not to mention, you give greater value to the company on a financial level, but also a human level. That would help foster better long term relationships. 

That's just my two cents. Would love to hear your feedback on it!

- Danielle Magee 

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Danielle!
Thank you for this thoughtful feedback.  I had not thought about tapping corporate sponsors for mentorship programs.  I had thought about using volunteers for outreach but not recruiting corporations as a volunteer base.  I would love to learn more about what you are thinking.  Not being from the corporate world I will need to do some investigating as to what programs they currently have in place.
One program I am aware of is from Macy's Corp.  They have a community program.  One part is to  send employees into inner city high schools to mentor young people as they prepare to apply to college, helping them practice interviewing techniques, reviewing applications etc.  They also have a career prep program in the same schools.   The Macy employee I spoke with really enjoys participating.  She said it is extremely well organized and structured.  Their time with students is productive.  Is this alongs the lines of what you are thinking of for mentoring opportunities?  Or are you thinking something more one on one and long term?
When you mention doing this digitally do you mean recruiting volunteers via a web platform, or actually having mentors interact with high school and college students using tech?
What do you mean by people who use their products can interact?  Are you suggesting a web platform which posts stories about the beneficiaries of ProjectEd?  How do you foresee the interactions?  Would this be on a Project Ed platform, and highlighted on a corporate sponsors website?  I like your ideas and am trying to envision the ecosystem that might be developed.  Would love to learn more!

Maybe instead of asking corporations to contribute directly to ProjectEd what do you think of asking them to create a employee matching program for ProjectEd, so their contributions follow the lead of their employee community?  Might this create buy in for them?
I agree that human connection will provide buy.  How does funding follow from that?  How best to bring on corporate partners for that purpose?  I will do some thinking about what value this brings to possible partners.   

Photo of Danielle Magee

Hi again Bettina!

Excited to answer your questions. Using volunteers (mentors) for recruiting corporations I think is the pinnacle of ProjectED in my opinion. Let me give you the details: 

For the mentorship program as a whole:
My idea was more one on one and long term. However, the Macy’s program sounds equally as great.

On a digital level- mentors would have the option to interact with high school and college students using tech (for example, a videochat) since I know how incredibly busy the corporate workforce can be.

However….a web platform sounds like a great idea to. Matching corporate volunteers to high school/college students through a questionnaire based on their interests, goals, careers, etc. That way- students can pick their mentors, or a software device can pick the perfect fit for each student. Think but for mentors. (sounds silly, but you get the picture I hope!)

Another point i’d like address is having both options is important for the mentor and for the student (a digital or in person option). High school is one of the most stressful times in life- students are juggling full time classes, extracurricular activities, and work- all to make their college applications shiny. They might not have “time” to sit down face to face with a mentor. But, they can easily access their mentor through a video chat for their session.

They can still have that human interaction- visually see WHO they are investing in (the student) with their time and money. On the funding end, mentors can additionally start small internal foundations to raise money for your students/organization as a whole.

Customer Engagement:
I would definitely suggest a web platform that shares stories about the beneficiaries of ProjectEd AND stories of the mentors from the company.

You mention this: “Corporate support in the form of - Consumer Products - that when purchased a part of the profit goes to support ProjectED.  When used and visible the products can raise awareness of the project's mission.”

Let’s say Square creates a product and partners with ProjectED pledging that every product sold- a donation is made to ProjectED. What is ProjectED a consumer would ask? There the consumer would be referred to the page that explains Square’s partnership with ProjectED- the mentorship program, corporate responsibility, WHO are these students, where are they from, what’s THEIR story and why does Square care? What is truly their investment on this product? This information should be via Square's website, with a referral to ProjectED as well. In addition, ProjectED should have a page through their website emphasizing the importance of corporate sponsors and mentors. The more digital visibility- the better. 

Employee Matching Program:
Yes I think an employee matching program is a great idea to get buy in. I think it would lead to better internal and long term connections with the corporation and it keeps their employees happy.

Corporations are built up by people. If enough individuals in any corporation are invested in a project it becomes a project of the operation as whole. If you focus on the employee first, creating a mentorship program and using them as volunteers, they will bring on other co-workers to join them, hence creating a team from that specific corporation. I think if you want a corporate sponsor as a whole- having employees back ProjectED would definitely increase buy in. I want to emphasize mentors are likely to be your early investors. If you can sell them on the idea you can sell the corporation.

I hope this answers all your questions clearly- and would love to answer any other additional questions you may have. 

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Danielle.  
Thank you again for your thoughtful input!  I apologize for my late response.  I was so busy at work for the past few weeks.  I have been working on developing this project as well.  I have met with a university person who was incredibly helpful.  I have also spoken to some potential ProjectED users - see the User Scenarios above, and to a few corporate people.  Between that and reading lots of articles, millennial giving and their habits as consumers is a hot topic, I have learned quite a bit.  But there is so much more to do and learn!

At first when I saw your comment I was not really in favor of developing a donor experience for ProjectED.  I saw it more as a funding opportunity.  After reading your comment, and speaking to people, millennials and corporate people, I have changed my view.  Creating opportunities for "Experiences" - moments when donors can either share, connect with others - be it their colleagues, friends, or ProjectED recipients will be part of the platform.   I spoke to a communications director at a non profit, who previously worked in corporate in a similar position for years.  He explained that an important way to engage corporate sponsors is to offer engagement for their employees.  He mentioned that when writing grant applications potential corporate funders, such as a major drug company, may ask directly about volunteer opportunities their employees will have access to.  Employee engagement and satisfaction seems to be a high priority, and yes a way to create interest in, education about, and personal connection to a cause.  One thing I was told is that non profits often partner with other non profits, so in a situation like ProjectED that might be an option as a path to volunteerism.

Thank you for the example you give above with Square.  That was very helpful.  Yes the corporate sponsor should have information on ProjectED on their website, and  a link to ProjectED's platform and visa versa.  Both partners should highlight the other.  
Were you thinking of a real product that Square might develop?  I have not further developed the idea about products - ie: RED Campaign approach.  I think it has potential though.

I am going to Update my post later or tomorrow morning.  On it I outline what types of "Experiences" the platform might include. I would be happy to get further feedback from you! (Are you a millennial?)
Thanks again for your valuable insights!   

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We’re thrilled to have you in our Refinement phase, Bettina! We were on the lookout for crowdfunding ideas, and it was refreshing to read the new twist your idea puts on that model. It’s intriguing the think of the role corporations play in the crowdfunding game. It’s also fun to read the evidence you’ve uncovered that supports your idea. You have a strong foundation to build off of!

In the Refinement phase, we’d love for you to continue developing the viability, desirability and feasibility of this business solution. The following are some feedback and provocations to consider. We’d like to explore the brand loyalty element of this idea. Do you have a sense of whether programs that include an engagement component are more or less successful than a light touch offering like ProjectEd? We like that this idea builds on Millennials wanting to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves. Perhaps ProjectEd also includes a social network element where funded students could be tracked or provide updates on their achievements. Another iteration may be corporations using ProjectEd internally for their employees. Perhaps it’s a way for large credit card or media companies to build awareness and followers. We like the aspect of using the corporate sponsorship model as a catalyst and then allowing foundations or individuals to step in with funding opportunities.

Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:
1. How might this idea address the unique needs of low-income families and first generation college students?
2. Clearly summarize the value proposition of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value proposition.
4. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.
5. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps Or you can use the Mural Prototyping template provided to you.

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 12/22" to your idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing! We’re excited to see this idea progress in the next weeks!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi OI.  
Thank you for the feedback and questions.
From what I have read a large per cent of millennials make charitable contributions.  As they are just starting out they may not have large sums to give but they do give, and some sign up to give on a recurring basis.  They also like to be engaged and that might increase giving.   I do not know if programs that offer engagement are more or less successful than those that are "light touch" offerings.  I am researching.   One thought I had which addresses this, and also your suggestion for corporations to use ProjectED internally for their employees, is to seek out companies that already have community programs in this area/college prep, and offer ProjectED as a fund for employees to contribute to (to be matched),  as a mechanism to scale this work.   (One conversation I had with someone about this project was with the father of a college student.  He told me his son was very upset about the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood so on his own he set up a recurring $10 contribution to the organization using his credit card, from money he has from summer jobs etc.  He said his son wasn't interested in further engagement but he felt strongly that he wanted to give support so he did.)
A social network component is vital for this idea.  Millennials want to know/ see how their contributions are helping.  They are drawn to the "cause" not the organization.  (based on research)  A website will be developed where stories and images can be shared with donors, highlighting how the Project is removing obstacles and creating opportunities for success.  This can be linked to all social media channels.  Monthly updates can be shared via emailed newsletters or links to blog posts.  
ProjectED might also be an opportunity for industries to showcase good will and share that they value higher education, and are willing to support youth in getting it, as a way for them to attract millennials to their workforce. The insurance industry has an aging workforce and need to recruit new grads.  They have difficulty recruiting millennials who prefer other industries.  Might exhibiting values that youth align with change this trend?  Can involvement with ProjectED positively promote their industry?

I met with an administrator from Brooklyn College.  He said something very interesting.  The college has been fortunate to have very generous alumni, however this group is aging.   It is important to think about sources of revenue going forward.  Can ProjectED be a way to engage millennials in this case on a local level, college alumni who are now out in the workforce, who are not actively supporting their school?   

I will update the post shortly.

Photo of Logan Powell

Hi Bettina, 

Great job and kudos on making the shortlist! I've been asked by the OpenIDEO leadership to reach out. This is a great community and I'd like to offer my assistance at helping improve your chances of successful prototyping. I'd like to set up a time to speak with you about your idea, where your current thoughts are and brainstorm how you might postulate a small experiment around your idea.

Might you have some time in the next few days for a brief Google Hangout? If so, send me a message with your email address and I'll send a scheduler to find us a time.

Warm regards,


Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Logan.  
Thank you for reaching out and offering to collaborate!  

Photo of Shane Zhao

Thanks for reaching out Logan! Looking forward to where this will go.

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We are connecting tomorrow.  Keep you posted!

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Congrats on making to refinement!

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Congrats to you as well!  Let's continue our conversation during refinement.   

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Yes-- Looking forward to it. Working on some revisions now based on the feedback from the SF Meetup.

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 How was the Meet Up?  Sounds like a great opportunity to collaborate.  I am hoping there will be on in NYC in the new year.

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Yes--It was. I learned so much. It is amazing you go into something thinking you are going to learn one thing and come out learning something totally different. Lots of great information about millennium's technology usage and design. Very mobile centric design elements and great information about 1st Generation urban students. I hope you will have a chance to have a meetup here soon.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Yes it is always great to be surprised like that, especially when you least expect it!
What do you mean by mobile centric design elements?  
(Recently it has been all work for me, no time for much else.  Sounds like you are building your idea which is awesome!)

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I'm referring to is the human interactions with the mobile devices touch screen interface. I have started developing the prototypes utilizing Bootstrap Templates which I like because they are made from responsive web-design, and can be displayed in all types of devices. Getting some feedback from my first stab at it, and creating revisions. Started to look at the competition in the niche education crowdsourcing market, pretty interesting findings and good ideas.  Its been fun!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thanks for clarifying that!  It gave me some ideas about avenues of research.  I hadn't thought about crowd sourcing being industry specific.
Are you planning a website and an app for your idea?  I thought it was a website.

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It is a website--but we want to program it in responsive web design so it will be easy to see and use on any type of device--computer, tablet or smartphone.

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Congrats on making it to the Refinement Phase Bettina! In the next few days we'll be sending you additional feedback to help you take this idea forward - so be on the lookout for that. We're looking forward to how this idea will grow!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thank you!  Lots of innovative Ideas here!  It is an honor to be chosen as part of the group.  

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Hi Tina-- Its awesome to see you in this challenge. Your idea is very similar to mine. It is interesting to see your quotes about  millennials giving.  One of millennials favorite companies is Apple, and they give zero to philanthropy. Microsoft has been piling huge amounts of money into causes, and their market share has not increased with this group. I have actually talked to several (10) socially aware millennials about this with these questions; 1st--They were unaware that Apple gives nothing. 2nd--when asked if they would change their usage of Apple products they said--No they would continue using them 3rd--does this change their opinions about Apple as a company-- they still thought it was still a great company.  I started asking these question since I find it fascinating that a company that has more money than the US Government (145 Billion in cash) and gives nothing to philanthropy,  but no one talks about it or changes its habits because of it. No hard research here just my opinion, I feel unfortunately,  buzz and form factors plays much more into millennials consumer behavior than causes.

Millennials are an interesting group, since their age group is from 1980-early 2000, and don't have a life event that defines their category, like baby-boomers who where born after the war. I guess millennials could be defined as the "computer generation". Someone in their 30's has nothing in common with someone that is 15 years old. They have been hit hard by the recession starting in 2008, so often have less to donate. Here is an interesting report about giving by demographics  

I always love to hear your opinion. K

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Karen!  Thanks for your comment and yes it is great to interact on the platform again!
I checked out your idea and I like the ecosystem.
Your comment here is really interesting and thought provoking.  Your research does seem to  contradict what I have learned during the Up Mentor Challenge and the Youth Employment Challenge on OI.  There were many conversations about the millennial generation during those challenges.   I think the main idea is that this generation considers themselves social activists and they choose to support brands that align with their values.  This is what research suggests.  The link you provide states that only 11% of millennials are making charitable contributions.  As they  have less money as a group, and perhaps debt, this makes sense.  What I was thinking with this idea was that using technology that they use daily,  texting, folk might be motivated to donate very small sums, $5 or $10, and also lead the way by doing, acting, to make some sort of contribution to this problem.  Might they nudge corporations to match them, and participate in other ways?  As a group they have huge purchasing power and brands want to tap into this.   (I did read in one article, not sure which one, that buzz and a perception of something being cool does matter to millennials and it effects their purchasing behavior as well.  You mention that above.)
Can the millennials bring along their parents, and greater communities, to also contribute even small amounts to the overall Project?  The goal being large numbers of small donors.  (Parents are boomers who according to the link you posted are the most philanthropic generation at this time.)  The project will aim for a large number of small donations, increased awareness, and engaging corporate partners, motivated to act for a variety of reasons, some philanthropic and some self serving.  Does that make sense?  What better mission is there for this generation than making sure that everyone gets educated?  Who knows where great ideas will come from?  To solve the world's problems going forward they will need all to participate.  This is a social justice issue as well as an economic one.

I agree the age range, 15 - 30 is broad and these youth are at completely different life stages.   If they are all as a group socially active, and "social" , using social media as a tool in a project like this,  might the broad age range be something that will sustain something like this is if it catches on?   I have no idea.  What do you think?  Does that make sense?

I am going to comment on your idea as well.

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hi Tina--
I love the idea of this small donations to crowdfund though mobile. Here are some math numbers I came up using this formula: 89 million millennials, which lets say 10% donate, or 8.9 million, if each donated $10 that would be 89 million dollars. There are about 1/3 of the 20.2 million college students then there is about 6.7 million 1st Generation students, if you divide the the 89 million by the total students there would be $13.28 per student. Not a lot per student.  If we targeted $1000 towards college costs, then only 89,000 students could be served of the 6.7 million 1st generation students or about 1% of the total.  I really think you would have to expand your target market in order to make it sustainable.

I don't know if you heard of a company Mobile Accord, but they were the first company to start the texting donations through their mGive program. I know the CEO and will contact him to see if there is any statistics regrading what age groups donate through the platform.
You always make me think, love that! K

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thank you Karen!  This is so great!  And thanks for suggesting to reach out to Mobile Accord.  I am not familiar with them.
I agree the focus needs to be expanded.  Anne -Laure also suggested I think about that in her comment below.  I do like the focus on millennials as this issue directly effects them now, and for all the reasons I was getting at in the post.  Will give it more thought on how to open the Project.
If you have thoughts please share!

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Joanna Spoth and I are loving the synergy here Bettina and Karen! We're excited to see how ProjectED and 1Gen2Fund and both using crowfunding and partnerships to support 1st generation college students. As you continue to develop the ideas, it'll be great to refine the value propositions for investors and corporate partners. i.e. what's the business solution that would incentivize funders to come on board? What potential partners might you talk to to collect early feedback? Looking forward to how the ideas will grow!

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Hi Shane-- Thanks for the feedback. If you go to 1Gen2Fund, we have completed our first Business Canvas which is we are a SAAS model where we would have the College pay for.  Check it out we would love your feedback. Its awesome to be working with Tina again. 

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

I appreciate the feedback and questions Shane.  It is exciting to think about the potential for both of these approaches.  I am starting to look at what corporations and brands might be motivated to partner and why.   It is interesting to think about motivations.  
I am also thinking about how to reframe the Project to open it up, as suggested by A-L and Karen, although I do like the idea of targeting millennials to be involved.  Any thoughts on that?

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Karen - I agree.   Great to build off each other's ideas here!  

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Hi Tina-- Here are some links to corporate donations that we have found:

If you have any please share, I have been putting them in our Slack account under #givers. Thanks Karen

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thank you!  Will do!
I was coming at the motivation question from a different angle so have not researched corporate donations in general.    
Are you aiming for corporate sponsorship for your platform?  I thought the investors are individual alumni? 

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We started at looking at both for the platform. The alumni area seemed to show the most promise, so that is why we have research on both.

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Bettina, awesome contribution! Thanks for staying involved and commenting on your feedback! Keep up the good work.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Kevin.  Thank you.  Collaborating in comments is great for building ideas, and it is fun!  
I welcome any thoughts or feedback on the Idea as it develops!

Photo of Gauri Kulkarni

Hi Bettina,
I really like your idea!  In particular, I like how it regards people, particularly millenials, would donate money for college funds. 
Gauri Kulkarni

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thank you for your positive feedback Gauri!  

Photo of Mustafa Akkoc

Next Semester , I want to start studying at Rice University in Houston . I want to apply with ProjectED idea ?  How does ProjectEd  help me to pay tuition fee for next semester  right away ?