Pitt Launches Crowdfunding Platform

Issue Date: 
February 23, 2015

New boating equipment for the crew team. Sepsis alert systems for ambulances. Larger engineering fairs for K-12 students. These are some of the initiatives that are being funded through a new crowdfunding platform for University of Pittsburgh projects. 

The University has launched EngagePitt, a Web site where donors can contribute to fundraising campaigns created and run by leaders of student organizations or faculty engaged in community outreach and research projects. Managed by Pitt’s Office of Institutional Advancement with the support of a dedicated group of University partners across campus, the crowdfunding platform at engage.pitt.edu keeps donors updated on the progress of campaigns, which typically run for four to eight weeks. All donations are tax deductible and considered gifts to the University. 

EngagePitt pilot campaigns began in December and applications from the Pitt community for new campaigns are now being accepted. 

“The EngagePitt crowdfunding site has quickly proven to be an effective way to engage donors who wish to support the University. Our development team is thrilled to be able to support the outstanding efforts of Pitt students and faculty who are leading meaningful service projects and scholarly activities,” said Albert J. Novak Jr., vice chancellor for institutional advancement. “While students and faculty will continue to raise funds for their worthy causes by traditional means, the EngagePitt site will serve as another tool to enhance support.” 

EngagePitt’s pilot projects have quickly demonstrated the popularity and effectiveness of crowdfunding. The “Float Our Boat” campaign for the Pitt Rowing Club, also known as Pitt Crew, was the first to conclude successfully. The crew team initially set out to raise $5,000 to purchase equipment to outfit a new racing shell. It ultimately exceeded its goal by 21 percent by raising $6,090 between Dec. 3 and Jan. 7. Seventy-five donors made gifts ranging from $5 to $500 that will enable the team to purchase seats, mounted racing shoes, riggers, and oar locks for the new boat. 

Pitt’s Society of Women Engineers completed its campaign Jan. 31 by raising $2,351—exceeding its goal by 17 percent. The society will use the funds to improve a series of outreach events it hosts each year, including Girl Scout Engineering Day, Elementary Engineering Extravaganza, Middle School Engineering Day, and High School Engineering Day. The society plans to engage more participants and incorporate more technology-focused activities at the events.

Campaigns currently under way on EngagePitt include the ThinkSepsis project, which is seeking $4,000 to equip six ambulances in the Pittsburgh area with a first-of-its-kind sepsis alert system. ThinkSepsis, led by Christopher Seymour, assistant professor of critical care and emergency medicine in Pitt’s School of Medicine, is a project to improve care for patients with sepsis, a condition that is the leading cause of death among hospital patients nationwide. Sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs; early diagnosis and treatment of the condition are critical to patient survival. Seymour and his team will test the impact of equipping ambulances with the alert system on reducing sepsis-related deaths in the Pittsburgh area, and the team hopes that the project will serve as a model for health care systems nationwide.  

“The ThinkSepsis campaign is an outstanding example of how a crowdfunding campaign with a relatively modest fundraising goal can have a positive impact on medical science research that traditionally relies on financial support from much larger institutions,” said Clyde B. Jones III, vice chancellor for health sciences development and president of the Medical and Health Sciences Foundation.

In addition to the ThinkSepsis campaign on the EngagePitt site, the Pitt Men’s Glee Club is running a “Support Our Sound” campaign, the Black Action Society is raising funds to host a speaker series, the Pitt Global Public Health Brigade is seeking contributions for a service trip to Honduras, Panther Racing is fundraising to compete at a collegiate racecar engineering competition in Germany, and medical students are seeking support for the 60th annual Scope and Scalpel musical. Several other groups will be launching campaigns soon, too.  

“Donors have responded very well to both the ease of giving through the EngagePitt site and the features that allow them to watch the progress and outcomes of the campaigns,” said Danielle Atkins, annual programs associate in the Office of Institutional Advancement, who coordinates the campaigns. “We’re really excited that so many Pitt students and faculty want to use the platform, and we look forward to adding new campaigns.”

EngagePitt campaigns are being selected on a rolling basis. Unlike some crowdfunding services, groups receive all amounts donated to them, even if groups do not attain their desired levels of funding. Pitt’s Office of Institutional Advancement provides training and guidance to all groups running campaigns. 

Students and faculty who are interested in applying to launch an EngagePitt campaign should submit an application at www.giveto.pitt.edu/epapplication

Visit www.engage.pitt.edu to view ongoing campaigns and to learn more.