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Better giving through the Internet: Bethlehem's Gigawatt

Everyone who has ever hung up on a dinner-interrupting phone-athon or torn up direct mail from their alma mater knows that the fundraising tactics traditionally employed by colleges and universities aren't always successful.
 
"Colleges recognize that their approach is flawed and not working," says entrepreneur Jake Huber and he and partner Greg Horn offer statistics to prove it. Participation by alumni under 35 is dropping, they report. Overall, 21% of alumni donate to their alma mater, but that number drops to only 9% for 35-and-unders.
 
The two have a solution and, as of last month, $10,000 as first-prize winner in Lehigh University's  EUREKA! Competition  with which to launch it. Gigawatt  is an online crowdfunding platform aimed at changing how colleges approach fundraising and how young alumni donate.
 
Using Gigawatt, a school targets specific projects that are obtainable and of interest to young alumni – a new scholarship, an internship program, a new track or an international student trip, for example. The platform then turns "active donors into marketers," says Horn, by creating a unique web link for each donor who can promote the cause via his or her social networks. Donors whose social media contacts donate climb up a leader board, receiving recognition and potential incentives in the form of tickets, giveaways, etc.
 
With $5,000 in prize money and $5,000 in in-kind services – including new digs at Ben Franklin Tech Ventures – Horn and Huber expect to test a beta version of Gigawatt this spring with an intern team of web developers, engineers, market research and brand strategists that they are currently seeking.
 
Source: Jake Huber and Greg Horn, Gigawatt
Writer: Elise Vider
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