Gone are the days of traditional fundraising.
Impact Big Ideas is a new initiative that allows current students, faculty and alumni to find and bankroll projects at the University of Tennessee. Connecting sources of funding with promising enterprises, Impact Big Ideas encompasses different departments and levels, ranging from business proposals to pioneering scientific research.
Established this year by UT's Office of Alumni Affairs and Development, the program is a fresh take on traditional online donations.
Similar to the technique used by such sites as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Impact Big Ideas is based primarily on crowdfunding, which allows a project to be funded by many donors, instead of one benefactor.
"The premise is to get a large number of donors to band together to fund a project," said Jessica Copeland, a graduate student in the College of Business and aide in the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development. "For example, one donor might not be able to give $10,500 to fund the Precious Prints Project, but there might be 100 people interested in giving $100 to a great cause, and that allows Precious Prints to raise $10,000 to continue giving pendants to parents who have lost a child."
Born from the desire to feature student and faculty-designed projects, the program allows alumni to directly aid worthy causes on campus.
"Our office was looking for a way to highlight some of the great work being done by faculty, staff and students to allow alumni and friends of the university to support these projects," Copeland said. "The program is a great way for people who don't have a huge budget to give back to the University of Tennessee."
In order to be featured on the website, interested students and faculty must fill out an application describing their project, budget a target funding goal and set a deadline. Projects are then selected by students within the Impact Big Ideas program and placed on the website.
Although the program is new, Copeland is confident in its future.
"The hardest part about Impact Big Ideas is getting the initial word out," she said. "Once alumni and current students know that the program exists, I am confident that they will continue to come back to the site time and time again to see what innovative projects need funding."
Members of the program also look forward to the program's implication for UT.
"I think that this program will take donor gifts at UT to a whole new level," said Laura Burgin, president of Impact Student Philanthropy. "It is hard to inspire alumni or students to give back to what seems to be the donation 'black hole.' Now, however, students and alumni can not only choose where their money is going, but also see an immediate effect."