Michaela Hopkins helped manage the launch of MDXBusinessCrowdfund, a crowdfunding platform for Middlesex University Business School’s crowdfunding platform for students and staff.
In this interview Michaela provides key insights such as:
- How crowdfunding can help develop students’ business skills.
- Tips on raising awareness about crowdfunding to students, staff & different departments.
- Advice for fundraisers considering implementing a crowdfunding platform for their institution.
Can you tell us a bit about your role at Middlesex?
I work with Middlesex University Business School as a consultant and part of my remit has included working closely with Anna Kyprianou, the Dean of the Business School and other members of her team on the launch and subsequent roll-out of MDXBusinessCrowdfund within the university.
Having successfully launched the site, our main focus now is on raising awareness of the platform and its benefits among students and staff, in addition to providing hands-on support to any would-be crowdfunders.
How are Middlesex using the crowdfunding platform?
Anna’s rationale for launching the platform was to provide students and staff with a way of raising the necessary funds that are often required to turn really interesting ideas or projects into reality.
When combined with the support and guidance we offer, the platform is a powerful tool that has the potential to enable students and staff to fulfil entrepreneurial ambitions or personal aspirations.
It also allows some of the fantastic student and staff initiatives taking place within the university to be showcased to external audiences.
Middlesex University Business School is also using MDXBusinessCrowdfund as a learning tool for students.
Can you talk a little bit more about how you are using the platform as a learning tool?
These are still very early days but use of the platform has recently been incorporated into one business module as it enables students to market test their business ideas.
The Business School feels there is definitely scope for the platform to be used more fully as a learning tool as it enables students to put many of the skills they learn – from business planning through to marketing – into practice.
Can you tell us a bit about the projects currently featured on MDXBusinessCrowdfund?
The first, Unite Nepal Org , seeks to provide a mechanism for the sharing of skills, ideas and expertise with the objective of generating innovative solutions for the long term infrastructural development of Nepal following the devastating earthquakes earlier this year.
The second, KitShare, is the brainchild of Middlesex University’s Well-Being Foundation, a social enterprise run almost entirely by Middlesex University students and alumni. Every year in the UK, there are lots of unwanted football kits that are either unused or chucked away. KitShare aims to raise enough money to ship out two 75kg boxes of some of these football kits to children in Gambia.
How are you going about promoting MDXBusinessCrowdfund to students and staff?
We are using a mix of on and offline channels:
- We have made announcements about the platform on uniHub, the main online communication portal for students, the University’s main website and the staff intranet.
- We created a video for promotional purposes.
- We have a dedicated page on uniHub where we can post details of forthcoming workshops, etc.
- We have sent out emails to Business School students and staff.
- We have used various University social media channels to promote the platform (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and the Business School’s own online community – MDXBusinessConnect).
- We had a presence at Refresh,the University’s student fair.
- We put flyers in Business School student admissions packs.
- We have presented to senior academics within the Business School so that the site and its merits can be disseminated to other members of staff.
- We have been invited in by certain lecturers to present to their students.
- We are rolling out a series of workshops and drop in sessions for students – the workshops will cover different themes and draw upon expertise from around Middlesex University and its external supporters.
- We hold one-to-one meetings with students and staff who make enquiries.
- We are looking to work with the Student’s Union on ways in which we can educate students further about the platform’s existence.
- Our staff communications team are conducting an interview with the lecturer using the platform as a learning tool – this should feature on the intranet in the next month or so
- In terms of external audiences, we have gone out to alumni and also media.
We’re using as many channels as possible and have had solid support from the University’s marketing and communications department which has been great.
What advice would you give to a fundraising team that are looking to try crowdfunding?
Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve from a crowdfunding platform!
Get buy-in from internal teams involved early
Communication is key. You’re going to need support from other internal departments (e.g finance and marketing) so make sure that you get them on board at the outset because they’re going to play an important role in your ability to deliver.
If you give people enough lead time, collectively, you can pull together a decent plan of action – both in terms of enabling the smooth implementation of the platform and also effective promotion.
Plan beyond launch
It sounds obvious but so much energy is taken up in the run up to launch. You need to be able to build awareness and maintain momentum internally but also among potential external supporters. For the latter you need to think about news hooks and milestones that will enable you to maintain visibility and magnify the promotional efforts of project creators who are using the platform.
Summary of key interview points
- Middlesex are using crowdfunding to enable students and staff to raise the funds to turn their ideas into reality but are also looking at ways in which the platform can be used as a learning tool.
- Here are two projects on Middlesex’s platform: Unite Nepal Org and KitShare.
- Tips for implementing a platform: 1) it’s vital to ensure internal teams are onboard months before launching your platform. 2) Don’t forget to plan your activities beyond launch – it’s very easy to get caught up in pre-launch activities but you need to know where you want to go and do post launch.
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