MU crowdfunding boosts 4 projects

Kristian Biega, Staff writer

Fundraising can often be a daunting and lengthy process. However, for the second year in a row, the Mercyhurst community has utilized the popular fundraising technique of crowdfunding.
The basic idea behind crowdfunding is to have a large number of people contribute a smaller amount of money at a time in order to make bigger projects a reality.
“Crowdfunding is an exciting way to raise money,” said Jeffrey Roessner, Ph.D. associate professor of English. “It gets the message out there that you are attempting to fund these worthwhile things.”
This year’s project began last spring as Ryan Palm, associate vice president for Advancement, and members of the Advancement team reached out to all faculty, clubs, athletic teams and athletic clubs to ask for unique ideas to be a part of the 2017 Crowdfunding.
“We look for projects that will enhance the day-to-day life of our students,” said Palm. “We don’t want to replace carpet or paint walls; we want to do fun, exciting things that will also help the students. That’s where we challenge faculty to come up with those projects.”
Other aspects that Mercyhurst Advancement looks for in a good project is an attainable monetary goal of around $2,500 to $7,500 and a large base of interest and connection to a particular department, team or objective. These projects span across various aspects of the Mercyhurst campus from academic to athletic and cross-generational.
The university came up with 10 to 15 initial suggestions that were eventually whittled down to the current four: a wine lab for the Hospitality department, a new golf cart and shed for the Athletic Training department, an endowment of the Literary Festival in the name of Ken Schiff, Ph.D., and recovery equipment for the Mercyhurst Baseball team.
“A lot of people are impacted by these projects,” said Palm. “We have seen hundred of donors come out to support them — alumni, parents, students, friends and relatives — and we know that that support will only continue as we go forward.”
Hospitality Uncorked
Robert Green, instructor of Hospitality Management, is excited to see the wine lab become a reality for the Hospitality Management Department through Crowdfunding. The current area the hospitality management students and faculty use is more primitive, lacking the resources and space needed for the lengthy process.
The students of Mercyhurst Hospitality Management Program make their own wine each year to give away for free with their various dinners.
“We seek to create the best possible programs and experience we can for our students,” said Green. “It is a way for the students to apply their skills to serve wine and answer questions about it. By being involved in the entire process, they are given practical experience of what we teach in class.”
Training Wheels
The Athletic Training golf cart is more than 20 years old and in much need of replacement. Many student athletes face the difficulty of not fitting properly on the short bed of the cart. The cart also needs a permanent housing facility other than its current “shed” in the Athletic Training room in the Mercyhurst Athletic Center.
This is why, with the help of crowdfunding, a new cart can be purchased with a longer extended bed and have a separate shed to keep it in good condition as well.
Literary Festival
Each year, the English department hosts a Literary Festival that unveils the Lumen magazine, presents awards and scholarships and brings in speakers and programs that encompass the creative spirit of the event. Schiff and Roessner started this program in 2002 to celebrate creative and influential literature within the Mercyhurst community.
Schiff, a longtime member of the English department and director of the Creative Writing program, passed away this past May. The English department decided to create an endowment in his name for the Literary Festival that Schiff began and looked forward to each year.
“We are proud and very pleased to have reached our initial goal of $5,000,” said Roessner. “This campaign really marks the beginning of our fundraising attempts. We want to find a more substantial gift that will allows us to keep producing a festival at this impressive level to help ensure the legacy of Dr. Schiff.”
Schiff is continued to be missed as a dear friend of Roessner’s and a large influence in the English department and Mercyhurst as a whole. His wife has already expressed her thanks for all of the university’s support.
Rehab Assignment
The Mercyhurst baseball team continues to have incredible success over the years, and as they continue this success, staying healthy and in shape is imperative. This crowdfunding project is to fund a possible pitching machine, ARPwave technology, weight training equipment and an on-site ice machine.
There have been a large number of supporters for the program as baseball has a wide range of alumni, families, friends and staff that want the team to prosper. Dan Altavilla, ’15, is now a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners and has made a donation to the team’s recovery equipment fund.
Three out of four projects have been funded past their original goals, and the fourth is anticipated to be fulfilled shortly.
“These projects are very tangible in nature,” said Palm. “We can show the donors the impact they have made. It is important for us to connect donors with what they are supporting, which is a really neat part of crowdfunding projects.”
Palm stressed that these projects could not have been completed without the help of so many people at the university, and he is very excited to see them come to fruition with the generous donations of even some faculty as well.
“The coaches and faculty members that we have been working with have been absolutely wonderful in helping to spread the word of projects, coming up with ideas, and making sure that the constituencies find out about the project and show their support,” said Palm. “The Marketing department has also been wonderful at putting together videos and social media graphics, because this is an entirely digital campaign.”
Overall, the Fall 2017 crowdfunding campaign has been a success. The team will begin the planning process once again this spring in hopes of another successful program in Fall 2018.