NIU Colleges and Programs Fund Projects Through Non-traditional Method 
By Lia Kizilbash Gillet

23-largest_snowflake_celebration_webSchool of Art and Design students stand in front of the world's largest paper snowflake with City of DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes

The NIU Foundation supports colleges and campus partners when student-centered projects, or needs, fall outside traditional university revenue sources. 

Funding these unique, often smaller projects across campus has been successful through crowdfunding. NIU crowdfunding raised over $200,000 for over 40 projects. This form of fundraising has served faculty, staff and students, enabling them to raise money quickly for projects. Harnessing the power of volunteers and their individual networks, campus partners conducted targeted, time-sensitive campaigns and are grateful for the participation and support.

“Crowdfunding can have an immediate, positive impact,” says Cody Carter, NIU Foundation associate director of the Northern Fund. “Not only can donors see exactly where their money is going and who it is supporting, they see their contribution meeting an immediate need or covering unplanned expenses.”

NIU Photography students never imagined that after creating the world’s largest paper snowflake (as part of their advanced photography class learning about scale and now in the Guinness Book of World Records), the bill to hang the snowflake for exhibition and preservation would cost close to $3,000. NIU School of Art and Design Director, Jessica Labatte, launched a crowdfunding campaign and raised the necessary funds to pay the bill.

“Teaching students about scale with this project aligned perfectly with the crowdfunding method,” Labatte said. “With crowdfunding, individual, smaller donations together can be scaled to have a larger impact—just like we did coming together to make the world’s largest snowflake. Both represent the power of community and collective actions.”

Labatte launched a new campaign to keep student artwork safely displayed on campus after pieces were vandalized and art student Brianna Boyd is grateful.

"Looking at and creating art is one of my greatest passions in life," Boyd said. "I have spent weeks, even months, on many of the pieces I have done, and I've watched my classmates do the same. Because of our hard work on projects, it is such an honor when a professor asks us to display our work in the halls. I've always loved getting to hear others’ reactions to my pieces when I am given this opportunity."

Boyd hopes they are able to raise the funds needed to acquire more protective display cases, allowing students to show off their work proudly without constantly worrying that something will happen to it.  

"Every student puts everything into their artwork, and they deserve peace of mind," said Boyd. "The ability to run a crowdfunding campaign gives us the chance to make this desire a reality and make connections with others who are just as passionate about our cause!"

law-studentsNIU College of Law students toss their caps at graduation before they begin preparing for the bar examination

Recently ranked among the top law schools to add the most bar passage value for students, NIU College of Law also supports its hardworking students. Partnered with the College of Law Alumni Council, the college launched a campaign to raise scholarship funds to support students so they don’t have to work while preparing for the bar examination. The crowdfunding campaign to support the scholarship surpassed its initial goal in the first year. Now in its third year, the council hopes to raise $15,000 to award six scholarships to dedicated students.

“Crowdfunding campaigns are easy to share, and anyone can help fundraise by reaching out to their networks,” explained Melody Mitchell, College of Law chief of staff to the dean and assistant dean for strategic communications, alumni engagement, and diversity initiatives. “This year we are excited our council will form teams and compete against each other to raise funds and help students get over the last hurdle to becoming a licensed practicing attorney."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the College of Law executed a crowdfunding campaign to support law students experiencing emergencies and raised over $15,000. Equally successful, the college raised over $30,000 to support the Business Law Innovation Clinic (BLIC), which offers high-quality, transactional legal assistance to primarily underrepresented entrepreneurs, small-business owners and nonprofit business organizations. Taking a holistic approach to support its students, the College of Law leverages the power of crowdfunding and the networks of its alumni.

“Faculty, staff, students and alumni can all serve as crowdfunding champions," NIU College of Education senior director of communication and strategy Susan Mizgalski said.

The College of Education launched two campaigns this fall to raise funds to support students attending professional conferences.

“It’s a great way to help students who don’t have the extra money for registration and travel expenses to attend professional conferences to gain hands-on experience," Mizgalski said. It speaks to our programs and to the commitment of our faculty; they do the leg work to raise the funds in support of their students.” 

The ripple effect of generosity during crowdfunding campaigns brings unity, innovation and impact to those involved.

“We know that one person's impact may seem small, but when a community of Huskies come together, nothing is impossible!” said Labatte. 

NIU’s latest crowdfunding campaigns launch on October 10, 2023, and end on November 2, 2023. Harness the power of community and view the latest crowdfunding campaigns here.