Enrollment opens for PitchFunder, ASU's exclusive crowdfunding resource

March 25, 2014

ASU Foundation offers custom fundraising resource for use by entire university community

Crowdfunding has been successfully implemented by inventors, bands, startups and charities for more than a decade. Applying the power of the many to the needs of the few was a natural application of the Internet and, particularly, social media. But as would-be entrepreneurs and cause-oriented innovators often learn, the field of crowdfunding is crowded and filled with pitfalls and uncertainty. PitchFunder logo Download Full Image

Recognizing how useful crowdfunding could be in a university setting, the ASU Foundation set about developing a program that would increase the odds of success for ASU crowdfunders while answering their questions and easing their doubts.

Now the foundation has announced open enrollment in PitchFunder, a custom-created resource that allows members of the ASU community to safely and successfully raise funds for their own projects. Enrollment in PitchFunder opened March 17 for student groups and student projects, faculty members, researchers, schools and colleges.

Shad Hanselman, the foundation’s senior director of annual giving, oversaw the creation of PitchFunder. He says, “We want interested groups and individuals to take advantage of this open enrollment period to learn what PitchFunder can do for them.” Hanselman says an ASU-based charitable crowdfunding resource offers important benefits for university students and staff – benefits other services can’t provide.

“From the early development stage, PitchFunder was designed to give the ASU community the tools, technology and training needed to crowdfund successfully through the ASU Foundation,” Hanselman says. “It’s not like signing up online and hoping for the best. Each PitchFunder campaign has access to a personal account manager who will help clients maximize their results. We are there for the client from concept through completion to answer questions, provide advice and experience, and help focus and refocus the campaign whenever it’s needed.”

A related advantage came about, Hanselman says, through PitchFunder’s development within ASU’s environment of academics and innovation – an advantage not found in one-size-fits-all crowdfunding. “Our clients find that the account managers they work with in setting up their PitchFunder projects speak the same language they do. They get innovation. But those PitchFunder managers are also experts at helping a client describe a project and tell a story in a way that speaks to nearly anyone, and that has broad fundraising appeal,” says Hanselman.

During several months of PItchFunder beta testing, that fundraising expertise helped several campaigns achieve exceptional results. One of those was 33 Buckets, an engineering student-led initiative that combines sustainable clean water distribution with educational funding for young women in rural Bangladesh. Using PitchFunder, the “bucketeers” surpassed their goal not once, but twice.

Another student group, the ASU Graphic Design Students Association used PitchFunder to pay the expenses of 50 students to spend spring break in Seattle, visiting and learning from professional design studios.

And The Forgiveness Tree, a project taking empathy education into schools and the community “in order to make the world a more forgiving place,” is the most successful PitchFunder project to date, enlisting 153 supporters to carry the project to 158 percent of its funding goal.

A PitchFunder campaign is “live” for 30 days, but those 30 days will require a commitment of up to three months, from campaign application to fund disbursement, in order to be successful.

“A PitchFunder campaign requires the participation of the group,” Hanselman says. “It’s a social effort, so its success depends on creating or leveraging a network, then expanding it and building a ‘crowd.’ The bigger the crowd, the more successful the campaign. It’s not something a group can do successfully on their own, but we can provide them training and technology, our experience from running very successful campaigns and a very big crowd in Sun Devil Nation that can put their project and their campaign over the top.”

Dan Saftig, ASU Foundation chief development officer, says crowdfunding has been unfamiliar territory for university foundations, but developing this opportunity for the ASU community is a logical progression.

“At ASU, we encourage our students and staff to be explorers and innovators,” Saftig says, “and the foundation takes the same approach in finding ways to support those explorations. Charitable crowdfunding has become a positive force for many philanthropic causes, and we’re excited to bring it to university fundraising.

"Creating PitchFunder as an ASU-specific program does more than allow Sun Devils to raise funds for their projects. It also provides training and experience that will allow them to champion any project, any work throughout their careers. They can be as creative in generating support for their projects as they were in generating the original ideas,” Saftig says.

To read about the successful campaigns, learn more about crowdfunding at ASU with PitchFunder or apply to start your own PitchFunder campaign, visit pitchfunder.asufoundation.org.

Copy writer, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College


New research shows climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than expected

March 25, 2014

Results from a new study co-authored by Netra Chhetri, a faculty member at the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes at Arizona State University, show global warming of only 2 degrees Celsius will be detrimental to three essential food crops in temperate and tropical regions. And beginning in the 2030s, yields from those crops will start to decline significantly.

“This study has been able to quantify the likely impacts of differing degrees of climate change on yields, by crop and by region,” Chhetri said. “In general, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia showed significant yield reductions for the second half of the century.” Portrait of Netra Chhetri Download Full Image

In the study, the researchers created a new data set by compiling the results from 1,700 published simulations to evaluate yield impacts of climate change with and without adaptations for rice, maize and wheat. Due to increased interest on the impacts of climate change in global food security, the study was able to create the largest dataset to date on crop responses, with more than double the number of studies that were available for researchers to analyze for the previous IPCC Assessment Report in 2007.

“One of the most important findings of this study is that adaptation may not be as effective for rice and maize as it is for wheat,” Chhetri said.

The research paper, "A meta-analysis of crop yield under climate change and adaptation," published March 16 by the journal Nature Climate Change, feeds directly into the Working Group II report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, which is due to be published at the end of March 2014.

In the Fourth Assessment Report, to which Chhetri was a contributing author, scientists reported that regions of the world with temperate climates, such as Europe and most of North America, could withstand a couple of degrees of warming without a noticeable effect on harvests, or possibly even benefit from a bumper crop.

With more data available now, researchers see a shift in consensus.

“Our research shows that crop yields will be negatively affected by climate change much earlier than expected," said Andy Challinor, University of Leeds professor and lead author of the study. "Furthermore, the impact of climate change on crops will vary both from year to year and from place to place – with the variability becoming greater as the weather becomes increasingly erratic.”

The researchers conclude that, on aggregate, we will see an increasingly negative impact of climate change on crop yields from the 2030s onward. The impact will be greatest in the second half of the century, when decreases of more than 25 percent will become increasingly common.

These statistics account for possible adaptation techniques by farmers to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as adjustments in the crop variety and planting date. Later in the century, greater agricultural transformations and innovations will be needed in order to safeguard crop yields for future generations.

“Climate change means a less predictable harvest, with different countries winning and losing in different years. The overall picture remains negative, and we are now starting to see how research can support adaptation by avoiding the worse impacts,” Challinor said.

Marissa Huth

communications specialist, School for the Future of Innovation in Society