It began as a meeting about new ways to make college education more affordable. A year later, Promise for Education has raised more than $1.3 million for scholarships within the University of California (UC) system.
Those initial brainstormers were Noah Kerner, CEO of marketing and product development at marketing agency noise; UC Board of Regents chair and former Paramount CEO Sherry Lansing; and Facebook head of market development Matt Jacobson. Their chat sparked the idea of launching a crowd-funding initiative that would engage students, faculty, alumni, parents and celebrities.
“We didn’t start out with a clear financial goal in mind,” Kerner says. “What we wanted to do was tap into digital and social media for novel ways to broaden the contributor base. This was a good start.”
Joining Facebook as partners in the campaign: Spotify, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, SmartHeadPhone creator Muzik and Bank of America. The premise was simple: have participants post a promise on PromiseForEducation.org and also blast it out to followers on their respective social networks. Promises ran the gamut from an alumnus pledging to spend 2,000 hours in a soup kitchen to a student wearing a horse’s head on campus for a week for $200.
On a larger scale, Vice magazine promised to give away a one-year subscription to the first 100 people who donated $35 on the site. That pledge was fulfilled in 24 minutes. Spotify provided a free three-month premium membership to the first 100 people to contribute $100. Muzik donated a free set of headphones to the first 100 who collected $1,000 or more in contributions. Beach Boy Mike Love promised to bring one fan up to sing “Barbara Ann” with him at a concert of their choice, raising $10,000.
Kicking off Sept. 17 and ending Oct. 31, Promise for Education elicited more than 1,000 promises and 4,000 contributions averaging $78. Visitors can still visit the site and fulfill unmet promises.
UC is already looking ahead to 2014.