Bake Sale 2.0: PledgeCents Launches A Crowdfunding Platform To Help Underfunded Schools Raise Money

With the passage of the JOBS Act, the Crowdfunding Era began and since then these fund-raising platforms have been sprouting in every vertical — even education. Just two weeks ago, we announced the launch of AlumniFunder, which “gives alumni a platform by which they can invest in innovative projects created by students at their alma mater.”

Today, we have another entry into the education crowdfunding set — Houston-based startup, PledgeCents. But, rather than going after higher education, PledgeCents is launching today to help K-12, public schools raise the funding they need to survive as federal and state funding continue to dry up.

To do this, the startup wants to connect investors and corporations with schools that have exhausted traditional fundraising channels and are looking for alternative ways to offset funding reductions. The idea, PledgeCents co-founder Ricky Johnson said, is to allow public schools to keep the programs, supplies and services they need to maintain educational standards for their students amidst a slow economic recovery (and the thing that no one talks about in polite company in education, the unsustainable spending).

So, PledgeCents allows any K-12 school with funding needs (so, every school in America) to raise funding — for any type of project, resource or program. In canvassing schools to find out what their most pressing needs are, they naturally found that schools have a variety of micro-projects they’re interested in funding, particularly equipment, field trips, school security and supplies for science labs, art and theater.

The platform enables teachers to create projects, while administrators can oversee the process to ensure the funds are used in appropriate ways, and PledgeCents even sends out bracelets that students can wear (in school colors) to help promote the campaigns among their friends. The platform will also dole out rewards to the school campaigns that raise the most funds.

But, perhaps the biggest difference from other crowdfunding sites? The funds raised on the platform will be distributed to schools regardless of whether they hit their fundraising targets. In terms of differentiation from other fundraising startups out there like AlumniFunder, EverTrue, Donorschoose or AdoptAClassroom (and even Chalkfly, with its charitable spin or Crowdtilt) is that they tend to focus on alumni or raising funds for supplies, the co-founder says. Instead, PledgeCents wants to go broader to include supplies, teacher salaries and general education-related activities like field trips and band equipment.

“School funding in Texas has taken a huge hit of late so my son’s high school is actually in the process of setting up a PledgeCents project to fund the salary of one of the marching band’s instructors,” Austin-based brand strategy consultant Dave Manzer tells us. Plus, in light of AlumniFunder and EverTrue’s focus on fundraising at colleges and universities, PledgeCents is one of a very small number of crowdfunding platforms that exclusively serves K-12 education — in a broad way.

However, like many others, posting a fundraising campaign is free for schools and anyone can contribute (after signing up for an account). Users will also be able to search for campaigns by particular criteria, like school category, state, region or type of school (public/private/charter, etc.) Additionally, those who sign up for accounts will be able to select preferences and receive email alerts when projects matching their criteria are added to the site.

“The slow economic recovery continues to impact school funding across the United States,” Johnson concludes, “and many educators are waking to the realization that they have to find alternative funding for at-risk programs and services.” PledgeCents gives teachers the platform to do that, because, hey, every penny counts.

The one strike against PledgeCents? Selection. Only six campaigns are currently live. But, the other big check in the “plus” column is that, like Crowdtilt and others have done, the startup is now offering tax-deductible donations, so that parents, friends (really, anyone) can donate to school projects they want to see funded. PledgeCents will collect the nonprofit tax I.D. info from public schools or 501(c)3 information from charters, and then that will be distributed to the investors in the appropriate cause. Pretty cool.

For more, find PledgeCents at home here.

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