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‘Catalyzer’ connects alumni donors to student projects

Gifts through crowdfunding platform are tax deductible

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University students are known for pounding the pavement to raise funds for nonprofit projects on campus. Catalyzer, a new online tool, is now expanding their reach, enabling students to connect with Northwestern alumni and others through interactive and engaging fundraising campaigns.

Catalyzer is powered by ScaleFunder, a crowdfunding fundraising platform for educational institutions. All gifts made through Catalyzer are tax deductible, with 100 percent of contributions directly benefiting the Northwestern student-led projects, regardless of whether they meet their fundraising goals. Gifts also count toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, a $3.75 billion University-wide fundraising initiative.

Northwestern launched the tool earlier this month to connect students with alumni who share in their interests.

“Catalyzer gives student leaders a powerful new social media tool for raising awareness about and funds for projects, events and organizations for which they may share a common passion with other members of the Northwestern community,” said Bob McQuinn, vice president for alumni relations and development. “The platform will connect students to alumni, parents and friends of the University to address important challenges through philanthropy.”

NU Threads is one of the first four student groups to launch projects on Catalyzer, using video, social media and well-written pitches to creatively share their fundraising goals and accept gifts online. NU Threads provides free professional and formalwear to students who feel otherwise unprepared for a business casual, business formal or professional event because of their attire.

“Our shared formalwear closet is aimed at alleviating the burden that socioeconomic status disparity places on student involvement in professional and extracurricular activities,” said Pooja Mirchandani, a senior at Northwestern and chief executive officer and co-founder of NU Threads.

“Through Catalyzer, we’re sharing our vision with alumni, friends and family and asking them to support the resource and help us raise $5,000 for new suits and other formalwear that students can wear to job interviews, information sessions and other professional events,” she said.

Northwestern alumni relations and development staff help train student groups on the Catalyzer technology, but it is up to students to create videos, social media posts and other content needed to showcase their projects and fundraising goals.

In addition to NU Threads, three other student projects have launched campaigns on Catalyzer:

  • Northwestern Crew, the student-managed collegiate club rowing team, has launched a Catalyzer campaign to raise $15,000 for two new boats.
  • Waa-Mu, Northwestern’s original musical -- written, performed and presented by Northwestern students -- is seeking $10,000 to be used for production costs of their 2016 show.
  • Northwestern’s International Student Association aims to raise $4,000 for student travel and lodging costs associated with sending students to earthquake-stricken Chincha, Peru, where they will work to rebuild area schools, community centers and homes.

Catalyzer is designed for projects that intend to raise $2,000 to $15,000 in funding. Students who lead a fundraising effort can expect to spend more than two months preparing, launching and wrapping up one campaign. Campaigns will be “live” for 30 to 45 days at a time. To lead a campaign, groups must provide scheduled updates about fundraising progress, relevant facts and news items, requests for support and personal stories to help keep donors informed and engaged.

“Catalyzer will educate students about effective fundraising and help them develop a community of committed benefactors who can help them achieve their philanthropic ambitions,” McQuinn said.

Student groups interested in applying for a Catalyzer campaign can submit an application that will be evaluated by a committee of student affairs and alumni relations and development staff members. To make a gift to one of the active campaigns, visit

More information on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is available at

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