Photos and graphics courtesy of Cal State University, Long Beach.

For people, businesses and organizations looking to raise capital to turn their next big idea into a reality, crowdfunding is the way to go these days. Using any one of a multitude of online platforms, innovators fund projects by taking small donations from a large number of investors—and it works. In the past few years, the practice has been used to fund everything from wearable technology like the Pebble smart watch, to feature-length movies like Super Troopers 2, to political Super PACs like Mayday PAC.

Cal State University, Long Beach (CSULB) student organizations, staff, faculty and professors can now get a piece of the crowdfunding pie with BeachFunder, the University’s in-house platform aimed at raising funds that benefit CSULB programs, students, faculty, staff, departments and organizations by making it easy for alumni, parents and friends to chip in.

The Office of Annual and Special Giving and the University Relations and Development departments at CSULB worked with ScaleFunder, a company that specializes in funding for higher education, to develop BeachFunder as the university’s own branded crowdfunding system.


Since its launch in November, three projects have already reached their fundraising goals through BeachFunder, including the university’s Student Emergency Fund, which raised close to $12,000 (almost four times its stated goal of $3,000) through the platform. The Student Emergency Fund provides financial assistance to CSULB students who have encountered temporary financial hardships from an emergency situation, crisis or catastrophic event, in order to help them stay in school.

As of Thursday, with 23 days left in its campaign, the CSULB Shark Lab is 24% of the way toward its $30,000 goal to purchase “Smart Shark Tags,” a device that can be clipped to a shark’s dorsal fin and used to collect invaluable data about the sea-dweller’s place in the ocean ecosystem. The Smart Shark Tag was developed by Shark Lab graduate student Connor White, and contains a 3D accelerometer, a 3D gyrometer, depth and temperature sensors, a video logger that can record 10 hours of video, an acoustic transmitter and a radio transmitter.

Finding funding for this type of research can be challenging, especially with each Smart Shark Tag carrying a hefty price tag between $915 and $6,800, depending on the components used and whether it’s designed to be clipped to large or small breeds of sharks. However, this is exactly the type of project that crowdfunding is made for, as it allows a large number of donors with an interest in the project to each carry a small portion of the cost.

CSULB provides resources to those looking to fund a project on how to run a successful campaign. The focus is on the importance of making a compelling appeal, and on spreading the campaign’s message through social media and one’s own personal network of contacts.

“Right now we are aiming to run two projects a month,” said Deanna Amaya, a CSULB employee who is working on the BeachFunder project, in regard to future goals for the site. “We would love to have diverse projects and be able to run more. New donor acquisition is also a goal. The more wide-spread our projects are on social media the more new donors we will reach.”