What happens when students step away from the bake sales and magazine drives and harness the power of the Internet for their fundraising needs? They get Piggybackr.
Piggybackr.com, the brain child of UC Berkeley grad and former Franklin Elementary and BIS student, 26-year-old Andrea Lo, moves fundraising online, allowing groups to reach a larger audience while teaching children 21st century skills in a safe, collaborative manner.
“I’ve talked to countless teachers and schools, and most of them are using very traditional methods, like box tops for education or gift wrap--which is all fabulous-- but it’s usually either the parent or teacher spearheading everything,” Lo said. “My mission is really to turn it around and make it focused on the kids.”
Lo was inspired to develop Piggybackr.com by her younger sister. When her sister was 11, she decided to raise money for rain forest preservation by selling bracelets. Lo suggested she move her project online. The process taught her skills such as promoting to the right donors, writing letters and persevering for a goal. Lo’s sister ended up raising $370.
“I was so moved by the fact that an 11-year-old [could raise] $370,” Lo said. “If you can inspire and teach a young kid at age 11 to raise money or to realize they can make an impact, I just think that there are so many greater implications.”
After watching her sister’s fundraising experience, Lo quit her consulting job and began learning about entrepreneurship, working at a tech startup in San Mateo and participating in a startup incubator program. She’s using her savings to start Piggybackr.com
“Business school…kind of teaches you there are three paths you can go down, so I thought, ‘Oh, I have to go down that path,’” Lo said. “[But,] I realized my passion is to start an organization that has a very positive impact…so I left my consulting job.”
The program works like this—a group organizer, like a teacher, sets up a fundraising page, giving access to students or other fundraisers. Through their own personalized pages, children learn to reach out to the community for donations, write a mission statement about their fundraising goals and write thank-you notes to supporters. They must have a parent or teacher approve their posts.
Lo wants to empower 8-through-15-year-olds through giving them the skills to raise money and understand the purpose of their fundraising. However, Lo found she empowered herself during the process of creating Piggybackr.com, as well.
“I always thought that this was going to be my long-term goal, and that I needed experience to do so, but then realized I didn’t need to wait that long,” she said. “In these last couple years of following my passion, [I’ve realized] anything is possible and really thinking big is the key, and that’s kind of the overarching mission I have in this organization. I want to inspire young kids at a young age that they can think really big and they can make an impact.”
Piggybackr.com is currently in its pilot phase, testing two classrooms and First String, a non-profit volleyball program based in Burlingame. The club’s mission of empowering young woman falls in line with Lo’s mission, making the two a great fit. The team pulls girls from all economic backgrounds, yet incurs travel cost upwards of $1,000.
“The nice thing about [Piggybackr.com] is you can send Grandpa in Brooklyn an email; he doesn’t even have to buy anything,” said First String parent Jennifer Banaszek.
The team plans on raising $1,000 per girl for hotels and flights to national tournaments where they’ll play in front of college recruiters. In keeping with the club’s mission of empowerment, ten percent of the funds they raise will go to women’s charities.
Lo’s goal is to one day turn Piggybackr.com into a national website, but for now she’s focused on seeing the success of her pilot programs. She continues to seek inspiration from her little sister’s fundraising, which set it all in motion.
“At that moment, she felt like she could change the world,” Lo said. “That’s kind of the message I want to bring back.”