By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough resident Eric Ouyang has just begun his freshman year at Harvard University, but not before first founding a student-run, nonprofit organization, Sponsr.Us.
As a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Ouyang had the opportunity to apply for grants from the school. These grants, according to the school's website, could be used for “small projects that improve the quality of life of a group of students on campus, or for large projects that incubate and help launch new academic or entrepreneurial ideas and initiatives on or off campus.” ?Although he never applied for a grant himself, Ouyang believes that all students should have the opportunity to plan, launch and develop their own initiatives. To this end, he created Sponsr.Us.
To help him launch Sponsr.Us, Ouyang partnered with a team of high school and college students from across the country that are also passionate about student projects and excited about empowering young people to start and launch their own initiatives. The group met virtually, often meeting on Skype and Google+ hangouts and collaborating on paperwork through Google Docs. Joining Ouyang in creating this “built by students for students” nonprofit is Kevin Song (University of Notre Dame “15, New Jersey), Gregory Hosono (Phillips Academy “14, California), Brandon Wang (Phillips Exeter Academy “15, Texas) and Alex Jiang (Phillips Academy “15, Texas).
“I chose to be with Sponsr.Us because of the personal difficulty I had raising money,” said Wang. “In junior high, we worked very hard to raise money for a student publication I helped found. I learned much through that process, but felt that the process could be streamlined for students across the country that is also fundraising. Sponsr.Us was founded to provide the right platform and catalyst for those who were like me, unfamiliar with the process.”
“Our ultimate vision is to be the go-to platform for students,” said Ouyang. “The only requirement is that submitted project ideas be student-led, nonprofit, and collaborative.”
Students seeking funding for initiatives such as starting a school club, a community service project, or some other nonprofit organization must submit a (free) written application to Sponsr.Us. Initiatives will be reviewed based on a broad range of categories; including practicality, impact and required budget.
Sponsr.Us first works with applicants to create a project profile and timeline as well as determine fundraising needs. The group catalyzes student initiatives by leveraging the internet to connect applicants to local and distant funds. They then help them acquire “pledges,” from potential donors.
According to their website, Sponsr.Us doesn's just help raise money; they “take the extra step by connecting their students with volunteer adult and student mentors. Mentorship gives students the opportunity to learn from people who'se had similar and relevant experiences and helps ensure their success.”
If the fundraising goal for a project has been met by a predetermined date, the pledges are automatically processed by the organization's secure fundraising platform. From here, the project is launched.
“We’re very open to types of projects right now, from small to large scale. During our first round, we expressed the desire not to limit ourselves. In general, we hope to cater to projects that are early stage, fundable, and run by students,” said Wang.
Ouyang believes that Sponsr.Us can make a real world impact and looks forward to making student ideas realities.
Sponsr.Us is a tax-exempt 501(c) (3) nonprofit.
The organization is currently accepting applications for projects. For an application or to learn more visit http://sponsr.us.