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Communications The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: College Club Fundraising On the Fly? 89

An anonymous reader writes "As luck would have it, I was video-attending the monthly meeting of my alma mater's amateur radio club last night and learned that a local Alumnus had passed, leaving a significant amount of equipment to the club, including a 'Big Bertha' tower that the club does not have a home for. This particular 'Big Bertha,' as it is called, is a 115 foot tall, self-supporting rotatable pole that can support an enormous number of antennae. There are thought to be only a small number of them in civilian use, and this was one of them. I also happen to be a member of the local University's amateur radio club, and our local meeting was right after the Georgia Tech meeting, so upon learning of the availability I immediately informed them that this tower could be had so long as they could support the logistics of moving the tower approximately 100 miles.

After discussing the logistics, and the fact that construction crews would be required on both sides, we came to the conclusion that a significant amount of money would be required, and that your typical intramural basketweaving team bake sale would not do the job. The use case for such a tower is not difficult to make with the University, or with local emergency services who would no doubt love to have space on such a tall tower in such a prime 'top of the hill' geographical location. Zoning will also not be an issue owing to the location having one other taller tower belonging to the college radio station, and a water tower on site. However, with most governments being cash-strapped and unlikely willing to contribute to the project, we need some more ideas on how to raise the needed funds.

So if you're a small University club, and need to raise $30-40K in a hurry, how do you do it? They are working on some small grants from local corporations, and also contacting the manufacturer to see if there is any goodwill there. But, many more ideas are needed. Thanks in advance."
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Ask Slashdot: College Club Fundraising On the Fly?

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  • ks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nblender ( 741424 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @05:24PM (#46458101)

    I've seen lots of this sort of stuff on kickstarter... I've seen it be successful.

    • That was my first thought too. But to be successful, it needs to go viral. That's another order of magnitude in difficulty.
    • Kickstarter is merely one form of grant application. If you and others from your organisation go through the proper research, you can find grant money in all sorts of corners.
  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @05:26PM (#46458117)

    Set up wallets to accept Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin donations.

  • Fundraising.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Keith Fimreite ( 2883429 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @05:28PM (#46458139) Homepage
    My college fraternity has a paypal donation account and they placed a donation widget on their website. I would create a donation page / small website describing your need and accept donations via paypal if you can. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding take a percentage but if you are a non-profit Paypal doesn't charge...
  • Volunteers? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <{atd7} {at} {}> on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @05:31PM (#46458169) Homepage

    In a particular case like this, it may be possible for much of the transport work to be done by volunteers from the local ham community.

    W2CXM's Force12 antenna was entirely put up by volunteers. This isn't exactly a small antenna - []

    • Re:Volunteers? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @06:26PM (#46458689)

      In a particular case like this, it may be possible for much of the transport work to be done by volunteers from the local ham community.

      I think that's probably a good way to go - hams generally love to help others, especially other hams. And nothing's better than helping emergency preparedness either.

      Put the call out, and earmark some money for beer and pizza and stuff at the end and you may find that you'll have lots of help - not to pay for the transport, but to actually do it. And I'm sure lots of hams would love to have the chance to actually put up a tower or to learn how to put one up (a good skill to have).

      Heck, have workshops as well - turn this not into a "let's get a tower" event but into a whole community involvement and relations thing. After all, you'll get curious onlookers wondering what's going on. It's the perfect time to also do outreach and explain what ham radio is about, what they're good for, and why in an emergency it's good to know a few of 'em.

  • by pvt_medic ( 715692 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @05:32PM (#46458171)
    Crowdsource, I am sure there are many Amateur Radio Operators out there and others who would be interested in supporting your efforts
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Definitely contact the ARRL and ask them how others have done it. Suggest Kickstarter. At the ARRL contact Dave, K1ZZ. He has to know how to do this!

  • Re-fi your home. Buy it. Move it. Own it. Rent space to all comers.

  • Call the Army (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @05:37PM (#46458209) Homepage

    Try calling your local National Guard unit, see if you can talk them into using a CH-47 to move it for you as a training exercise. After all, the National Guard needs the training anyway, so give them something in the real world to practice on. Just emphasize that you need it for disaster preparedness.

    • Try calling your local National Guard unit, see if you can talk them into using a CH-47 to move it for you as a training exercise. After all, the National Guard needs the training anyway, so give them something in the real world to practice on. Just emphasize that you need it for disaster preparedness.

      This seems like something clever enough to work.

      Barring that.. you could always try whoring yourself out. Literally and metaphorically.

    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @06:11PM (#46458569) Homepage

      Check to see if there's an ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) [] in your area [].

      They might have some useful contacts to get things moved, with the simple request that they be able to use your tower when there's an emergency. (I think they also like some inside space where they can set up their gear, but it doesn't have to be dedicated space ... they were looking at using our conference room 'til they determined that we didn't have good propagation from our town hall))

      If they don't have the contacts, they might be able to help you raise funds ... like at their various hamfests or relay events. Cash might seem like the best thing to ask for, but in-kind donations go a hell of a lot further and can sometimes be easier to get ... it just requires having good contacts or lots of cold calls (trucking companies, crane companies, etc ... might also ask telecom companies)

    • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

      This would not work. Not only are there liabilities if something goes wrong, but how does a chopper align a 140 foot pole over bolts with precision? The alignment process would be very difficult to achieve. And I doubt the government would want to accept responsibility if something goes wrong and there is loss of life, property damage or something else bad.

      From the big bertha site they state the mast is bolted together in 20 foot sections so all you need is a crew, crane and a small flatbed truck. The expen

      • You'd think they could build a climbing crane (or series of bolt on hoists) to assemble this. Red Green would build the hoists out of 2x4s and duct tape, then use a car to pull the sections up.

        It kind of obvious and I suspect the OP has already done this, but call the original vendor. They have the expertise. See if you can go watch them put one up. Airfare to most places is relatively cheap vs the cost of putting up this monster.

        They might even be willing to help or at least cut you a price for schedu

        • I assure you we are fully aware of the complexity of erecting this tower. It is not a simple job, and requires a very large crane. Most of the $30-40K expense we're ballparking is in the erection of the new base and assembly of the tower. At the very least a new in-base tube must be fabricated as the original is hopelessly captured in the original base.

          Here's a photo gallery of the construction of one of these monsters:


      • Ever see videos of how ski lifts are built? This is exactly what they do. []
  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @05:39PM (#46458239) Homepage

    That's what it exists for: getting money for school activities.

  • by jmulvey ( 233344 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @06:03PM (#46458491)

    There may be an endowment fund that this type of expense might already qualify under, they can help you identify if any such monies exist.

    If not, try reaching out to alumni, but DO NOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN. Work with your school's Alumni Relations group. Alumni Relations likely won't agree to start cold-calling random alumni for your pet project. So propose that Alumni Relations cross-references their alumni list with the Ham Radio callbook. Should be an easy database join (match by name and address). You'll get highly qualified hits that should result in excellent yields. And you can have meaningful conversations with Alumni that should help build/rebuild the alumni's connection with the school, even if they don't give.

  • I would start with asking them for money... and the local GT hams... and the GT alumni at local ham clubs, of which there are many in the Atlanta area.
    However, I think that this will prove to be a white elephant, IMO. I would think long and hard before accepting this gift, unless you can ID a buyer.
    Advertising on at a steep discount off of list price may get some money for the club.
    Make certain you actually have a plan on how and where to use, and plan on some expenses for the accessories that
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's the Clemson club that needs the money. The tower was bequeathed to the GT club, but they have no place to put it, and no use for it.

      But I get your point.

  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @06:24PM (#46458669) Journal

    The use case for such a tower is not difficult to make with the University, or with local emergency services who would no doubt love to have space on such a tall tower in such a prime 'top of the hill' geographical location.

    It looks like you have two customers already. You could also put up some WiFi antennas and become a wireless ISP. So all you need now is to write a business plan and find investors or take out a loan.

  • That you might be interested in. []

    Also, you might lookup the owner of this site: [] if you have any questions.


  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reach out to your alumni with your fundraisers. Pull your roster of previous amateur radio club members and ask them for ideas on how to raise money for this.

  • If so, you might get them to watch the documentary Breaking Bad, for some money making ideas.
  • by n7ytd ( 230708 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @07:40PM (#46459313)

    I might be modded off-topic, since the question was not "Should we raise this money?" but "How do I raise this money?"

    Two questions:
    1) Is $30-$40k a good price for this tower?
    2) If the tower weren't available for free, would your club spend this kind of money to install a tower like this?

    Disassembling the tower isn't free, and purchasing a tower new wouldn't come with this expense, and could be done on your schedule. The right answer might be to decline the donation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh yes, this tower would be a bargain if it cost $50K to get here.

      I found this photo album on the web of a Bertha installation. []

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If they install a used BigBertha tower for $50 grand they are doing very well, if they get it for around $40 grand they are doing excellent. If by some chance they get it installed for close to $30 grand (or less) ..... I will be amazed and very very happy for them. Big Bertha's are awesome towers.

  • Many businesses like to get their presence out there.

    I'd suggest having an auction (with a sensible starting price) to name the tower, so that when it's on maps, and people talk about it they get the name for a set period (e.g. 10 years).

    Also, this is a 'big' deal, so a communications plan to get the work out (and add value to the naming rights) would help push its value.

    Having something about the 'Google Emergency Communications Tower' or some such stuff in the press would get eyeballs.

  • Contact some/all of your local cel telcos.

    Tell them you are leasing space for cel nodes and microwave on your tower. Tell them if they get in now, and pre-pay, they will get a guaranteed low rate for the first X years.

    Bonus: After this lease period runs out, this turns into a revenue stream. Money for maintenance, perhaps even a little profit..?

  • Ah Truly news for nerds is back :D

    Sorry erm fund raising well you could try kickstarter but you might need to go viral for success. I'd speak to some of the colleges senior staff and ask them for suggestions they probably know some of the better places to ask. Also look at local charitable associations and find out if any of them have links to any kind of military radio operators (You'd be surprised there are some that only accept army pay clerks).

    But most of all pound the streets talk to the local Radio/

  • My Alma Mater hits me up for donations constantly, with hype about how $SPORT team performed last year and the need for a new stadium. Oh, and some random feelgood BS about diversity and student culture and did I know they have classes, in the footnotes?

    And I patiently respond to every such solicitation the same way, which boils down to "fuck $SPORT, I'll donate when you promise to put it toward actual academic endeavors". I don't think I alone feel that way, either (hell, just about everyone I associate
  • If you are not already, fill out the paperwork to incorporate the club under 501(c)3 non-profit paperwork status.

    Request grants from local and national businesses

    Our club regularly receives such money in the $1000-$5000 range from local utilities, national cellular providers, large box discount chain stores and grocery stores

    These types of businesses have ready-made grant requests - sometimes right on their websites They are looking to give their money away You do need to meet their criteria... usually to

  • by cgfsd ( 1238866 )
    Do what every college student does now a days, make porn!
    Although the amateur radio club might not be a good pool to pull from.
  • Involves cats doing cute things, Nikola Tesla, and kickstarter.

    Infinity money.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hello everyone, thanks so much for all of your suggestions, especially the one to "call the Army!" We never would have thought of that.

    It just so happens that the Major General at the local Army National Guard armory has a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from GT (just like I do), and the CWO5 is a Clemson graduate. So, there may actually be some goodwill, and some amazing publicity, to be had. We will definitely approach them as well as the media relations departments of both universities.

    To answer some

    • Just based on the fact that the situation involves a former Rear Admiral should be able to open doors for you. Such a person would have had a lot of useful associates. If you could manage to contact that circle of people, you would likely find many people that are happy to help. You could name the tower or facility after him and put of a plaque talking about his career and life. Us military types usually eat up that kind of thing.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor