As part of their IBE capstone project, seven Lehigh students are raising money for FinAbility, a nonprofit focused on financially empowering survivors of domestic abuse.
The IBE capstone project is a component of Lehigh’s Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program. According to the IBE website, the objective of the project is to use cross-disciplinary teams of IBE students to provide solutions for problems faced by real companies. These seven students chose to work with FinAbility.
“We’re an Oregon-based nonprofit that builds digital tools that make financial resources more accessible,” said Stacy Sawin, co-founder and CEO of the organization.
On FinAbility’s website, survivors can complete assessments to figure out how to safely open bank accounts and learn more about specific financial tools FinAbility has vetted, Sawin said. Further, survivors can look through financial education materials so they can understand how the products fit into the larger scheme of improving their financial well-being.
Ryan Heaton, ‘22, a member of the project group, said since the nonprofit just launched this past August, the main thing the organization needed help with was raising money.
“Regardless of the impact we could make, there was the unfortunate ending that if (FinAbility) didn’t get more money, (it) wouldn’t be able to function past March, May, April, one of those months,” Heaton said.
Heaton said because of this, the group decided to focus on raising funds for FinAbility rather than making a few small contributions the company wouldn’t be able to benefit from if it failed to support itself financially.
Maytal Balaish, ‘22, another project group member, said the group is using Donorbox, a platform similar to GoFundMe, to fundraise. The group made a video to go along with their fundraising efforts. Balaish said the group’s goal for November is to reach $10,000 in donations. As of Nov. 14 they have raised $2,265.
“Ideally we should pass that, provide money to the team and Stacy, and then beyond that also provide assistance with what that money will go to, and identifying the key components that they can do with that, especially short-term,” Heaton said.
Heaton said the group chose an online fundraiser to try to reach markets they couldn’t with a local fundraiser, as FinAbility is a national organization.
Sawin said she has confidence in the student team and the fundraising plan they’ve put together.
“It will have, I think, a large impact in our organization,” Sawin said. “Not only is the funding going to help us develop our products so we can realize our mission and help survivors, but they’re building our donor base so we can build lasting connections and hopefully sustainable funding streams.”
In addition to the goal of raising money for FinAbility, Balaish said the group wants to help raise awareness about domestic violence, as she believes many do not know much about the issue. She said that realizing the extent and scope of the issue was heartbreaking.
Balaish said overall, the experience of the capstone project has been “amazing.” She said all seven of her group members come from different academic backgrounds, bringing their varying perspectives to the group and allowing them to learn from one another.
“We tried to create something hopefully meaningful that can last, so it’s been really cool,” Balaish said.