About Catalyzer

Catalyzer™ enables Northwestern's student organizations, alumni groups, and departments on campus to raise money for meaningful projects that make an impact—socially, culturally, and globally. With Catalyzer, we invite you to connect your passion to meaningful Northwestern causes. Your generosity will ensure that these worthy projects spark transformative change.


>> For Student Groups Interested in Applying

Submit a Catalyzer application here and see a full timeline for the school year. 

Student Group Eligibility

In general, student groups must meet the following criteria to be eligible for a Catalyzer project:

• Student groups must have a Student Organization Finance Office (SOFO) account or gift account and be an organization in good standing with the Office of Student Affairs

• Student groups must be at least one year old and be listed on Wildcat Connection

• Student Groups must connect with their advisor about their project and gain their support before applying


Project Fit

We are happy to work with your student group to come up with a project that would be a good fit for fundraising on Catalyzer. In general, projects are a good fit for Catalyzer if they:

• Benefit the broader Northwestern community like a free event or performance open to the Northwestern community or the public

• Further the mission of the University

• Feature educational components like bringing a speaker to campus or hosting a conference

• Run in collaboration with a University department, like buying equipment or supplies for a team or club

Funds raised through Catalyzer cannot be redirected to outside charitable organizations per Northwestern gift acceptance policies. 

**Please note that if your event or program is scheduled to happen during the timeframe that the Catalyzer fundraising cycle is scheduled to occur, the project will not be approved. Please apply for a Catalyzer cycle that happens before your scheduled event or program.


Fundraising Goal

Fundraising goals for a typical project cycle range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. Of course, this number will depend on the size of your potential donor pool, your personal contacts, and the amount of team effort devoted to the project. It is best to set modest, attainable and realistic goals—and transcend them. Your donors will be inspired to support a project if it reflects success and momentum.

Catalyzer funds cannot be used for:

• Costumes/uniforms (unless rented or owned by a department)

• Fees for competition, membership dues, or entrance fees

• Food/beverage/alcohol

• Travel/lodging accommodations (unless for a speaker)

• Student/Faculty/Staff salaries to support event

• Funds being given to another organization or charity


Project Team

A strong project team is essential to achieving your fundraising goal. Your project team amplifies your reach and includes:

2 Project Leaders 

• Main interface between Alumni Relations and Development (ARD) staff

• Responsible for executing Catalyzer timeline

• Delegates responsibilities to other team members

3-5 Project Champions 

• Assists in drafting deliverables (emails, updates, social media posts, etc.)

• Shares project with personal networks and encourages others to give

As many Ambassadors as possible!

• Shares project with personal networks and encourages others to give


Time Commitment 

Running a successful crowdfunding campaign is a lot of work! It takes active commitment from the project team throughout the main phases of a crowdfunding campaign:

Planning for Quiet Phase Fundraising (4-5 weeks)

• Watch and complete Catalyzer platform training and corresponding quizzes

• Produce campaign materials for review by ARD (writing content, creating videos, create your email list, thinking about strategies, etc.)

• Build your project page on Catalyzer

Quiet Phase Fundraising (1 week)

• Time to launch your project quietly to your team’s closest connections - family and friends

• Responsible for raising at least 20% of your fundraising goal

Active Phase Fundraising (3 weeks)*

• Time to raise the rest of your fundraising goal through strategic email “asks”, progress updates, social media posts, and ambassador outreach

Stewardship Phase (Post campaign – 9 months out)

• Thank donors for giving

• Inform donors of their impact as project milestones are achieved 

 *Please note the #CATSGiveBack fundraising cycle is different than the rest. Student organizations will participate in 1 week of quiet phase and 1 full day of active phase fundraising. You can learn more here: https://catalyzer.northwestern.edu/g/catsgiveback/about 

Transfer of Funds to SOFO

Once your campaign is finished, all gifts will be entered into the accounting system by our office. Our office will then work with SOFO to transfer funds to your SOFO account. This process takes about 2 to 3 months after your campaign officially ends.

Submit a Catalyzer application here and see a full timeline for the school year. 


To learn more about the #CATSGiveBack cycle, please go to: https://catalyzer.northwestern.edu/g/catsgiveback/about 

For questions regarding a potential Catalyzer project, please email NUFundraising@northwestern.edu


2024/2025 Academic Year

Fall Catalyzer Cycle

  • Application Opens | May 6
  • Applications Due | June 14
  • Fundraising Timeframe | Oct. 7 – Nov. 4
  • Estimated Distribution to SOFO | January

#CATSGiveBack Catalyzer Cycle

  • Application Opens | August 1
  • Applications Due | October 6
  • Fundraising Timeframe | Nov. 26 - Dec 3
  • Estimated Distribution to SOFO | February

Winter Catalyzer Cycle 

  • Application Opens | Oct. 21
  • Applications Due | Dec. 4
  • Fundraising Timeframe | Jan. 27 – Feb. 26
  • Estimated Distribution to SOFO | May

Spring Catalyzer Cycle 

  • Application Opens | Jan. 6
  • Applications Due | Feb. 9
  • Fundraising Timeframe | Apr. 7 – May 7
  • Estimated Distribution to SOFO | July

Northwestern University FAQ

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes. You will receive a receipt for your donation shortly after you complete your gift. 

When will my credit card be charged?

Your credit card will be charged immediately.

Will I receive a confirmation of my donation?

Yes. You will receive a confirmation to the email you used to make your donation.

Who should I contact with questions about my contribution?

Email giving@northwestern.edu or call toll-free 800.222.5603.

Our Crowdfunding Groups