By Rae Jefferson
Long before strapping on a pair of Chacos, boarding an international flight and trekking through a foreign country on a mission trip, volunteers are faced with the sometimes daunting task of raising money to fund the trip. One Baylor student is trying to make the fundraising process easier for volunteers by using a precious 21st century tool — the Internet.
Kingwood sophomore Hunter Jones is the co-founder and co-owner, with his father, of Castingyournet.com, a website that helps users gain monetary support for their mission trips and service projects.
“This is just a way for people to go out and do the work God has called them to do,” Jones said. “Our site helps people get financial support and is a way for everyone to contribute to make these trips happen.”
Castingyournet.com allows users to have access to support they may not normally have. The website uses the concept of crowdfunding, a business model that relies on donations from outside parties. A person interested in donating to a cause can browse the available project pages and make a donation to any user – meaning donors do not have to personally know page owners to contribute.
“That’s the whole point of Castingyournet,” Jones said. “It’s supposed to generate random donations from a new audience.”
The inspiration for Castingyournet.com came from personal experience with mission trips and supporting others who were fundraising for trips and projects, Jones said. He and his father decided to pursue Castingyournet.com after thinking of ways to help their church with an Amazon mission trip they could not personally participate in.
“We thought, ‘We can do this so others have an avenue,’” Jones said. “In a way, we’re helping by extension. We wanted to do as much as we could to help others.”
Jones said he thinks the convenience of online fundraising could be appealing.
“I would like to see it as a tool for Baylor students to use for mission trips,” he said.
Having taken trips during high school, Jones said he understands the challenge of raising money.
“It’s really easy to exhaust your resources,” he said. “You end up asking the same people every time, and you really just need to find new people.”
Jones said the website has been running for about a year, and has helped several projects succeed with fundraising.
“We’ve had a lot of people get a lot of money,” Jones said. “The totals for some projects were in the thousands.”
Users can sign up for an account, which includes a Web page with details about the project or trip and that keeps track of the fundraising progress. Sign-up is free, but 5 percent of the total funds collected by the end of each project goes to Castingyournet.com for website upkeep, Jones said.
Papua New Guinea sophomore Stefanie Mundhenk said signing up for Castingyournet.com is also much less time-consuming than traditional fundraising methods like mailing support letters to family and friends, Mundhenk said.
“All you do is put up a picture and a little story about what you’re doing,” she said.
By default, each project is active for 50 days, although users who desire a shorter or longer project duration can send an email request to have the change made.
Mundhenk is using the website to raise funds for a trip to India planned for this summer, and said Castingyournet.com has been very useful.
Mundhenk said her project is based on the theme of “Shave the Beard.” Georgetown sophomore Evan Edwards, a friend of Mundhenk, is the center of this theme.
“He’s been growing this beard for forever and he’s really attached to it,” Mundhenk said. “He said he would shave it if we can raise $4,500 for our trip.”
Mundhenk’s “Shave the Beard” has earned $1,105 to date.
Mundhenk said the website’s crowdfunding model has proven to be useful. Being the daughter of missionaries, Mundhenk said she does not have a very large “support group” in the United States.
“My problem is that I don’t know a lot of people who have money to spare, and because I’ve gone on trips before, I’m asking the same people,” she said. “This opens it up to a wider audience.”
Jones said he does not want for Castingyournet.com to be popular with just Baylor students, but would rather like to see the website become well-known within the Baylor community as a whole.
“I really think, being at Baylor, students and the school itself could get behind us and help send people to do God’s work all over the world,” he said.