Online startup helping college groups fundraise through local restaurants

Kathmandu Kitchen & Bar, photographed here on August 31, 2016, is one of the restaurants in Storrs Center that recently partnered with GroupRaise. (Grant Zitomer/The Daily Campus)

Kathmandu Kitchen & Bar, photographed here on August 31, 2016, is one of the restaurants in Storrs Center that recently partnered with GroupRaise. (Grant Zitomer/The Daily Campus)

GroupRaise, an online startup that helps organizations fundraise through local restaurants, has taken college campuses by storm over the past five years as “the most delicious way to change the world,” co-founder Sean Park said.

The idea behind GroupRaise was created when he and his fellow co-founders were in college. As students, they understood the struggle of fundraising and wanted to create a way to facilitate the process, Park said.

“There was just no tangible way to raise money and at the same time get the word out about like, what you’re caring for,” Park said. “We saw that having a meal together is a great place where people can share and talk about what they care about, and also at the same time raise money.”

GroupRaise is meant to bring communities together, Park said. Local restaurants can offer their services and a percentage of their profits during a fundraiser, which benefits the organization raising money, but also introduces restaurants to new customers.

Students at the University of Connecticut have access to several restaurants affiliated with GroupRaise in the greater Hartford area, and just recently, in Storrs Center.

Kathmandu Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant in Storrs Center, became affiliated with GroupRaise upon opening three months ago. Kathmandu offers 15 percent of the proceeds made during a fundraiser to student clubs and organizations at UConn.

GroupRaise, an online startup that gives students on college campuses a different way to fundraise through local restaurants, is encouraging students to spread the word, enjoy a meal and raise money for their organizations. (Courtesy/GroupRaise)

GroupRaise, an online startup that gives students on college campuses a different way to fundraise through local restaurants, is encouraging students to spread the word, enjoy a meal and raise money for their organizations. (Courtesy/GroupRaise)

“We can do both a la carte and buffet, but it depends what time they come in and how many people that are signed up,” Bharat Bhadtarai, the owner of Kathmandu Kitchen and Bar, said.

Lianne Barney, a seventh-semester marketing major, and the marketing and fundraising chair for Autism Speaks, said her group plans to host a fundraiser at Kathmandu Kitchen and Bar this semester.

So far, the process of setting up a GroupRaise and getting students to RSVP through the website has proven difficult, Barney said.

Autism Speaks is a small group, Barney said, which makes it difficult to spread the word about fundraisers. In the past, Autism Speaks has done bake sales in the Student Union, which gave them a lot of exposure, Barney said.

“I think going to restaurants is popular, but I think maybe [fundraising in the] Student Union is more effective,” Barney said.

Of all the proceeds made during a GroupRaise event, none of it goes to GroupRaise itself. Instead, GroupRaise makes money by charging the restaurant for each event they host.

“Our philosophy is that we do not touch the donations,” Park said. “Our philosophy is that groups get 100 percent of the donations that they raise.”

Students can sign up for fundraisers through the GroupRaise website by searching for participating restaurants in their area and requesting a meal. GroupRaise will then notify the restaurant of the request, and they can accept or deny it. A minimum RSVP amount must also be met once an event is scheduled, according to GroupRaise’s website.

After an event, groups have the option to provide feedback in a survey.

GroupRaise currently resides in approximately 4,000 restaurants across the country, Park said. Other colleges that have access to GroupRaise include Georgetown, UCLA, Boston College and Florida State.

The overall goal of GroupRaise is to reach as many college campuses, local non-profits and even international non-profits as possible, Park said.

The fact that the groups choose the restaurants they want to fundraise with is what makes the experience great, Park said.


Emma Casagrande is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.casagrande@uconn.edu.