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  • Demo Day

  • Resources for Batch Participants

  • Resources


    For Batch Participants: team-restricted access to batch resources

    For the Selection Commmittee: committee interest form, job descrition, and access to committee-restricted materials

    For Innovators: podcasts, books, articles, team exercises, and advancement-related ideas for innovators

  • People


    Batch Participants: Each batch includes a number of teams. Those teams are comprised of a small number of members, not to exceed six. The participants self select into roles like chief innovator, head of growth, technical lead, user experience lead, or others as designed within each team.

    Selection Committee: A Selection Committee of advancement professionals, academic partners, industry experts, technologists, and alumni advise Accelerator operations by identifying preferred verticals or horizontals for upcoming batch application cycles; selects initiatives and teams for batches; identifies and provides introduction to potential partners within and outside the University; serves as a “corporate advisory board” for Demo Day; and advocates on behalf of the Accelerator.

    Advisors: Advisors are used throughout the accelerator process and may be industry experts, alumni, faculty, etc. with knowledge specific to a team’s initiative. They are encouraged to communicate regularly with teams and are invited to attend meetings with Batch participants at least once per year as well as partner alongside initiatives in a guidance and expertise role. Advisors are also invited to attend Demo Day.

    Staff: UIF Strategic Innovation staff support UIDEA, connecting teams with advisors, holding weekly check-ins with batch participants, recruiting and staffing the Selection Committee, investigating potential opportunities for disruption or growth, advising teams, etc.

  • Welcome

    Twice per year, the University of Illinois Foundation provides seed funding for initiatives that will enable the University advancement program to adapt rapidly to changing industry or customer needs. These quick-to-market strategies, programs, products, or technologies represent new ideas or entirely new spins on old ideas in the higher education advancement or charitable giving spaces.

    UIDEA was designed to embed a spirit of innovation throughout the advancement enterprise, reflective of the innovation exhibited by the students, faculty, and staff at our great universities. Strategic and annual planning and budgeting activities provide the opportunity to address immediate gaps or to adopt best practices from other institutions. Accelerator initiatives by contrast:

    • tackle new areas of growth for UI (especially where the University of Illinois can lead the nation in particular markets);
    • translate societal and consumer changes from other industries to higher education advancement;
    • introduce new ways of doing business; or
    • disrupt the nonprofit industry.

    Read more about the accelerator process.

  • Ideas


    Our innovation ideas/initiatives run in five stages—Investigate, Design, Pilot, Scale, and Iterate, with the Design and Pilot stages being the critical components of UIDEA.

    Stage I: Investigate

    The preliminary work during Stage I can be done by the Strategic Innovation team for items in the pipeline, by users themselves who may be submitting applications, by tech firms who have already developed or scaled a minimally viable product to pitch as Stage III, etc. This pre-UIDEA refines ideas into preliminary intelligence about an issue or a quantification of the potential opportunity.

    During this stage, a preliminary business case or overview of the initiative may be developed, the analysis segment (a subset of the whole potential market) to investigate determined, and preliminary analysis performed, quantifying the market / potential and identifying leading stories. Attempts may also also made during this stage to assess data maintenance / integration opportunities for the advancement enterprise and to document data entry standards or system functional needs, if applicable.

    Information gleaned during Invesgitation will be shared as resources for potential applicants.

    Stage II: Design

    Teams can participate in the Accelerator in one of two stages, the first being design. During this stage, teams will focus their energy on deeper investigation and the refinement of preliminary intelligence into strategies, tactics, programs, and/or technologies to address that issue or opportunity.

    This design stage is finite, and the result should be either movement into Stage III in a subsequent batch or failure to develop a viable strategy, product, program, or process.

    Stage III: Pilot

    The second category of accelerator initiatives are those that are ready to pilot. These may be initiatives that have graduated from Stage II or those that have jumped straight to this stage, like third-party vendor pilots where investigation and design was done by the vendor, or pilots in which units want to vet a strategy quickly. During this stage, the team launches an initial proof of concept for a subset of the UIDP, adjusting and planning for scalability across enterprise or industry.

    This pilot stage is finite, and the result should be either scaling into normal business practices or failure of pilot. In rare cases with successful pilots, the Selection Committee may opt to retain an initiative in UIDEA during its first Scaling instance.

    Stage IV: Scale

    In most cases, the Scale stage extends the innovation initiative to the University of Illinois Development Program (UIDP) (either to additional adopters beyond the pilot group or across the entire UIDP). At this point, the initiative is no longer considered part of the accelerator—except in rare circumstances where the Selection Committee has opted to support the initiative through its first scaling—as the initiative becomes a normal business program. A scaled initiative is considered an Exit.

    The scale stage is not finite and may continue until the initiative is fully deployed across UIDP or is retired.

    Stage V: Iterate

    Once scaled, tweaks or modifications to the initiative are made by the normal UIF/UI business or technology teams, and all related expenditures are part of the normal budget cycle. Iteration requests follows the traditional UIDP procedures for implementing strategic / technology changes, like tickets, governance, budget requests, etc.

  • 5+ Tips for Putting Together Your Weekly Action Plan

  • Advancement Technology Internship

  • Demo Day FAQs

  • Founder's Pledge

  • Three Tips for Building a UIDEA Team

  • Q&A with DJ's Lucas O'Bryan

  • S19 Decisions

  • 12 Things to Know if You are Considering Applying to UIDEA

  • DJ

  • Crypto

  • Little Data



  • Current Batch Participants

    S20 Batch Participants

    The Foundation is pleased to introduce the two teams participating in the S20 batch of UIDEA. Now in its fourth cycle, this UIDEA cohort represents has a team representing UIC and Illinois. Please join me in welcoming the newest batch:

    Illini On!: Farm the Morrow plots and avoid Quadpocalypse! A philanthropic alumni gaming app that is extremely fun, often educational, and always Illini!  Sign up here if you’d like to learn more.

    Growing Green for UIC: Designing a strategy to test impact-based giving at UIC, starting with sustainability initiatives across campus. Sign up here if you’d like to learn more.

  • Ignite Diversity

  • F18 Decisions

  • Teams

  • Previous Batch Participants

    F19 Batch Participants

    The following teams were part of the second UIDEA batch in fall 2019.

    Ignite Diveristy: Diversifying advancement at UIC through outreach, education, and marketing programs by increasing awareness about advancement as a career path.

    Founder's Pledge: Designing a program and network to encourage the investment of founders’ time and money in the growth of the University of Illinois. 

    S19 Batch Participants

    The following teams were part of the second UIDEA batch in spring 2019.

    Crypto: Increasing flexibility for donors by embedding cryptocurrency giving options into standard UIF business operations.

    DJ: Using human-centered design to reimagine donor "moments that matter."

    LEADER: Building an online community of Illini entrepreneurs.

    Little Data: High-touch, personalized engagement meets systemic mass solicitation.

    Matchmaker: Discovering untapped potential for strategic constituent recognition and engagement. Like Match.com but for advancement recognition.

    F18 Batch Participants

    The following teams were part of the inaugural batch for UIDEA.

    Chatterbox: Adding a rapidly growing channel to offer customer service after-hours and on-demand, marrying human interaction with artificial intelligence.
    Status: Exit, currently scaling to development program

    I-57s: Leveraging Illinois' place as a leader in the agricultural space to develop the first comprehensive and community-based farmland donor stewardship strategies to increase gifts of farmland.
    Status: Exit, currently scaling to development program

    Matchmaker: Discovering untapped potential for strategic constituent recognition and engagement. Like Match.com but for advancement recognition.
    Status: Active, piloting in S19 batch

    The Gift: Blending stories from donors, industry experts, and advancement staff on topics related to philanthropy in a short, serial podcast as a professional development and branding strategy.
    Status: Exit, independently pursuing initiative

  • Demo Day Registration F18

    Demo Day Registration

    Registration is now open for the F18 Demo Day.

    Details are as follows:

    Thursday, January 24, 2019

    1pm-5:15pmCocktail reception immediately following

    Kavita and Lalit Bahl Meeting Room (Room 3002)ECE Building306 N. Wright StreetUrbana, IL 61801

    Register Now

  • I-57s

  • Matchmaker

  • The Gift

  • Chatterbox

  • Selection Committee Job Description

  • Advancement Innovation Opportunities

  • Demo Day Registration

    Demo Day Registration

    S20 Demo Day will be held virtually on May 19, 2020. Register now! 



  • Apply


    Applications are now available for the spring 2021 (S21) batch. Please review all application requirements before applying. Click here to apply.


    Successful ideas are those that 1) tackle growth opportunities for the UI advancement program that are not being addressed or addressed well by anyone in the industry or 2) disrupt the advancement or philanthropy industries.

    Initiatives or ideas can be applicable to any area in advancement and can be internally focused (business processes, user experience) or external (donor or alumni experience).


    Successful teams are those comprised of individuals who are fast paced, forward thinking, and have the grit to see initiatives through hurdles to completion.

    Applicants not selected in previous batches are welcome to reapply. Those applicants may need to re-envision their idea, product, or strategy to make it more viable to the Selection Committee.

    Applicants with ideas or initiatives that have already been part of a Batch and were not invited by the Selection Committee to extend into the subsequent initiative stage (pilot or scale) may not reapply without dramatically reinventing the product / strategy and without new evidence of potential value.

    Individuals who have participated in a Batch are encouraged to wait one full Batch cycle after the close of his/her Batch to reapply, unless written permission is provided by his/her supervisor. This allows others the opportunity participate in the accelerator and gives previous Batch participants the chance to participate with UIDEA in other ways (Advisors or Selection Committee).

    Application Overview

    The application is split into four sections, each with its own purpose, outlined below.

    Initiative Overview

    The initiative overview section is intended to 1) provide an explicit and succinct description of the product, process, or strategy being designed or piloted, and 2) ensure the applicant (and Selection Committee) has a strong understanding of the problem or opportunity, how it can be solved, how it needs to be effectively explained, and the viability to scale.

    People Overview

    The people overview section is intended to provide the Selection Committee an idea of 1) the commitment to the initiative by the applicant(s), 2) the hustle and expertise of the applicants, and 3) the ability of the team to work cohesively and productively.

    Innovation Overview

    The innovation overview places an emphasis on “groundbreaking” ideas that could reshape how the the advancement program operates, dramatically increase revenue or engagement, or disrupt the industry over “new to Illinois” ideas that are often best practice or strategies/goals from other institutions.


    The applicant section captures details about the person submitting the application. The applicant may likely be the team's Chief Innovator.

    Application Process

    Below is a summarized timeline of the application process.

    • Applications are due for the S21 batch on November 15, 2020.
    • The Selection Committee will review applications and make decisions about the S21 batch in December.
    • Admitted Batch participants will be notified in late December.
    • The S21 Batch will kick off in Champaign on February 18, 2021.
  • Staff

  • 10 Advancement Innovation Prompts

  • About


    In 2014, the University of Illinois Development Program adopted a revised set of core values vital to internal and external relationships and to the management of a top performing advancement program. One of those values—inspire innovation—was designed to embed a spirit of innovation throughout the advancement enterprise, reflective of the innovation exhibited by the students, faculty, and staff at our great universities.

    The accelerator, named UIDEA (University of Illinois Development and Engagement Accelerator), creates a space for teams to design or pilot new advancement strategies, technologies, programs, and processes to benefit the University of Illinois.

    UIDEA is just one component of a larger innovation ecosystem that spans the University System. The accelerator offers another avenue for innovation at Illinois and is meant to fast track advancement innovation initiatives where desired and when other resources may not be available. It’s a way to experiment where failure is a known and acceptable risk and where success can transform our universities and industry.


  • Advisors

  • Batch Participants

  • Selection Committee

  • Preferred Applicants

    Preferred Applicants

    In advance of each Batch, the Selection Committee discusses challenges and opportunities across the advancement industry as well as changing societal trends that may impact engagement and philanthropy. The Committee then decides if they'd like to consider specific themes or preferred topics for the upcoming batch.

    Even if the Selection Committee has chosen a preferred set of ideas ripe for growth or disruption or critical to the University of Illinois Advancement Program's success, any team with any idea is welcome and encouraged to apply.

    Please visit the Resources page for more information about ideas that have already been identified as opportunities for advancement.

  • Requirements


    Time Commitment

    UIDEA does not currently grant sabbaticals to participate, stipends or payment for participation, or justification for not completing required position responsibilities. It is meant for applicants with hustle and drive who want to dramatically grow the advancement program and who can “do both” their current job and their accelerator work. Beyond the required during-work-hours obligations outlined below, participants should balance UIDEA work with their professional and personal responsibilites, during and/or after traditional business hours as possible. For others who want to participate but do not have the time or capacity, an advisor role or Selection Committee participation may be better options.

    Admitted participants are expected to attend the following activities in person:

    • Batch Kickoff, the first event of the 12-week program.
    • Demo Day, the culminating event of the 12-week program.

    Admitted participants are also expected to participate in the following activities via Skype or Zoom:

    • Team meetings as outlined by the Founders' Agreement
    • One weekly meeting for UIDEA per week, which may be comprised of the following:
      • UIDEA Feedback sessions, during which the team practices a portion of its pitch for advisors who are interested in or have expertise in areas related to the team's idea, 45 minutes, scheduled by the team during business hours
      • UIDEA All-in batch checkpoints, with all teams, one-hour typically over the lunch hour during which the teams practice their pitches, share issues/opportunities among all teams, and hear from selected advisors
      • UIDEA one-on-one checkpoints, between UIDEA staff and each team, 45 minutes to one hour every other week, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, as scheduled by the teams
    • A due diligence session with the Selection Committee as it finalizes its decisions about which teams' ideas will advance.

    Supervisor Approval

    UIDEA applicants do not need advance supervisor approval in order to apply. We acknowledge that certain ideas may not gain traction where time and financial resources are limited or when there are competing day-to-day or strategic objectives. The accelerator creates an avenue through which those ideas can be presented without the constraints of traditional supervisor buy-in.

    Vice Chancellors (or representative EOT members) or designees will be provided a list of Batch applicants during the application process and will have the opportunity to deny an applicant's participation in the upcoming batch if there are known and documented performance issues with that employee. However, UIDEA may offer the opportunity for such an employee to grow beyond his/her current position. As always, supervisors are encouraged to discuss concerns with their DOA/CAO, AVC, etc.

    12 Things to Know if You are Considering Applying to UIDEA

  • Process


    There are six components of the UIDEA process:

    Application: We invite teams with “startup” ideas to apply for funding and advising to design or pilot an initiative that harnesses an emerging opportunity/technology or addresses a “horizon” issue that the organization will undoubtedly need to tackle in the future. Application periods will occur once per year with applications being due in November.

    Selection: A team of thought leaders in advancement, technology, entrepreneurship, etc. serve one-year terms on a Selection Committee, charged with identifying the initiatives for the batches and for helping to frame the direction for the batches (identifying preferred verticals or horizontals).

    Batch Work: Accepted teams have 12 weeks to design or pilot their initiative during the batch, with advising from the Strategic Innovation team, Selection Committee, and other external advisors. Batch participants come together once every week for advising, feedback, and dedicated work time.

    Demo Day: At the end of the 12 weeks, the teams participate in Demo Day, during which each team presents the results from its pilot or shares its strategy design; the Selection Committee provides feedback as if it were a corporate advisory board or group of investors, and audience members can also interact with the teams to share feedback and offer support for scaling the initiative further across advancement.

    Due Diligence: Subsequent to Demo Day, the teams review feedback from the in-person and livestream audiences and address any outstanding questions in preparation for meetings with the Selection Committee. During this time, the Selection Committee will review additional documentation (including budgets, toolkits, marketing plans, etc.) developed by the teams during the 12 weeks and clarify remaining questions.

    Decision: Once the teams have been through due diligence, the Selection Committee decides which initiatives will advance to next batch, which will be scaled, and which will be terminated.

  • Apply Now

    Apply Now

    Applications are now being accepted for the Spring 2021 (S21) batch. Click here to apply.

    Before applying, please review the application overview and the the application requirements.

    All applications must be submitted by Sunday, November 15, 2019.

    Apply now!

  • Resources for Innovators

    Resources for Innovators

    For your team

    10 advancement innovation prompts

    For your consideration

    Issues and opportunities in advancement

    For your commute
    Available anywhere you listen to podcasts

    Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman
    How I Built This with Guy Raz
    How to Start a Startup by Y Combinator and Stanford University
    The Pitch by Gimlet Media
    When to Jump
    Why Not Now?
    Without Fail by Gimlet Media

  • Resources for Selection Committee

    Resources for Selection Committee

    A Selection Committee of advancement professionals, academic partners, industry experts, technologists, and alumni advise Accelerator operations by choosing preferred verticals or horizontals for upcoming batch application cycles; selecting initiatives and teams for batches; identifying and providing introduction to potential partners within and outside the University; serving as a “corporate advisory board” for Demo Day; and advocating on behalf of UIDEA.

    Job Description: Outlines additional details about the Selection Committee and how it is supported.

    Selection Committee Roles: Describes the rotating and standing positions on the Selection Committee.

    Interest Form: Interested in participating as a member of the Selection Committee? Sign up here.