WSU launches Cougar Cage funding program

WSU cougar logo.

Washington State University is launching a new, competitive funding program that seeks to match private donors with worthwhile projects pitched by students, faculty and staff in a format modeled after the popular entrepreneurial TV show Shark Tank.

If successful in what organizers are calling the Cougar Cage, requesters can walk away with anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 in support from members of the Palouse Club, a group of philanthropists and investors from the Puget Sound Region dedicated to helping support the success of the university.

“I love the Cougar Cage concept,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “It will get donors directly involved in the research activities of the university while providing valuable funding for important initiatives and projects from across the WSU system. I’m grateful to members of the Palouse Club for their support of this innovative venture.”

The first Cougar Cage event is taking place on March 25 and will be conducted over Zoom.

Members of the Palouse Club will be joined by Schulz and Lisa Calvert, vice president for advancement and CEO of the WSU Foundation.

Cougar Cage is open to all faculty, staff and students at any of WSU’s campuses. It’s also open to all departments and academic units. Student groups and non-development staff are encouraged to request the submission template from Nikki Winfree or work with the development officer affiliated with their college, campus or unit.

Applications are due by Feb. 26 and can be submitted via email to with Winfree, a senior strategist with the WSU Foundation, included on the email.

Applications will be reviewed and six presentations will be heard during the first Cougar Cage event, with at least three receiving one-time funding. Presenters will have approximately 10 minutes to give their pitches and will then respond to questions from Palouse Club members.

Examples of projects that fit well within the Cougar Cage include but are not limited to:

  • Purchasing equipment or materials to help advance a research project
  • Funding for a group to attend professional conferences or participate in skills training
  • New scholarships
  • Technology upgrades for classroom or laboratory spaces
  • Small renovations to maximize the purpose and functionality of a space

Proposals must include a roster of presenters, a description of the project, and impact assessment or prospective return on investment, a cost analysis and a simple budget.

For more information, contact Winfree or Ginger Druffel, executive assistant to the president.

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