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University of Kansas Endowment Using Crowdfunding

LAWRENCE, Kan. ― The KU Endowment Association is trying to raise money for smaller projects across campus with a new crowdfunding campaign called Launch KU.

The campaign encourages donations for projects such as replacing 10 musicians’ chairs at Swarthout Recital hall or bringing therapy dogs to campus, rather than the yearslong, multimillion dollar campaigns the Endowment usually organizes, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
While the Endowment provides the online platform and oversight, the campaign supporters are expected to spread the word about their causes. The Endowment does not keep a percentage of the money raised and groups keep the funds, even if they don’t meet their goals.

The first group of seven projects raised more than $50,000 from 200 donors between November and January, said Rosita Elizalde-McCoy, the KU Endowment’s senior vice president for communications and marketing. Fundraising for eight more projects will end in mid-April.
It’s a new approach ― with a different target audience ― from Endowment’s usual activities. Most Launch KU campaigns have goals “in the thousands of dollars, not in the hundreds of thousands,” said David Decker, KU Endowment senior director of annual giving.

“All gifts matter at all levels, and these are the kinds of things you can tangibly do,” Decker said.

The current eight projects include $2,600 for 10 chairs and a rolling storage rack at Swarthout. Watkins Health Services is trying to raise $5,000 to bring dogs from Loving Paws Animal Assisted Therapy Program to campus. A Kansas Libraries project is seeking $50,000 to digitize the University Archives’ Phog Allen collection ― including letters between Allen and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.

A major element of Launch KU is allowing people to tell their own stories about their causes, Decker said.

“They’re extremely passionate about what they do, and they really believe they’re making a change not only in the university but in society,” he said. “In a way, that’s really hard for an organization like Endowment to do on their behalf.”

KU Endowment can reject campaigns that are not related to the university’s mission, Elizalde-McCoy said.

The School of Engineering’s first crowdfunding project is seeking $100,000 to recruit and support minority and female engineering students. Because it is by far the largest campaign goal, the Endowment is also using traditional methods to help the project.

“For a while, we’ve wanted to bolster the opportunities and scholarships that we have for diverse and women students,” engineering dean Michael Branicky said. “We thought this was a way that we could expand our reach to the largest possible audience we could.”

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