LAWRENCE — Virtually every corner of the University of Kansas benefits from donor contributions, from digging up dinosaur bones to planting gardens, and the crowdfunding platform LaunchKU has helped groups across the university accomplish those tasks and more.
The online platform involves a large number of donors supporting a shared project through modest gifts. Most LaunchKU campaigns range from $2,000 to $10,000.
KU Endowment initiated LaunchKU in 2015 to help students, faculty and staff at KU raise contributions for projects with relatively modest fundraising goals and short timelines. And LaunchKU offers donors a new way to provide direct support to the people, schools and programs that are most meaningful to them.
All in all, LaunchKU has provided a fundraising platform for 122 projects and raised a total of $1,367,800 since the first campaign in 2015. The tool uses video, social media and updates to motivate and communicate to donors; a Donor Wall recognizes gifts as they come in. The platform also creates the opportunity to attract new donors: 1,284 donors made their first gift to the university for a LaunchKU project.
KU Law used the crowdfunding platform to mobilize donors around the school’s Legal Aid Clinic, surpassing the $5,000 goal with donations from more than 50 donors.
The clinic, which provides free services to the community, focused on support for urgent legal needs, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status renewal and criminal record expungement.
Mindie Paget, who helped coordinate the LaunchKU campaign for the law school, said the intuitive platform let her group communicate effectively about their cause, share success stories and show how gifts could make a difference.
“In our case, the storyline started with the real need for free legal services in our community,” she said. “Our project was a good match for LaunchKU because it supported a cause with emotional appeal, and donors could see how gifts of any size could go a long way toward doing tangible good.”
LaunchKU is available to support projects on all KU campuses, including the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. When staff at the Dietetics and Nutrition Department in the School of Health Professions wanted to plant a community garden, they turned to the online platform to encourage donors to “give up the green.”
The campaign met its goal of $1,500, and Christi Jones, the administrative assistant in the department during the campaign, said the project was easy to manage.
“The overall functionality was very user-friendly,” Jones said. “And the LaunchKU team was always available to answer questions and help.”
Other projects that raised funds with LaunchKU include support for the Audio-Reader Program, which provides access to information for people who have difficulty reading standard print; for the excavation of the fossilized remains of a juvenile female Tyrannosaurus rex in Montana; and for Project RITA, which revitalized an abandoned area behind Marvin Studios in the School of Architecture & Design.
Jessica Roberts, senior associate director for annual giving at KU Endowment, encourages interested schools and units to reach out to KU Endowment about potential crowdfunding campaigns.
“There are initiatives all across KU that can benefit from LaunchKU,” Roberts said. “We want to hear about them and help them reach their goals.”
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.