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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

It All Adds Up

It All Adds Up

UTSA's crowdfunding website enables small donations to add up for big impact

This year when UTSA Cheer competed for the National Cheerleaders Association title in Daytona Beach, the squad took the stage with brand new uniforms paid for by fans and supporters.

"I'll be honest," says Reggie Morlen, one of the squad's five captains. "We've tried fundraising in the past and maybe got a couple thousand dollars, if that. I was really surprised to see how well we did."

Through the university's newest fundraising platform, Launch UTSA, approximately 200 donors gave the cheerleaders a total of $14,030, surpassing the squad's original goal of $12,000. Donors also got the chance to vote on which new uniforms the squad would wear.

For the squad, the uniforms aren't just a wardrobe upgrade but a necessity, captain Cy Fondal says. In the past there have been too many teammates and not enough complete outfits. "It's mainly during football games and basketball games when people are piecing together uniforms by borrowing from each other."

Launch UTSA kicked off in 2014 to raise funds for research, service learning, study abroad and other projects using the popular method of crowdfunding, the process of collecting small donations from a wide audience. So far, nearly $70,000 has been raised for 20 projects.

Megan Miller, the annual giving coordinator with UTSA's development office, says the site allows for friends, parents and other supporters to give to specific projects that interest them. "When students and faculty are passionate about a project, the first people who will support it are their own social networks," Miller says. "So we encourage students to reach out via email, phone or social media to let their networks know and ask them to further share."

Launch UTSA campaigns will support projects at all levels — from a few hundred dollars to $10,000, Miller says, although all have exceeded funding goals so far.

Each project will have a page to outline specific funding needs and how to donate. Supporters will receive email updates about a campaign's progress and the outcome of the project.

"I think one of the key components of this is that eventually it will build — and continue to develop — our culture of philanthropy among the UTSA community, including among the students," Miller says. "These are exciting projects. Launch UTSA helps them visually see the impact that their dollars make."

One of the first projects funded was for social work students who wanted to provide experiences to build self-confidence and self-esteem of formerly homeless women transitioning from the wellness program at Haven for Hope. From there, the projects have included sending engineering students to the national steel bridge competition and raising scholarship money by Mr. and Ms. UTSA candidates.

UTSA student group Volunteer Organization Involving Community Education and Services funded its first alternative winter break using the site.

"The idea of an alternative winter break was new, and money isn't just going to come out of the air because I say I want to do an extra break," says Amber Calvert, VOICES vice president.

Calvert says when Miller approached VOICES about the launch of the crowdfunding platform the group decided it would be worth the try. Calvert wanted to focus on helping those who serve the disabled community, and VOICES was able to raise enough money to volunteer at Isaiah's Place, a nonprofit in Whitney, Texas.

Isaiah's Place is an educational summer-camp–style retreat for deaf children, Calvert says. With the more than $2,000 raised, VOICES helped the staff of Isaiah's Place reorganize the library and do minor repairs and cosmetic fixes as well as take care of the horses, freeing the staff up to attend to other duties.

Calvert says the benefit wasn't just in funding the project: "Launch UTSA allows students to connect with alumni and other parts of the campus. It lets people who were part of the university at one point in time stay involved."

–Michelle Mondo


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