- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The University of Tennessee has started a crowdfunding website designed to raise money for student projects.

The site - VOLstarter.utk.edu - has about 20 student projects on it so far. The Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1tuROUF) reports it was launched on Nov. 18, and about 60 contributions had come in by last week.

The idea is similar to other crowdfunding websites that raise money for various projects. The school will post projects that students have proposed and encourage alumni and friends to contribute to those that inspire them. Each project will have a limited amount of time to raise money.

“This is a way, with smaller goal amounts, for donors to see their $5, $10, $20 gifts make a difference and see the outcome of that difference,” said Haylee Marshall, senior director of annual giving. “We have been wanting to communicate to alumni that every dollar really does make a difference for the university.”

Last year, a pilot version of the crowdfunding website received about 350 gifts, which funded multiple projects.

Some of the projects listed now include University of Tennessee architecture students who need $3,000 to build wheelchair ramps and female engineering students who want $800 to make a commercial to inspire more women to join their field.

To be considered for the crowdfunding site, student groups fill out applications that include how money will be spent.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for us not only raise to money for Freedom By Design, but to get the word out there about what we do and what we’re about,” said Meredith Graves, a second-year architecture student and treasurer of Freedom By Design. The group built a ramp and decks last year for a wheelchair-bound woman.

This year, members want to build more ramps and decks for low-income disabled residents. She says the group got $1,100 this year from its signature fundraising event, but the project’s total cost will be from $3,000 to $7,000.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com


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