Crowdfunding used by UAFS Foundation to help student groups

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 779 views 

(left) John Blue, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith executive director for diversity, equity and inclusion, meets with members of Men of Excellence. (photo courtesy of UAFS)

A new crowdfunding service offered by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Foundation gives student organizations the opportunity to use a dedicated platform to raise funds without the costs often associated with them.

The new crowdfunding service was used twice in the spring – for Dave Stevens’ Lion Pride Pantry when it raised more than $5,700 and for the UAFS Day of Giving Campaign which raised more than $100,000 UAFS students, said Jasmine Smith, director of alumni and annual giving.

The platform was purchased by the foundation, not the university, said UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley. The foundation has opted to allow student organizations to apply for the use of the platform. Those applications are reviewed and some will be accepted, Smith said.

“They can utilize it for any activity,” Riley said.

Other crowdfunding platforms, like GoFundMe, charge for the service. The foundation’s platform allows 100% of the money raised to go directly to the activity or organization.

Men of Excellence at UAFS began a crowdfunding campaign Oct. 11 to raise money for its organization.

“This is the first time for an application and acceptance process to be opened for the service,” Smith said.

Applications were open from July 7 through Aug. 15, and the window for funding could be anywhere from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1. Participation in crowdfunding costs the area chosen nothing, she said.

“After applications closed, a committee met to review and select one project to seek funding in the fall. Projects not selected in the fall will still have an opportunity to apply to be part of our Day of Giving on April 28,” Smith said.

Men of Excellence is a new RSO launched this fall semester at UAFS that aims “to assure, encourage and motivate male students during their time at UAFS and beyond.”

“MOX focuses on mentorship, community building, and developing leadership skills to help empower both our members themselves and all those they encounter. The Men of Excellence at UAFS will find support throughout their academic journey and will graduate ready to excel in their careers and their lives, exceeding all expectations,” information from the UAFS said.

John Blue, executive director for diversity, equity and inclusion at UAFS, told members of the UAFS Board of Trustees at their meeting Wednesday (Oct. 13) that national statistics and statistics at UAFS show a decline in enrollment of men twice as steep as a decline in enrollment of women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Total male undergraduate enrollment fell by 8.9% in spring 2021 compared to the previous spring, he said.

“Men of color enrolled at particularly low rates amid a pandemic in which Black students and their families disproportionately suffered from infections, job loss and financial strains. Enrollment for Black men dropped 14.3 percent in spring 2021 compared to the previous spring,” information from UAFS said.

MOX aims to stop that decline, Blue said. It is more than a mentorship program. Information on the crowdfunding campaign said, “any young man choosing to lead a life exemplifying manhood in its highest form are welcome to participate.” The organization had 12 members as of Wednesday.

“MOX will assist with breaking the stigma of how men on campus are viewed. Men of Excellence also has the potential to do great things not only for the campus, but for the entire city of Fort Smith and River Valley region through potential community service opportunities,” said Glenn Brewer II, MOX president.

The organization is open to all males on campus, focuses on the betterment of its members, is a built-in support system and is aimed at increased interaction and mentorship with male faculty and staff throughout the campus community. The crowdfunding will help raise money for the organization, which has no funding. Specifically, the hope is to be able to help members with professional attire for interviews or internships.

“We are hoping these men will need professional clothes not just for one interview but as something they need to wear frequently for an internship or job,” Riley said.

Having funds will also allow for speakers, professional development and travel, Blue said. The organization has a $10,000 goal for its campaign. As of Oct. 13, the crowdfunding campaign had raised $3,270.