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The Campus Welcomes HornRaiser, a New Tool to Turn Innovative Ideas into Reality.

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Students and faculty at UT have great ideas all the time, but the resources to get them off the ground? That’s often another story. Enter HornRaiser, the university’s official crowdfunding platform, which launched in the fall. Similar to Kickstarter, it offers a fast and easy way to garner support for unique, diverse, and socially compelling concepts — only with a burnt-orange pedigree in this case.

HornRaiser provides the campus community — students, faculty members, and staffers — a vehicle for raising philanthropic funds by leveraging their social media networks for initiatives that might not otherwise see the light of day. The effort began with three projects, two of which well surpassed their goals.

Five to eight teams are expected to vie for funds in the spring semester. With 30- and 45-day projects kicking off March 18 and wrapping up April 16 and May 1, details of each of the projects — and countdown timers tracking their progress — will be updated at hornraiser.utexas.edu.

After participating in HornRaiser’s inaugural funding round, one group of students is a step closer to representing UT — the only school selected from Texas — in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in California this October. The team, which is designing Nexushaus, an 850-square-foot solar-powered house for the competition, raised $21,422 (214 percent of their $10,000 goal) when one of their donors pitched in a $10,000 match.

“We jumped at the opportunity to share the Nexushaus message of sustainability, energy efficiency, and affordability with the Longhorn community, and we’re ecstatic with the results,” says Jessica Janzen, an architecture graduate student working on the entry. “The enthusiasm and support that we generated on HornRaiser are going to help our team immeasurably on this exciting journey.”

Following the competition, the team will reassemble the house in East Austin as part of the School of Architecture’s pioneering Alley Flat Initiative, which promotes sustainable development. University leaders say such hands-on opportunities, whatever the discipline, are vital to a well-rounded and enriched educational experience.

While UT does not have the means to support every worthy initiative on its own, the hope is that HornRaiser can help fill some of the gaps. Knowing that, for many projects, support of any size can make a tremendous impact, the Annual Giving Programs team in the University Development Office operates HornRaiser and selects project campaigns based on the strength of their idea and their commitment level. Funding goals, typically between $5,000 and $20,000, are then set.

Donors who invest in projects are treated as insiders, receiving progress updates and, in some cases, exclusive benefits. For example, sponsors of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Team—a project by students from across engineering and computer science disciplines to build a fully composite plane—were offered lab tours and flight demonstrations during the fall funding effort.

“HornRaiser allows motivated project champions to engage their networks for charitable gifts in support of their passion,” says Adrian Matthys, BA ’97, director of Annual Giving Programs. “This is just one more example of how The University of Texas is empowering its community to change the world, one project at a time.”

Photo at top: HornRaiser enabled students on UT’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Team to gain hands-on experience designing, building, and operating flying vehicles.

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