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9 Tips for Crowdfunding Your Education or College Costs

Published by Salvador Briggman. Find him on Twitter.

I just released a new guide! Check it out here. It’s all about crowdfunding personal expenses. Get Funding for Education,Travel, Volunteering, Emergencies, Bills, and more.

In the last year, we’ve seen a proliferation of education-centric crowdfunding campaigns and platforms. More and more debt-burdened students are turning to their local community and online groups to help finance their college or post-college education.

Can you really pay your tuition with a charity website like GoFundMe? Should you forfeit a percentage of your future income to pay your current education expenses with a crowdfunding tool like Upstart? Before you check out some of the tips below, consider the following three ramifications.

Pre-Campaign Questions

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1. Do you have any other options?

Crowdfunding your education should not be the go-to or primary method of financing your entire university or post-university education. Traditional methods like loans, work-study, and part-time jobs are still the best way to put yourself through a degree program. Unfortunately, taking on debt and/or working while attending classes is what is required to earn a degree and benefit from a higher future income.

Before going to the lengths of preparing for a crowdfunding campaign, I’d recommend thinking hard about whether or not these other options are available to you.

2. What value will your future career bring?

One of the largest sources of pledges for donation-based crowdfunding campaigns on platforms like GoFundMe is from the creator’s social network and local community. I believe this is the case because these groups are most likely to benefit from pledging money to the campaign (whether emotionally, or practically).

If you’re going to be raising money to fund an education that provides little value to society, then it will be harder to convince backers that the investment is worthwhile. However, if you are attempting to prepare for a degree as a doctor in a low-income community that is lacking in access to healthcare, you will have an easier time convincing backers that the endeavor is worthwhile.

3. Have you researched the subject of crowdfunding?

Finally, before even getting into any tips or tricks for crowdfunding your education, I strongly recommend looking at other education related campaigns that were successful and unsuccessful. What kind of outreach did they do? How much did they raise? Did they offer any tangible rewards to backers? Did they create a video?

All of this information will help you avoid making common mistakes, create a more engaging project, and ultimately increase your chances of success.

Education Crowdfunding Tips

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1. Focus on the deliverables.

If possible, it will always be easier to crowdfund an education-related project than your entire college or university cost. This is because at the end of the day, your backers will have something tangible to show for their hard-earned investment in you. If you aren’t able to put the funds towards a specific education project, then you need to be crystal clear about what backers will receive in exchange for pledging money to your campaign.

For example, in this TheNextWeb article, Vikas Lalwani described how he raised money some money that he could use for attending MakeGamesWithUs Summer Academy.

“I did a lot of research and realized that the basic difference between my campaign and any other crowdfunding campaigns on Crowdtilt or Kickstarter was that on these platforms, people trying to raise funds were promising an innovative product in return to all of their contributors.

This made me think about things that I can give in return to people who contribute to my cause. I pondered over ideas like teaching students, giving free access to my apps and others. But after a lot of brainstorming, I settled for this: make a full-fledged app for donors who contribute at least $1,000 towards my tuition.”

In the above example, there is a tangible benefit for backing the student and helping them attend MakeGamesWithUs. You can have the opportunity to have your own app developed at a below-market price.

2. Create a video.

According to Indiegogo CEO, ” If you have a video, you’ll raise 114% more money on average than if you don’t.” – source.

It’s incredible difficult to develop rapport online, and rapport is key when convincing strangers to support your endeavor or buy your products. “Building rapport is one of the most fundamental sales techniques. In sales, rapport is used to build relationships with others quickly and to gain their trust and confidence. It is a very powerful tool that veteran salespeople naturally employ, which allows them to close more deals with less effort.” – Source.

The best way that you can develop rapport through a computer screen is with a video. The quickest way to destroy rapport online is with spelling mistakes, poorly formatted text, haphazard reward tiers, and a campaign page that looks like it was thrown together in a few minutes.

At the very least, if you cannot make a video (there is no real excuse that I can think of), then you must include photographs, testimonials, and list your achievements to build rapport. Treat it like a job interview.

3. Create reward tiers.

I agree – it’s difficult to come up with tangible and even intangible rewards for an education crowdfunding project. I think a lot of the rewards that I’ve brainstormed related to GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo could be a good starting point.

The idea is to show your appreciation and also involve your supporters in your educational journey. For example: If you want to become a lawyer and are raising money to complete your degree, why not offer a free legal consultation once you pass your required certification exams? If you want to become an app developer, you could offer to develop an iphone or android app for a below market rate.

Give people an incentive to support you, whether it’s being willing to volunteer for the local community or a thoughtful and emotional thank you note.

3. Reach out to your local network and local community.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but your social network and local community is going to be the most likely set of backers for your education crowdfunding campaign. For example, in this Boston Globe article, Alexis-Brianna Felix shares how she raised over 5k for her education.

“Many donations came from friends Felix made at the Horace Mann School, a prestigious private college preparatory school in the affluent Riverdale section of the Bronx she was able to attend due to good grades and generous financial aid. Others came from alumni of the high school and BU, and from strangers.”

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4. Set as low a goal as possible.

As we talked about in the last article, the average amount raised during a GoFundMe campaign is $1,126. 76% of users set a goal that is $1,000 or less. You may think that it would be nice to raise $150,000 and cover your entire tuition, but this is going to be near-impossible. Instead, focus on a small subset of your education costs (books?) or an education-related project that you would like to complete (study abroad, community service trip, etc).

5. Explain what, why, where, how, and when.

Don’t leave out the what, why, where, how and when. All of these elements should be included in your video pitch and campaign text. You need to treat your backers like investors and let them know exactly where their money will be going, why you need it, what it will be going towards, how you intend to accomplish your goals, and when they can expect their rewards or for you to accomplish your goals.

The key rule here is to pitch them with passion. Don’t just list out why you need funds or where the money will go. Show them your passion for your educational endeavor. One backer in the campaign discussed in #3 said:

“We don’t know each other, but I was touched by your courage, tenacity, and perseverance.”

6. Don’t be humble.

You should treat the campaign almost like a job interview. What have you accomplished up to this point? Where do you see yourself going during university and after? Why can you accomplish your dreams? Don’t forget to toot your own horn, because no one else will. Be confident in yourself!

7. Be humble.

Sounds contradictory, but you also need to be humble. DO NOT BEG, but explain why any donations will change your life and how grateful you will be for any support.

8. Hold yourself accountable.

How can you convince backers that any funds donated will have a real impact in your life and lead to real-world results? Any way that you can hold yourself accountable to your backers and keep the up to date with your progress will positively affect your chances of raising funds. I recommend starting a blog.

9. Reach out to your heroes.

In the campaign described in #1, Vikas Lalwani reached out to his hero:

“I then started sending out emails asking for help and got contributions from highly respected people in the industry, including Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and a top investor from Andreessen Horowitz.”

If you can describe how your hero has impacted your life thus far, it may increase the chances that he or she will respond to your email. For other tips regarding getting people to respond to your emails, see this article.

Conclusion

Let me know if you found this article to be helpful in a comment below. I’d love to hear what you think. With all these tips, you might think it’s very difficult or near impossible to raise money for education-related expenses. This is not true! Check out this recent successful campaign “18-Year-Old Crowdfunds His Way to Yale.

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  • Simon Fox

    I’ll admit I’d never thought of crowd-funding for something like this, within Scotland it’s relatively easier to acquire assistance with tuition fees and student bursaries, but I do forget that other countries are not as fortunate to have such support.
    With something as important as education we really should expect the Governments to offer more assistance than they do, but websites like Kickstarter and JustGiving are a fantastic aid to those who otherwise could miss out, after all, if you don’t ask for help you won’t get it.
    Good article, I think more people need to discover there are other ways to gain an education than getting yourself badly into debt.

    • CrowdCrux

      Yea, education costs are also much higher in the US to my knowledge. Glad you liked the article!

  • I also had no idea people were doing this. I really like this notion and think it should get more airtime, because I feel like many people may realize they CAN go to school if they hear of this notion, not only because it’s another option for raising money, but because it emphasizes an outside of the box thinking that is often all you need to get motivated. Good read.

    • CrowdCrux

      Good points. There have been a few more stories in the news about students who are raising money for tuition, but I agree, most people are not aware of it.