College costs climb steadily as the years pass.
There is financial aid and there are loans, but college students have found another way to fund their tuition and expenses throughout school—crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is majorly used for inventions and big projects, but college students are now tapping into its potential to help them graduate without debt. In fact, according to GoFundMe, college crowdfunding campaigns raise over $1.5 million every month.
In this piece, we’re going to break down what crowdfunding is, how to crowdfund your college degree, the advantages and disadvantages, and how to achieve crowdfunding success.
Let’s get into it!
What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is the act of funding a venture or project by raising capital from a large number of people through the Internet.
Although crowdfunding websites are best known as a way to raise money for a big project, college students use them to crowdfund their college tuition.
With a crowdfunding campaign, college students can ask friends, family members, and even random people to donate money to sponsor their education. When the cost of tuition is spread out amongst hundreds of people, small donations of $20 to $50 can add up fast.
How to crowdfund your college degree
If you want to crowdfund your college tuition, here are a few steps to follow:
- Decide how much money you need to raise
It’s really hard to foot your entire college tuition through crowdfunding. That’s why most college students only start crowdfunding campaigns to meet a specific need (buying textbooks, paying for classes, etc.) or to complement their student loans.
So you need to figure out what need/purpose you are crowdfunding for, and how much you need people to donate.
- Choose a crowdfunding platform
College students can use popular crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarted to raise tuition money. They can also use sites like Indiegogo, AngelDorm, GoGetFunding and FundRazr.
- Set up a campaign
Most crowdfunding platforms make it easy to set up campaigns. GoFundMe even provides a guidebook to teach you how to set up a crowdfunding campaign for educational expenses.
Just explain what you need the money for and why it matters.
- Ask people to donate
Once your campaign is live, you can reach out to your friends and relatives, asking them to donate. You can also reach more people via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Pros of crowdfunding
- Debt-free money. If your crowdfunding campaign is successful, you might be able to graduate college without any debt.
- Publicity. If your backstory is compelling, you could potentially get a lot of coverage for your crowdfunding campaign. Getting your name out there increases your chances of getting donations from strangers and reaching your target.
- No interest. Unlike federal or private student loans, the money you raise on crowdfunding platforms are interest-free and you don’t need to pay back.
- A rewarding experience. Organizing a crowdfunding campaign is hard work so seeing your efforts pay off (hopefully) will encourage you to work harder at college with the knowledge that so many people believe in your potential to succeed.
- Great for your resume. Successful crowdfunding campaigns often demonstrate that you’re committed, you move to get results and you’re a great marketer.
Cons of crowdfunding
- Unlikely to cover your entire tuition. Although there isn’t a strict limit to how much money you can raise, crowdfunding is most effective for small amounts of money.
- Criticism. When you set up a crowdfunding campaign, you might get some backlash from the public after promoting it on social media, especially from people who funded themselves through college. The upside is that you’ll also find many supporters, too. It’s a two-way street.
- Fees to pay. Most crowdfunding platforms will charge you a fee for fundraising. This is often a small percentage of the money you raised and a few cents for each transaction made.
- Pressure. When you get your tuition fees from other people, especially strangers, you might feel pressure to perform well in your education.
- Refunded donations. Depending on the crowdfunding site you used, your money might be sent back to the donors if you don’t meet the target you set. That’s why you need to have a backup plan in case you don’t raise enough money.
Tips to have a successful crowdfunding campaign
Here are some ways to increase your chances of reaching your crowdfunding target:
- Share your dreams and goals – People are more likely to support you when you tell them your hopes and dreams after you graduate college. Tell them about your background and why you decided to study the course you’re currently studying.
- Be honest – When people are donating to a cause or project, they want to know exactly where their money is going. So tell them what you need their money for exactly and how much it will cost.
- Volunteer – A great way to prompt people to donate to you is to pledge your time to a charity or cause in exchange for donations. You can also volunteer to teach people a skill. Show potential donors that you’re willing to help others too.
- Use your connections – Reach out to people you know who might be able to fund your campaign and ask them to spread the word as well. The more people who hear about your campaign, the higher your chances of success.
You can also reach out to alumni of your college as they might be inclined to help students who study at their alma mater. You can attend alumni events, too, to promote your fundraiser.
- Promote your fundraiser – To reach your target, you’ll need to promote it through social media. But you have to draw up a plan. Make a list of people to reach out to through your social media channels, including family, friends, colleagues, professors, and local businesses. You can also create a hashtag for your fundraiser to make it easy for people to follow your journey.
- Attend social events – Apart from alumni events, you should also promote your fundraiser at campus groups like fraternities, sororities and clubs. There, you can encourage people to share your campaign link on social media.
Wrapping It Up
In all, crowdfunding is a decent way to get extra money to cover some college expenses.
However, it shouldn’t be the first financial aid form on your list. The best routes to go are federal loans, private loans, scholarships and grants. Don’t depend on crowdfunding to pay your college tuition.
Instead, spend time applying to scholarships and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they’re more reliable ways to fund your college costs.