The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding Your Education

Updated: Jun 4

College tuition is one of the most significant expenses people bear these days. Data shows that more Americans than ever graduate with student loan debt. Seeking alternative ways to fund your education is the sensible thing to do.


So can you crowdfund your education? The answer is yes. Anyone can setup a campaign seeking help. By determining your ideal approach and by running a focused campaign you can raise all the funds you need. You can use one of the three platforms below to achieve this goal:

  • GoFundMe

  • Indiegogo

  • Plumfund

While you can raise funds to cover tuition expenses, whether you'll manage to raise everything you need is another question entirely.


Keep reading to discover what you need to do to achieve your fundraising goal.


What is Crowdfunding?


Crowdfunding has been around since 2009 and is used for a variety of fundraising causes. From nonprofits raising money towards charitable causes to companies selling debt, crowdfunding has something for everyone.


The premise is quite simple. You setup a campaign and seek to raise a certain sum from a group of people, the larger the group the better.


Larger groups of people can contribute smaller amounts that can add up to a significant sum. In other words, it's easier to raise $1,000 from 100 people than it is to raise the same sum from one person.


As it relates to raising funds for your college tuition, donation based crowdfunding will benefit you the most.


Earlier this decade there were a large number of websites that tried to address the problem of increasing tuition costs by implementing so called human capital contracts.


Platforms such as Pave, Upstart and GradSave enabled students to raise money and investors to receive returns in the form of a portion of the student's earnings after graduation.


However, there were significant problems with this business model and currently, no such websites exist.


The most obvious problem is that this is not really an equitable trade in most cases. Typically students would be stuck making payments for 10 years in order to fund a four year education.


With the closure of such websites, donation based platforms are the only choice left for students. While this seems like a disadvantage, it's actually a very good thing.


Is Crowdfunding a Good Way to Fund Your Education?


The best way to answer this question is to examine the alternatives. The first and most adopted option is to assume student loan debt and this is a bit like tying a heavy rock to your feet and trying to swim.


Debt absolutely kills your chances of building any sort of significant wealth and many people figure this out once they begin earning a paycheck.


Avoiding debt in order to fund your studies is one of the best choices you can make.


A good option that not enough students consider is to earn an Associate's degree first and find a job using those qualifications. These degrees take two years to earn and you can earn a full time income from a job in that time.

You can then use the money from your salary to fund your bachelor's degree. This is probably the smartest way to set yourself up properly for the future.


It might take longer for you to earn a degree but you'll stand out to employers a lot more by doing this. It shows initiative and the ability to work hard.


However, this isn't an article about getting a job so let's set that aside for now.


This leaves you with just one option which is to appeal to people to fund your education. You can ask your close relatives or friends if they could lend or donate the cash.


However, not everyone has a wealthy uncle and aunt who can give them money at the drop of a hat!


Thus, crowdfunding remains one of the best ways to fund your dream of earning a degree. Keep in mind that just because you opt to crowdfund your degree, this doesn't mean you should ignore options such as scholarships and other study grants.


You could also work a job in college to help reduce your expenses and even contribute towards tuition from the salary you earn.


Either way, crowdfunding is a great way to ensure you don't graduate with mountainous levels of debt.


Who Can Set it Up?


Practically anyone! You don't need any special permits or anything else of the kind to setup a crowdfunding campaign.


Having said that, whether you'll be successful in your fundraiser or not is another question entirely!


Besides, there are some pros and cons of crowdfunding your education you must be aware of before proceeding.


Pros and Cons of Crowdfunding Your Education


First, let's deal with the positives. Here they are in no particular order:


  • Zero debt. How does that sound? Graduating without debt sets you up for the long run nicely and it's something not enough students do unfortunately

  • Your resume will receive a boost if you prove you managed to crowdfund your tuition. It shows you have marketing nous and every employer wants that in a candidate!

  • In some cases, receiving the exposure a campaign gives you might be a good chance for you to show off your work.

  • Successfully running a campaign will boost your confidence and will get you to believe in yourself a lot more. You'll behave with a greater sense of responsibility as well since you'll know that so many people believe in you


Not everything is sunshine and roses unfortunately. Here are the negatives you need to aware of:


  • There is no guarantee that you'll be able to raise the funds you need. You might raise less than the ideal amount which leaves you with a shortfall to plan for

  • Some of your backers might put too much pressure on you and you might feel too guilty to raise any objections. You might feel the need to graduate in something you're not really passionate about

  • You will draw criticism as being a lazy student. You might as well expect this and prepare to be bombarded with stories of how people funded themselves through college and blah blah blah...


While the negatives might sound overwhelming, keep in mind that the payoff is huge.


As long as you're clear about holding up your end of the deal and fulfilling the promise that your backers see in you, crowdfunding your college education is a wonderful step to take.


How to Crowdfund Your Education


Before jumping into the specifics of how to crowdfund your college degree, it's worth taking the time to figure out what kind of campaigns usually get funded.


It's unfortunate but specific types of students are the ones that stand the best chance of receiving funding. This is just the nature of the space.


If you find that none of these situations apply to you, then pursuing more traditional funding options will be a better option.


Step One: Figure Out Your Profile


This is the first and most crucial step for you to take. If you don't fit one of the profiles below, you're better off seeking scholarships or considering options other than crowdfunding.


Here are the situations that are ideal for crowdfunding:


Graduate or Postgraduate Students


Grad and post grad students stand a good chance of being funded thanks to them being viewed as more mature. They've gone through at least four years of undergraduate studies and have expressly made a decision to study further instead of seeking a job.


The other fact is that graduate studies involve a concentration and this paints a far clearer picture to those looking to fund you.


If you do decide to enter the workplace after earning a Master's degree then your salary and contribution to the economy is going to be higher. This is especially the case in STEM fields.


All of this contributes to a greater chance of you being funded.


Lower Income Students


If you happen to come from a lower income family and haven't qualified for federal aid or a scholarship, then you can seek to fund your education through crowdfunding.


Typically, there are so many scholarship opportunities for American students that you'll eventually qualify for something out there.


However, not all of these scholarships cover the entire cost of tuition. Crowdfunding can help bridge that gap and the potentially smaller amount that needs to be raised might lead to great chances of success.


International Students


While American students have no shortage of scholarships available to them, the same isn't the case with international students.


If you happen to come from a less developed country and have a great story to tell, you'll likely get funded fully.


American schools have a rich history of funding talented international students. Crowdfunding just increases the breadth of those activities and provides more opportunity to talented international students.


Art or Creative Studies Students


Art school and other schools for creative pursuits such as music often tend to get looked down upon so a traditional donation based campaign will not work for you.


Instead, your best bet is to apply for a scholarship and cover the remaining cost of tuition, if any, by running a rewards based crowdfunding campaign.


The benefit of this is two fold. Not only do you get to fund your education, you also get to showcase your work and raise your profile.

You could promise your backers your paintings or pieces of music that you composed. If you're a dancer, why not invite them to an event in case of larger donations?


Look at this as a great way of showcasing your passion and talent.


Just remember to back up your promises or you're likely to be sued. The other point to remember is that you must keep your funding goals low or at a realistic level.


This is because if your goal isn't hit, you won't receive a single penny.


Step Two: Figure Out Your Story


Once you've matched yourself to one of the categories, it's time to figure out your story. This is the basis upon which you'll be creating your campaign.


It's what dictates the tone of your campaign and how you'll be telling your potential backers why you're worthy of backing.


Your story is what you'll communicate in your pitch and this is the most important portion of your campaign.


How much money are you looking to raise? What are you going to be studying and what kind of contribution an society at large expect from you?

Is there anything in it for the people who will back you? As far as donation based campaigns go, you won't be offering anything material to your backers.


However, you can give them a feeling of having done some good. In addition to this you can also promise them updates as your studies progress.


Updates and engagement are an important part of your campaign and I'll address them shorty. For now, keep in mind that your pitch needs to be tailored to your story and needs to hit all the right notes!


Take some time to study the best performing campaigns out there and look at the way they've communicated their stories. Don't confuse a long pitch with an effective one.


Keep it as long as it needs to be. Add lots of photos of yourself and your family and give your backers a taste of what your life is like.


The best thing you can do is create a video and communicate to your backers via that medium. Videos are a great opportunity for you to showcase your personality and show your backers your world directly.


If you feel uncomfortable in front of a camera, don't give up! The point is to be as authentic as possible. If you're uncomfortable, say so. Remember the reason you're creating the video and this will motivate you enough to keep any discomfort away from your mind.


Throughout all of this, remember that your story is unique, even if it doesn't seem apparent to you right now. Strive to find that uniqueness!


People look at education campaigns and expect to find a regular story about a straight A student with a 4.0 GPA who is struggling for funds. You need to go beyond that trope and tell them exactly who you are.


Reveal your true personality and you'll find that people will be more than willing to donate to you. You don't need to manufacture uniqueness here. Be yourself and be authentic.


Step Three: Run your Campaign


Once you've figured out what your story is it's time to run your campaign! Before launching your campaign remember to let everyone you know about it.


This is extremely important because of the way the algorithms of most crowdfunding platforms work.


Letting your supporters know you've launched your campaign will give you a nice boost towards your funding goal.


This lets the algorithm know that you have a hot campaign going on and you'll stand a great chance of being featured on their home page. This in turn will give you even more of a boost since more people will visit your campaign page.


Studies also indicate that social proof is critical for crowdfunding success. This is pretty intuitive to understand.

Imagine you visit a page and see that the campaign is almost 60% funded. You're more likely to donate to this campaign than you are to another that is funded just 10%.


The initial boost that those close to you provide is vital when it comes to raising money from strangers.


As your campaign runs and moves ever closer to its funding target, post updates on the campaign page. Thank the backers who have already backed you and reiterate your message.


There are two very good reasons for doing this. First, you won't come across as being ungrateful. Remember these people are funding your future.


Showing gratitude is the right thing to do. Providing updates on your campaign also lets the algorithm know that you're serious about hitting your goals. Towards the end of your campaign, you'll receive a neat little boost from the platform.


The choice of campaign length depends on a variety of factors so take the time to understand what suits you best. Read the article at the previous link to figure this out.


As you campaign ends, show your gratitude once again and check in every once in a while to provide updates. There are no benefits to doing this for you but it is a nice gesture!


The Best Crowdfunding Platforms


The demise of human capital platforms means there are just three you need to focus on. Even if you are planning on giving away rewards, it's best to stick to a donation based platform since you'll manage to raise some money no matter what.


These platforms are:


  1. GoFundMe- This is the premier website for donation based crowdfunding. It has the highest levels of traffic and the most robust algorithm. This should be your first choice.

  2. Indiegogo - If you're seeking funding for a creative education, Indiegogo is a great choice. Keep in mind that this is a rewards based platform and if your goal isn't hit, you won't see a single cent!

  3. Plumfund - This is a much smaller platform and is ideal for raising smaller amounts of money. If you need just a little to cover the gap between your expenses and your scholarship grant, this could be a great choice for you.

All in all GoFundMe is perhaps the best platform to use. There is a danger of you getting lost in the crowd with it though. For this reason, consider using Plumfund as an alternative.


You could run a secondary campaign on it in case your primary one didn't manage to raise as much as you'd hoped.


Tips For Success


Focus on what you can give


It's easy to get lot in your on situation and focus on how much you need the cash and so on. You could even think that the benefits of you receiving an education are obvious. However, your donors aren't mind readers.


Let them know of the benefits and how you'll contribute to society at large thanks to receiving a degree.


Promote yourself


Don't be shy! Start a blog, a YouTube channel, get on Twitter and Facebook and publicize your campaign.


You'll need to start your social media accounts months in advance so prepare beforehand. If you haven't had the time to do this, no matter. Do something to promote yourself!


Network


Let every single person in your network know. If you're a student, your immediate network might include just your parents and teachers.


Well, start with them!


Let them know of your intentions and goals and request them to spread the word. You never know where help might come from!


Keep Your Target Reasonable


Don't run away with yourself and try to raise a huge amount. Keep it realistic and look at conventional options as well.


This makes it easier for you to hit your funding goals and it will also result in more people pledging you their support thanks to social proof.


Conclusion


Crowdfunding is a great way for you to raise the money you need to complete your education. It works for students who fit a certain profile.


When used in tandem with traditional avenues of raising funds, you'll find that your costs of attending college will be more than covered!